His father’s father, Lon Snider, had little formal education, but profound appreciation for it.
“Education is one thing no one can take away from you,” he told his grandson.
That grandson, Tarleton State University Associate Provost Dwayne Snider, took the sentiment to heart and is preparing to retire June 15 after 42 years as a member of the school’s faculty and administration. His family created an endowed scholarship last year in his honor.
“I always knew I wanted to teach,” Snider said. “My goal when I came to Tarleton was to teach in public schools, in high school. I saw teachers at Tarleton, and I decided teaching looked like a pretty good life. I thought maybe I’d pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics, with an emphasis on statistics, then either teach or go into industry.”
That’s how it started.
More than 50 years later, this past Tuesday, Snider received a 2018 Crystal Apple Award for myriad contributions to education.
Coming to Tarleton from Gorman as part of the 1967 freshman class, Snider already had time in front of students. His high school algebra teacher was injured, and young Dwayne — a junior — was drafted to fill in for six weeks.
“I wasn’t in charge of grading or anything like that,” he said, “but that was my first experience teaching.”
With an eye on getting back into the classroom, he earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Tarleton in 1971 before moving on to Texas Tech for his master’s and doctoral degrees.
He returned to Tarleton in 1976, beginning a career that has spanned more than four decades and left impressions on both the teacher and those he taught.
“I ended up working with a lot of folks who taught me,” Snider said.” A lot of names that are closely associated with Tarleton.”
His professors included Dr. Robert Fain, Tarleton’s first provost, who taught chemistry; the namesake of the Stephenville campus science building, Dr. Lamar Johanson, who taught Snider’s freshman botany class; and Dr. Robert Walker, former graduate dean, who taught English.
“I had Dr. Joe Christopher for an English class, too,” Snider said. “He’s retired but still on campus occasionally. In math, Tim Flinn and Tom Garner, who both received teaching awards, taught me before I came back and joined them as colleagues.”
The opposite is equally true. Snider has students who returned to work alongside him
“Jim Kirby comes to mind,” Snider said. “He was a student of mine the first year I was here. He was a senior, just about to graduate. He went off, got a Ph.D. and came back.”
Besides building relationships over the course of his career, he has seen many changes at Tarleton — some obvious and some not so easily noticed.
“I’ve seen buildings go and come,” he said. “I go to departmental meetings once in a while and I’ll say, ‘Do you remember when…? Never mind, you don’t.’ The changes on campus and, of course, just the size of the student body, are easy to notice.
“But when I came here as a student 50 years ago last fall, there were approximately twice as many males as females. That has shifted almost completely the other direction. Our student body is now about 60 percent female. That’s been a huge shift. It’s good that women have opportunities in education they may not have had 50 years ago.”
Accomplishments covering a 40-plus-year career are hard to enumerate, but Snider lists two he is most proud of.
“I’ve worked for every Tarleton provost to hold the title,” he said. “Dr. Robert Fain was the vice president for academic advancement and, somewhere along the way, his title included provost. The title has been associated with the position ever since. The other thing I’m really proud of is being a full professor in mathematics.”
Snider admits the decision to retire comes with mixed emotions.
“I’ve very much enjoyed working with the folks at Tarleton,” he said. “I came to work here with the idea I’d stay a year or two and move on. But I’m slow, and I haven’t yet.
“I’m going to miss the people, but I’m comfortable with my decision,” Snider said. “It’s the right time.”
His legacy will live on long after he retires through the L. Dwayne and Connie Snider Endowed Scholarship, created by his children in 2017. To make donations, call Tarleton’s Development Office at 254-968-9769.
“I very much appreciate my family doing that,” he said of the endowment. “It is great when a family honors a deceased individual for their contributions but, in my case, I’m fortunate enough to get to see it while I’m still alive.”
The outgoing associate provost says he has no big retirement plans, but is certain to earn more frequent flyer miles.
“The only real plan we have in place is to go back and forth between Texas and Virginia more often,” he said. “Both daughters, a son-in-law and two grandsons live there, fairly close to each other in the Washington, D.C., area. It’s possible I could be on an airplane headed to Virginia the day after retirement.”
As his career winds down, Snider said he often thinks of his family, their appreciation of education and his grandfather’s wisdom when he touted the value of learning.
“That sort of stuck with me,” he said.