A ceremony was held on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce on Jan. 26 in recognition of Lion alum and former Chief Financial Officer Alicia Currin, who was recently honored with an Emeritus distinction by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.
The Emeritus title is the highest honor bestowed upon retired A&M System employees, recognizing their achievements and dedication to their respective institutions. Emeritus honors given to non-faculty are a rare occurrence, making Currin's designation all the more special.
Raised in Commerce, Currin grew up with no plans to attend college until a representative from the Commerce Lions Club offered her a scholarship to attend East Texas State University (now A&M-Commerce) for two semesters.
She attended ETSU and earned a one-year secretarial certificate. While this accomplishment was small compared to what she would go on to do later in life, it made Currin the first person in her family to attend college. She assumed that would be the end of her education.
“The College of Business dean at the time urged me to continue,” Currin said. “He told me my grades and work ethic in class were exceptional.”
With help from local legend Jerry Lytle, who was the director of financial aid, she found her path to a full degree.
The going was rough however, as she was a single mother still working a full-time job. This allowed her to only take a handful of classes in the evenings. These circumstances caused her to take eight years to finish, but she did end up earning a degree in business.
Following graduation, the university hired Currin in 1981 as assistant to the director of audits and records. The rest—as they say—is history, as she was a faithful employee of the university for the next 39 years until her retirement in August 2020.
In that time, she became an integral part of the university's finances, serving on many institutional and system-wide boards and councils during her tenure. She became known throughout the system and state legislature as a master of the formulas and equations that make up university funding, and her expertise was highly sought after.
In 2014, she was named Vice President for Business and Administration, as well as Chief Financial Officer, the first woman to hold that office at A&M-Commerce. Over that time span, she oversaw the construction of several new buildings and programs on campus, such as the Nursing and Health Sciences Building and developed funding plans for the Rodeo program and the new Softball program, just to name a few.
A&M-Commerce President Dr. Mark Rudin had high praise for Currin's leadership and expertise.
“Alicia typifies everything that is good about A&M-Commerce,” Rudin said. “She bleeds blue and gold. You will not find a more supportive Lion than her.”
Receiving the Emeritus title is a life-changing experience, says Currin.
“This is such a tremendous honor to be recognized in this way,” Currin said. “'Emeritus' means I will always be a part of this university, which means a lot to me.”
As an Emeritus, Currin is offered the use of office space on campus as long as it is not needed for someone else. She also keeps her university email and is available to the administration for her expertise and guidance if needed.
At the same time, she is enjoying her retirement.
“I hope to do a lot of traveling, which is not really possible now but will hopefully be in the near future,” Currin said. “I am spending a lot of time with my seven grandchildren right now, which keeps me active.”
For the last 100 days of her tenure, she gave thanks and recognition to the people that made her success possible. Every day on her personal Facebook account, she posted a small tribute to a different person who was influential in her life. In her last post on day 100, she thanked the university community for its love and support.
“And so I end with these words: you can take me out of the university workforce, but you can never take the university out of me,” Currin said. “I will always remember the role that this institution, these friends and colleagues, and these administrators played in my life.”
Currin and her husband, Joe, still live in Hunt County, and she remains an ardent supporter of Lion Athletics.
“I made sure to get one of the cardboard cutouts for them to use at the games,” Currin said. “I hate not being there right now but at least I am there in some capacity.”
Looking toward the future of A&M-Commerce, she hopes the university can find its next niche.
“We were very early adopters of online learning in the 1990s, and that set us apart from the rest,” Currin said. “We need to find that niche again and I know the current administration is working hard to make that happen. We may be on to something with Competency-Based Education, so I hope to see that grow and thrive.”