Skip To Main Content
Dilipkumar Patel ’66 surrounded by his wife, daughter, chemical engineering department head and family friends from The Association of Former Students giving a gig 'em hand sign.
Dilipkumar Patel ’66, center, celebrates receiving his Aggie ring with family and friends at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering/Matthew Linguist

For Dilipkumar Patel ’66, what started out as a surprise visit to his alma mater this past summer turned out to be a day he will never forget.

Patel’s daughter Bela Jain had made plans to spend the day with her parents but wouldn’t give them any details about where they were going. Accompanied by his wife Devayani, the family arrived at Texas A&M University and made a stop at The Association of Former Students, where Jain suggested they park to take pictures of the Haynes Aggie ring replica.

It was there that Kathryn Greenwade ’88, a vice president at the Association who had been in previous contact with Jain, greeted the family as they were taking photos on the Haynes Ring Plaza. Greenwade invited them inside the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center under the guise of showing them around the exhibits inside but instead took them to the Pitzer Board Room where a group made up of the Association, university staff, friends and Dr. Arul Jayaraman, head of the chemical engineering department, awaited them to give Patel his Aggie ring. 

The ring was a surprise gift for his 80th birthday, and Jain said the idea originally came to her about five years ago, when he turned 75 and her first son graduated college. Jain and her brother both graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, and their father bought them college rings, each time mentioning he wished he would have bought his own.

When Jain’s oldest son graduated from UT Austin in 2014, her father mentioned again about how he couldn’t afford the Aggie ring when he graduated. As she came to understand the importance of the Aggie ring for him, she decided she would make this happen for him.

“When I ordered the ring in April, (the Aggie ring office at The Association of Former Students) told me it wouldn’t be ready until the summer,” Jain said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just have it mailed to the house.’ And then I changed my mind and thought it would be nice to bring him up here and just do a little campus tour, visit family friends, and pick up the ring at the same time.”

After reaching out to the Aggie ring office and family friend and Aggie Shanubh Desai ’88, her idea quickly transformed from a small surprise into a larger event that involved family, friends and a private tour of campus and the Zachry Engineering Education Complex.

Home Away from Home

The Texas A&M campus, which served as Patel’s first home in the United States, has changed quite a bit since he first moved to College Station from India in 1963. “I was admitted to schools in New York, California and Oklahoma, but I chose Texas A&M because it had the quality for engineering and I really enjoyed it. It was wonderful,” Patel said. “We all said ‘Howdy’ everywhere and everyone, including the professors, were very nice and friendly. They helped me a lot.”

To make money during college, he worked in the library for $2 an hour and helped other graduate students record the results of their tests in the chemical engineering laboratory. He dreamed of one day owning his very own Aggie ring, but by graduation, Patel was unable to afford it. Degree in hand and $22 in his pocket, the new chemical engineer moved to Houston, where a week later he landed his first job at Brown & Root, Inc., an engineering construction company.

Patel has since had a very successful career, working for prominent companies such as Fluor Corporation, Ford, Bacon & Davis, Inc, Crawford & Russell, John Brown, Raytheon, ABB Lummus and Shaw Group. He has been retired for about 10 years and is enjoying life with travelling, spending time with his family and volunteering at Houston Methodist Hospital.

“All my success in life goes to becoming an Aggie, the 12th man,” Patel said. “This was one of the happiest moments in my life, which I will always treasure. I am proud to wear this ring and honor the university.”