Faculty Spotlight: Colonel Russell McGee

Colonel McGee came to Texas A&M as a young Texas farm boy who wanted an affordable education with a family atmosphere. Life took Colonel McGee around the globe but like so many other Aggies, College Station called him home to Aggieland.

What degrees do you have and where were they obtained?

B.S. Agricultural Engineering, TAMU, 1985
M.E. Agricultural Engineering, TAMU, 1997
Master of Military Studies, Marine Corps University, Quantico VA, 1999.

What drew you to Texas A&M University?

I attended Texas A&M as an undergraduate from 1981 to 1985 because I was a typical Texas farm boy who wanted a good, affordable education. I was in the Aggie Band and received a commission as an officer in the US Marine Corps, where I served as a Cobra helicopter pilot. I was fortunate to be assigned here 1995-1998 while on active duty with the Marines and served as the Marine Officer Instructor and Assistant Professor of Naval Science in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Department, where I taught classes and screened prospective Marine Officer Candidates, eventually commissioning more than 100 into the Marine Corps. During this time, I earned my Master of Engineering under Dr. Parnell, who also recruited me to come back when I retired from the Marines in 2007. My wife and I have lived all over the country and decided that Aggieland is an ideal place to raise a family.

Which classes are you teaching?

In the fall I teach 3 classes: AGSM 301 Systems Analysis in Agriculture, AGSM 439 Capstone I, and BAEN 477 Air Pollution Engineering. In the spring I teach two classes: AGSM 301 again and AGSM 440 Capstone II. I occasionally guest lecture in the Naval Science department about Marine Aviation and military leadership. I also serve as the director of the AGSM Undergraduate Program.

What projects or research are you working on?

I have assisted Dr. Calvin Parnell with the development of a biomass gasification system for the purpose of using cotton gin trach to produce electricity and heat for cotton ginning. I am also involved with air quality research on determining emission factors from agricultural operations to be used in regulatory permits.

Have you been abroad?  Tell me about your experience.

As a Marine, I traveled extensively in the Middle East. I participated in combat operations in the 1991 Gulf War and also in the 2003 Iraq War. I have also done three unit deployments to Okinawa, Japan and a Western Pacific float aboard Navy Amphibious ships, where I visited Hong Kong, Singapore, Guam, Thailand, China, Korea, and Australia.

What are some of your hobbies or activities outside of the department?

I spend most of my spare time working on my farm outside of Bryan, where my family lives. I enjoy managing a small herd of cattle, some horses, chickens, and even some bee hives. I also serve as President of the Texas Flying Club at Coulter Field, where I serve as a flight instructor in Cessna and Piper aircraft. I am also an elder at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bryan where I teach high school Sunday school.

In closing, what makes this department so special?

As a student, I was impressed by the friendly character of our department and am pleased to see it continue into the present. My uncle, Alan Brashears ’60, brought me over and introduced me to Ed Hiler and Calvin Parnell in 1981, who welcomed me warmly. I have had a special place in my heart for this department ever since.

I served 22 years in the Marine Corps and retired from active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel. Dr. Parnell insisted that students call me “Colonel McGee” to honor that service and highlight the fact we have a veteran on the faculty. I had thought to leave that behind me, but it appears to have stuck. I think the students kind of like it too.

When people ask me what I miss about the Marines, I tell them that I most miss working with bright energetic young Marines, 18-21 years old. In many ways, I am able to replicate that experience by working with Aggies. As an additional benefit, I am really enjoying the interaction with such a diverse international student population in Aggieland. My family especially enjoys entertaining international students in our home and introducing them to Texas culture that revolves around farm life.

I feel very fortunate to work here and to be accepted even though my career path is significantly different than other members of the faculty. Every morning when I walk in to work, I look at the stately buildings and beautiful campus, and allow myself a brief smile as I thank God for the blessing of working as an instructor in the Department of Biological And Agricultural Engineering.

Article by Whitney Steinmann

For details about this news story and others please contact Stormy Kretzschmar, stormyk@tamu.edu.

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