With a midnight yell, he gave more.    

When Robert Austin Howell (’13) enters a room, he’s poised for the future — Khaki uniform, military bearing and close-cropped hair, he’s spit and polish; tall and strong. Howell is the image of a Texas A&M Corps of Cadets member and Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) Sea Aggie. For those who don’t know about the “Corps” or “Sea Aggies,” listen to Howell’s story.

Water born

“I grew up in Utila, Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras,” he said. “My great grandparents migrated from the United Kingdom, when the islands were still a British colony. Half my house is on the water. I could jump in the sea, whenever I wanted to swim and dive.”

Howell says his activities as a child foreshadowed the engineering major, he would pursue in college.

“I had remote control cars,” he said. “I’d take them apart and try to fix them. I put the engine from a toy car into a toy boat and put a propeller on the boat. I just figured this out.

“In my senior year of high school, I had scholarships to study engineering at UT. I was going to do electrical or mechanical engineering. My teacher found out about it, and she told me there was a maritime academy in Galveston. I followed my gut and trusted the teacher.”

That teacher, Eowyn Buchan, had graduated from TAMUG in 1997 with a Bachelor’s degree in marine sciences.

Hands on

“Where I grew up, the men are all offshore boat captains or engineers,” he said. “My father travels all over the world as a Chief Engineer. My dad works West Africa right now, and my mother, is in Honduras. I like hands-on work and travel like my dad. This is a way of life. It’s a tradition in my family.

“Before I came to college, my dad had a man-to-man talk with me. He said if I really wanted to go to college, he’d provide for my education. Because of his sacrifice, the least I could do was to study hard, be involved, and be a good student.

Lead on

“When I signed up to attend the university, I wanted to learn A&M traditions,” Howell said. “I had a few friends talk me into being a yell leader, because they said I was really loud.

Apparently, a number of other people on campus agreed that Robert would be a good yell leader, because he won the election easily. After his first year as yell leader, he went on to garner the most votes of the senior yell leaders candidates resulting in his being named TAMUG Head Yell Leader, where he would coordinate most of the yell leaders activities throughout the year.

Yell leaders are comprised of five students who are elected by the student body. They are the official spirit organization of the university, and lead Aggie fans in “yells” during athletic and other events.

“People knew me around campus as the tall Honduran kid.”

Howell joined the Student Government Association (SGA) and served as an SGA representative and a speaker of the Student Senate.

Beyond participation in student government, Howell served in leadership roles in the Corps of Cadets. The “Corps” is a student military organization originally founded at Texas A&M University in College Station in 1876.

As a leader in the Galveston Corps of Cadets, Howell served as Commander for Bravo Company and the William C. Hearn Honor Guard—an elite drill team that participates in precision drills and ceremonies on and off-campus. In Galveston, the “Corps” consists of 400 cadets who represent the university and the Texas Maritime Academy.

The academy, part of TAMUG, is one of six state maritime academies in the U.S. and the only one in the South. Its mission is to prepare its cadets for practical experience in seamanship, navigation, and engineering operations. The cadets may seek the officer licensing options in marine transportation, marine engineering, marine biology or marine sciences.

Through generous donations that provide life-changing scholarships and support, Howell was able to complete his engineering studies. His scholarships included the William P. Ricker Memorial and Ambassador Scholarships, American Bureau of Shipping Senior Engineer Scholarship and the Marine Technical Society Houston Section Scholarship.

Carry on

After graduation, Howell started working in the Houston office of Ensco PLC, a global provider of offshore drilling services to the petroleum industry. The company is based in the United Kingdom.

“This is my first real-world job,” he said. “I landed it during an interview at the university’s job fair.”

Commanding a sizable income, Howell will be in a five-year Engineer Trainee program. For the first three years, he will be working offshore in different jobs on oil rigs, and the last two years he will be working onshore in rig/asset management training. 

“On the job, I’ll use leadership skills and traditions of teamwork I learned as a Sea Aggie,” he said. “At A&M, I learned how to be more efficient, and follow the chain of command. I know who to turn to in times of trouble. People can depend on one another and work efficiently as crew.”

For more information, contact Cathy Cashio Bertrand at 409-740-4830, cashioc@tamug.edu.