A Living Legacy

by Ashley Johnson | Photos by Paul Bryan

Dr. Jerry Lytle never had a choice of whether or not to attend college-his parents made it for him. Never able to attend college themselves, Lytle’s parents made sure he and his siblings would have an opportunity to graduate and do more with their lives.

“Mother and dad sacrificed greatly so my siblings and I could go to college,” Lytle said. “I know they would be very proud of all we have accomplished thanks to our education.”

As an undergraduate at A&M-Commerce, Lytle played football and twice was named Most Valuable Player for the Lions. While Lytle found plenty of success on the football field, A&M-Commerce was also where Lytle discovered his true passion-education.

“I loved working with kids,” Lytle said. “During my time at the elementary school, I came across students who didn’t have a great home life, and the time spent with their teachers at school was the one time of day they could count on to ‘be somebody.’ I went home each day hoping I had made an impact on their lives.”

Lytle’s influence in the classroom has extended to the upper levels of administration at A&M-Commerce. Alicia Currin, Dr. Mary Hendrix and others were students of Lytle’s at Commerce Elementary.

“I first met Jerry Lytle when he was the principal at A.L. Day Elementary. I was a shy six-year-old from Fairlie, a very small community near Commerce,” said Hendrix, vice president of student access and success. “I remember Jerry had the kindest eyes, a huge smile, a gentle spirit, and a giving heart. Although I do not recall what he said to me, I do know he made me feel welcome and immediately alleviated any fears I had about whether I belonged in such a ‘big’ school.”

“Many years later, I had the pleasure of working with Jerry Lytle at our university and saw, firsthand, how many lives he changed. Jerry Lytle has a special gift–he gives confidence to and inspires others to believe in themselves.”

On August 25, Lytle’s lifetime commitment to education and the community was rewarded with the Spirit of Mayo award. The award is given to members of the university community who have displayed the same drive and integrity characterized by Professor William L. Mayo, the university’s founder.

“Dr. Jerry ‘Red’ Lytle truly embodies Professor Mayo’s credo of ‘ceaseless industry, fearless investigation, unfettered thought, and unselfish service to others,’” said Dr. Dan Jones, A&M-Commerce president. “He has done so much for his alma mater and the community. For that and his continual display of unselfish service to others, he is most deserving of the Spirit of Mayo Award.”

The Texas A&M University-Commerce Foundation has chosen to extend Lytle’s legacy even further with the establishment of the Dr. Jerry Lytle Endowment. This fund will provide academic support for students in need. For more information on the endowment, contact Alicia Wittkopf at [email protected], or call 903-468-3020.