Skip To Main Content
Graduate student working on Dell laptop

Explore degrees available through the No. 1 online graduate program in Texas. Study online to earn the same quality degree as on campus.

Two students working on equations on a white board. One student pointing at a white board with eligible text, equations and diagrams while another closely observes
Get information on the application process and funding opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and transfer students. 
Ingenium Our blog by students, for students

Get inspired by experiences and opportunities shared by fellow engineering students.

Texas A&M University in the background with seven students with their thumbs up holding a sign that says Future Aggie Engineers and Engineering Texas A&M University
PK-12 Outreach Spark!
Students and organizations can bring hands-on activities or design challenges to your location or just visit as guest speakers.
Jay Stafford graduated from the J. Mike Walker '66 Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1963. | Image: Courtesy of Jay and Millie Stafford

When it comes to giving back, it's just what Aggies do. For Jay Stafford, a graduate of the J. Mike Walker '66 Department of Mechanical Engineering, supporting the university that provided him with the education to launch a successful career was not a big deal — it was simply the right thing to do. 

Like Stafford, however, not all who join the department had a straight path to mechanical engineering. The Houston native first came to Texas A&M University in 1943 to study in the College of Agriculture, and his journey included many twists and turns along the way.  As a sophomore, Stafford was drafted into the U.S. Navy where he served for nearly two years before returning to complete his agriculture degree at Texas A&M. But when he graduated in 1948, his path diverged from those of his classmates. While many of his peers set off to serve as county agents, he knew that path wasn't for him.

"I'm not a public speaker, so that didn't fit me at all," Stafford said. "So I kind of drifted off into something else."

Something else, it turned out, was geophysical work — a decision that would take him around the world. By December 1948, he was living and working in Saudia Arabia. Stafford would stay there for five years — a time he remembers fondly for frequent summer vacations in Europe — before getting married and moving first to Australia, then Guatemala.

In 1958, Stafford returned to Texas A&M determined to forge a new path for himself. He decided to pursue a new bachelor's degree in the mechanical engineering department, having felt drawn toward mechanical engineering work during his career in geophysics.

As a married student several years older than his peers, Stafford said he remembered being a bit of a loner during his return to College Station. Despite this, he was ultimately thankful for the strong foundation the mechanical engineering department provided.

After graduating in 1963, Stafford went to work for Conoco, designing seismic vibrators for their geophysical explorations equipment. He would remain there until 1985. During this time, Stafford experienced professional success in his work developing better, more efficient seismic vibrators to support Conoco's explorations department, holding several patents in his name for the parts he created. At the same time, he also experienced personal loss with the death of his wife in 1975.

In 1978 Stafford remarried, and by 1988 he had retired. Now living in Oklahoma, Stafford said he wanted to give back to the department to pay forward the education he received in mechanical engineering. He and his wife Millie have funded an undergraduate scholarship, established in 2006, which this year supported 14 students.

They have plans for several additional avenues to support the department, including three professorships, three faculty fellowships and two graduate fellowships. In looking at the impact their scholarship has already had, Stafford said he hopes it will continue to help students to stay in school and to achieve their goals, whatever they may be.

"There are many students that need help and I'm able to do it at this point," Stafford said. "It's the right thing to do. Aggies stick together and that's what I'm trying to do. There are many more that do the same thing. I just do what I can do."

Dr. Andreas Polycarpou, James J. Cain Chair Professor and department head of the mechanical engineering department, said the support the Staffords have provided to the department will serve to make a positive impact for many years to come.

“Mr. Stafford embodies the Aggie spirit through his sincerity, perseverance and commitment to supporting future generations of mechanical engineers,” Polycarpou said. “Through this, he exemplifies many of the valuable qualities we strive to promote in the department.”

Looking toward the future, Stafford said current students have a range of exciting options available to them if they're willing to work hard and adapt to all the twists and turns life often presents — much as he did throughout his life and career.

"Things occur that you don't even think about and you really can't plan for it — it just happens," Stafford said. "Either you find a way to improve things for yourself, or the decision will be made for you. You have to be ready. Mechanical engineering is a big field and there is all kinds of stuff to pursue for anyone interested."