Mr. W. Garland Button will be remembered as a pillar of all that is good at A&M-Commerce. His ties to the university nearly span its entirety. Button followed his family’s footsteps to campus, graduating in 1938 with a degree in education. Following several years as a public school teacher, Button joined Texas Power and Light Co. as a clerk where he eventually rose to the second highest position, executive vice president for operations with membership on the corporate board of directors.
His service to the university spanned more than 50 years and six presidents. He served proudly on the ETSU Board of Regents, was a Distinguished Alumnus, and served as president of the ETSU Alumni Association. It is Mr. Button that we have to thank for ETSU achieving university status. He also assisted the university in efforts to retain its doctoral programs; and convinced the Texas Legislature that ETSU would be best served through the establishment of a separate Board of Regents to govern its affairs. Button’s service was so extensive, in fact, that one could easily believe higher education was his first love. That honor, however, belonged to his wife Margaret, class of 1939.
When Margaret was diagnosed first with breast cancer in 1999 and then with a dementia-like disease in 2002, Garland Button began what he described as “the long goodbye.” Sadly, we at A&M-Commerce began our own long goodbye to Mr. Button. Although he is already gone, the legacy and love for his alma mater continue on. How does one begin to say goodbye to a bedrock of an institution such as he? At A&M-Commerce, we’d like to think our goodbye to Mr. Button begins and ends with “thank you.”