While it may be a piece of jewelry at its core, the Aggie ring represents a “rich history” of tradition and fellow Aggies, Jose Rueda said.
Rueda was one of three members of the Singing Cadets to receive a ring Friday through a scholarship established by Mike Connor with his late wife, Diana, in 2005 and continued by Connor and his current wife, Sheila.
Connor, a 1985 graduate and former member of the Singing Cadets, established the endowed Aggie ring scholarship to make sure finances did not prevent a member of the Singing Cadets from getting one. The scholarship is granted to any Singing Cadet in good standing who has been a member for at least four semesters and has a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.
Friday’s Aggie Ring Day marked the Centennial group with the presentation of the 98th, 99th and 100th Connor Scholarship rings to Rueda, Davis Beilue and Tim Morgan.
“For me, it actually hasn’t really hit me the fact that we are part of just a milestone group,” said Rueda, who received the 99th ring, He noted they were all a part of another special year as members last year during the 125th anniversary of the Singing Cadets.
For Beilue, who officially received the 98th scholarship ring and will graduate in 2021, the ring is something he grew up seeing his dad wear and is something he set his sights on receiving from a young age, he said.
“To work for it and to get it now is very just big step,” he continued. “It’s kind of still pretty unbelievable.”
Before presenting the ring, Connor said, his hope is that each of the recipients of a ring through the scholarship goes on to give back to the university or the Singing Cadets in some way.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not been a member of the Singing Cadets,” Connor said. “That was the group that made me who I am today, and I do this as a way, a very small way, of giving back to an organization and to a university that has given so much to me.”
Morgan, a graduate student who will receive his degree in December, said receiving — officially — the 100th ring from Connor gave the experience even more meaning, and he takes Connor’s request seriously.
“If we don’t take that charge and give back in our own way, then it kind of stops there,” he said. “So it’s our responsibility to figure out a way to make an impact just like they have, and in doing so, then we truly show our appreciation and make this live on beyond them and beyond us.”
Connor said hearing what the scholarship — and the ring — means to each of the recipients validates why he and his late wife first established the scholarship 14 years ago.
“I’ll continue doing this well past 100,” he said.
Throughout the day Friday, 3,100 Aggie rings were handed out.
One of those was Kyran Bracey, class of 2020, who said being an Aggie and putting in the work in the university’s Mays Business School changed his life.
“It feels amazing to have this on my hand and representing A&M to the rest of the world,” he said.
No matter how big or small the ceremony and crowd is, Connor said, the ring represents an instant connection with fellow Aggies.
“I wear it with great pride,” he said, showing off the ring he has worn every day for 35 years.