Imagine taking a course on the Texas Revolution that turned the sites of pivotal battles into classrooms, with a professional historian guiding you.
Andrew J. Torget, a professor of history at the University of North Texas, created just such a course earlier this year.
“It has long been a dream of mine to build a tour that would feel like stepping back into time, allowing everyone to walk in the footsteps of people who lived through momentous events like the historic Texas Revolution,” Torget said.
He worked with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) staff at UNT to make this dream a reality for OLLI members.
“We are so honored to have talented faculty like Dr. Andrew Torget teach our members,” OLLI at UNT Assistant Director Leanne White said. “The opportunity to work together was one we could not pass up this summer.”
Over five days in June, the professor guided about 50 lifelong learners, all adults aged 50 and older, on a chartered bus trip across the landscape of the revolution.
“Coming from California, I had little knowledge of Texas History and was very interested in learning more,” OLLI member John Riegelman said.
“After attending one of Dr. Torget’s previous lectures and the preview meeting for the trip, my wife Natalie and I were sold. We have never had the occasion to be taught by a more enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and personable instructor.”
The tour did more than focus on individual battles. At every site, OLLI members heard stories about essential figures like Juan Seguin and Susanna Dickinson for a broader narrative of the Texas rebellion.
“Most people in the state know vaguely about the events of the revolution — like the Alamo — but almost no one knows the fuller story of how all these battles came together to reshape Texas and its people in ways that we still feel today,” Torget said.
Of the many sites they visited, group members explored the historic San Jose Mission and the fabled Siege of the Alamo. They also toured the site of the Battle of Gonzales, the location of the Goliad Massacre, and the San Jacinto Battlefield, where the Texas revolution ended in victory for the Texans. The professor lectured on the chartered bus as the group made its way from site to site.
In keeping with OLLI’s mission to offer education to adults over 50 for enrichment purposes, there were no mandatory assignments during the trip, and each attendee carried a custom historical guidebook containing detailed descriptions, timelines, and maps of the events the professor discussed in each lecture.
“Dr. Torget has a real love for the subject and the heart and soul of a storyteller,” Riegelman said.
The professor’s enthusiasm for history is legendary. He brings stories from Texas’s past to life by climbing onto tables, dressing up in period clothing, and jumping into the air during his famous lectures.
In 2018, Torget set a Guinness World Record by lecturing on Texas history for 26.5 hours straight.
But even for Torget, this trip was memorable. In a year when he was also named a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, the Revolutionary Road trip was a highlight for the professor.
“I love being able to take OLLI members through the unknown stories, the still-secret places of the Revolution, and provide them with a front-row seat to this momentous history,” Torget said. “I got lost in the history and the joy of sharing that with each member.”
He hopes to offer similar Texas History tours in the future.
If you are ready to go back in time to discover the history of Texas, click here for more information of upcoming OLLI trips.