Mary Lou: 45 Years at Texas Tech

In the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech University, the students are many. Some have followed in their parents’ and even their grandparents’ footsteps to take their knowledge of the agricultural industry to the next level. Mary Lou Flom has been a vital part of the intellectual growth of these young minds for 40 years, working behind the scenes in the department as the administrative business assistant.

The Beginning

She began her long career at Texas Tech in May 1972. When she first began, Mary Lou worked in the registrar’s office. She said students and staff today have it much easier than back then.

“They did it kind of by hand, I guess you could say,” Mary Lou said. “You had three days to register, and you had to go line up at the Municipal Coliseum. You had to line up according to your classification and name and you had three days to do it. It was crazy.”

In the spring of 1978, Mary Lou made the transition to the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, into the position she currently holds. This seemed to be a good fit for her, as her father raised her in the cotton industry.

Mary Lou is pictured with her fellow staff members of CASNR in 1985.
Mary Lou (sitting) pictured here in 1985 with her fellow co-workers of the AEC department, (left to right) Becky Henley, Kacy Henry, Kristi Kountz and April Webb. Photo courtesy of 1985 Department of Agricultural Education and Mechanization Newsletter.

“I was born in Lorenzo, Texas, and my daddy farmed, and the person that he farmed for had land there,” Mary Lou said. “We worked out in the cotton fields starting about when I was 10 until I graduated. During the summertime, I worked out in the fields. Maybe that is why I enjoy working in the ag department so much, because I do know how much work it is and how much trust you have to have in the Lord to do that.”

As time went on, Mary Lou felt the department was where she was meant to be. She said she like to be the resource students can confide in and feels God has put her in that place for a reason. Mary Lou said the students will occasionally vent to her about their lives.

“Some of those kids come in, and when I ask them how they’re doing, sometimes they’ll tell me exactly how they are feeling, and I’m glad they can do that,” Mary Lou said.

Good Memories

Dr. Steve Fraze, interim dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, worked with Mary Lou for years, including the years he was chairman of the AEC department.

“Mother hen may not be the proper term, but that is pretty much where she’s at. She takes care of everybody,” Fraze said.

Fraze remembers a time when he first met Mary Lou 40 years ago while he was working on his master’s degree. The AEC department was then located where the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics is now located, and he had to bring something to the department chairman. It was then when he met the young Mary Lou.

“I don’t remember what it was that I had to bring to Mr. Leach at that time,” Fraze said, “but she was there at the front desk when I walked in.”

Dr. Cindy Akers, CASNR associate dean of academic and student programs, reflects fondly on her time spent with Mary Lou over the years. Akers said Mary Lou was there for her when she was a student and then again, after Akers’ return to Texas Tech as a faculty member in 1997.

She said one of her favorite memories of Mary Lou was when she was teaching an early morning class and her babysitter called in sick. Mary Lou offered to care for the young child while Akers taught her class.

“After I finished class I came back in, and I see her holding my daughter, and she is as happy as can be being taken care of by Mary Lou,” Akers said. “Now my daughter is 18 and also a student in the department.”

Akers said Mary Lou’s best quality is that she cares and always tries to do things the correct way.

“I think the world of Mary Lou,” Akers said.
“She is a very special person and would do anything for anyone.”
Looking Forward

As time goes on, Mary Lou has considered retirement. She said she is not too sure what she and her husband, Michael, will do yet, but it is sure to involve one of her many hobbies. Mary Lou and Michael enjoy doing many things together, especially traveling. They frequently travel to see their children and grandchildren who are spread out over several states.

Mary Lou and her husband have been married for near 12 years.
Mary Lou and her husband Michael, love spending time together at their home in Lubbock, Texas.

“We’d like to travel,” Mary Lou said. “I would also like to be more active in community service and volunteer at the church.”

In addition to traveling, Mary Lou enjoys cooking and working in her backyard in Lubbock. She likes making homemade tortillas and working in the garden.

“It’s just so beautiful in the afternoons when we come out here,” Mary Lou said. “The only bad thing about the big beautiful trees is that you’ve got to rake all the leaves!”

“She is a very special person and would do anything for anyone.”

Mary Lou said she thinks about the subject of retirement quite a bit, but is just not sure what she would do with herself when one day she just doesn’t come to work anymore.

“Every morning when I drive to work, I always wonder, ‘What is going to be like when I don’t go to work?’” Mary Lou said. “I really enjoy the job, students and the faculty, but it would just be a totally different change.”

Mary Lou expresses her affection for her husband, Michael, who is retired, and hopes to spend more time with him. In reality, however, she is not sure when retirement will happen. She jokes about the students that say she can’t retire until they graduate, but the students keep coming. She understands the time to pass the job to another is soon at hand and seems to embrace that fact.

“I just enjoy the people and the students so much,” Mary Lou said, “and this has been my life for the last 45 years, and gosh, I just feel like I’d be lost.”