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The First Lady of Agriculture

Story by Megan Davis


When Mary Lou Flom was employed in the Texas Tech University’s College of Agriculture Science and Natural Resources (CASNR) in 1978, she was not just the only woman employee, she was the only woman in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications.

“When I was hired I was apprehensive but never felt I couldn’t do the job,” Mary Lou said.  “At the time I was the only secretary and there were no girls in the Department. We had 3 professors, 1 graduate student, and we did not have any student assistants helpers.”

Mary Lou, however, was determined.

“I wanted to work for the department because I liked being in the college atmosphere and I liked agriculture, since that is how I was raised,” Mary Lou said.

Through the years, Mary Lou has witnessed the expansion and transformation of the department. In 1993 the agricultural communications degree was added to CASNR.  Prior to this, students could only receive a specialization in communications through a degree in agricultural education.


The implementation of the agricultural communications degree attracted women
to the Department, and the enrollment increased significantly.

 “It was great when the agricultural communications degree came along because it offered choices to our agriculture majors, particularly to the women who were always linked to agriculture teaching,” Mary Lou said. Ashley Larkin, a senior agricultural education major, and president of Agricultural Council, Collegiate FFA, and a Senator for CASNR on Tech’s Student Government Association, spoke highly of Mary Lou.


“When you talk to Mary Lou, it is like opening a history book, Larkin said, because she knows so much on how the department has changed through the years.”

In addition to the expansion and curriculum, Mary Lou also adapted to the changes in technology.

“I remember receiving a flyer about computers and the memory it would hold. I took it to my boss in hopes to get it and he said, ‘That will never work or happen.’ However, I was interested in it because of the work we could get done”Mary Lou said.

At that time, one of Mary Lou’s responsibilities was to type the tests for the professors and the thesis’ for the Tech graduate students.

“Now with computers, professors and students can do it themselves!” Mary Lou said with a chuckle.


Dr. Steven Fraze, Garrison Professor and Chair of Department, has worked in the same office as Mary Lou for 22 years, and has a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation towards Mary Lou.

“It would take three people to replace her and we would cease to function without her,” Fraze said. “Everyone appreciates Mary Lou and the contributions she has put toward our Department. She is the one who keeps our department running and me out of trouble.”

In her current position as Administrative Business Assistant, she takes care of accounts purchasing, spending and personnel work.  Now, Mary Lou works among a staff of 40 people in the Department. 

“Every day is different. Some days are hectic, but I love the people and enjoy coming here,” Mary Lou said.  “Sometimes it is tense, but I do like it busy.  I am prepared and ready for a challenge.”

As Mary Lou reflects upon the changes she has experienced during her years with CASNR, she commented that one thing that has not changed is the type of student who enrolls in the Department.

“Even though the students get younger each year,” she said with a light-hearted laugh, “they still have the same values and respect as they always did.”

While the college continues to evolve, it is Mary Lou who provides stability and continued love for the Department. Her wisdom from past experiences, and the connections she has formed with students for close to four decades, is appreciated by all who know her.

“One of the saddest occurances about my job is saying good-bye to the graduate students because I know that I might never see them again,” Mary Lou said.  “I get attached to them.  They are almost like my own children.”

“She is like a ‘mother hen,” Fraze said jokingly.  “She is genuine, caring, and patient with the students.  They have to mess up for her not to like them.”

In terms of future plans, Mary Lou looks forward to the days when she can spend more time with her six grandchildren and be more involved in her church.


In the meantime, the agricultural education and communication students at Tech will continue to be welcomed by Mary Lou as they enter the Department. She is the first lady they see. She is the first lady of Tech agriculture.