Originally published on February 19, 2014 at 11:10 a.m. Updated on Feb. 19, 2014 at 11:10 a.m.
At last, a decision has been made as to where the statue of Gil Steinke will reside.
Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) and Texas A&I Alumni Association held a joint press conference at 11 a.m. on Feb. 19 in McCulley Hall.
TAMUK president Dr. Steven Tallant announced the acceptance of the statue from the Texas A&I Alumni Association and in turn, promised to spend up to $70,000 in landscaping for the area where Steinke will be placed including the preparation of the foundation and general contract work required before the placement of the statue.
“This is a great cooperation between the Texas A&I Alumni Association and the university. Over the past several months we had some issues but we were able to get together over the past month. I met with Mr. Watson and we both believe that this statue of Gil Steinke belongs at the Javelina stadium,” Tallant said. “It doesn’t belong across the street. It doesn’t belong down town. For the city, for him and for this university, this is its rightful place.”
Manny Saenz, president of the Texas A&I Alumni Association, talked about how Dick Watson was grateful to Steinke and how dedicated he was to bringing the statue on campus. “I think [Watson] knew all along that this was going to be easier said than done. However, through it all he remained steadfast and pushed forward, determined to make this happen,” he said.
“Today is about two parties coming together to pay tribute to one of the greatest college football coaches ever,” Saenz said. “I think the statue is not ‘just a statue.’ It’s a symbol of pride and excellence. [Steinke] is a symbol of Texas A&I and the type of quality educator that he believed needed to be here.”
The conference started
off with stories and compliments about Steinke as a student, football player and coach at Texas A&I.
Fred Neusch, former Javelina Sports Information Director, said “the things that he did are just unbelievably numerous. There is only one Gil Steinke.”
“There isn’t a coach in this country that has done more for his team and the university. There never can be too much recognition of him,” Neusch said.
The Steinke statue will stand alone by the six national benches with pavers that can be purchased through the Texas A&I Alumni Association. With the money made from the pavers, the association will give scholarships annually.
Tallant told the conference how the negotiation was made possible with the help of Kingsville mayor Sam Fugate.
Fugate spoke about how he talked things over with Dick Watson, the man behind the fundraising and negotiation of the statue, and helped bring the statue to the stadium.
Fugate read a note that was sent by Watson to comment on the placement of the statue since he was unable to attend the conference.
“Gil was truly a good man whose lasting impact will be
memorialized by this [statue.] Gil could have taken his special gifts to almost any college in America and been successful but he did not do that. He and his wife chose to stay in Kingsville and bring this university, his alma mater, the tremendous fame that would follow him. We should be grateful for that because there will never be another man like him,” Watson wrote.
“The acceptance of the Steinke sculpture is the beginning of building a bridge towards the future,” Saenz said. “It is the right thing to do. [The statue] being placed at Javelina stadium is perfection.”
On behalf of the A&I Alumni association, Saenz thanked Dr. Tallant, the students that wanted the statue on campus and the family of Steinke.
Armando Hinojosa, alumnus of A&I and renowned artist, was recognized for the creation of the bronze, life-size statue.
Hinojosa said he is proud of his statue and feels good that the statue is where it belongs.
The members of the Steinke family were unable to attend but Steinke’s wife sent a letter to be read at the conference.
Mrs. Seienke thanked everyone behind the creation and placement of the statue of her husband on her family’s behalf for “finalizing a dream.”
At the end of the conference, member of the A&I Alumni Association Tony Garza gave out the last 7 caps he designed with Steinke’s records on them. Some of the recipients of the caps include Tallant, Hinojosa, Fugate and Coach Callaway.
Tallant said he feels good about having the statue on campus now and looks forward to the future with the Texas A&I Alumni Association.
“This is what’s right for this university. That statue belongs on campus. For every student that comes to the football games from now on, will see Gil Steinke. I am very excited and pleased that TAMUK and the A&I Alumni Association were able to put our differences aside for the students and the history of this campus,” Tallant said. “Hopefully we can continue to work together in the future because A&I is an important part of our past. We need to work together because we are all one Javelina nation.”