Dateline: 50 years—a full half-century ago…1965. Lyndon Baines Johnson was president. Hubert Humphrey Jr. was vice president and president of the U.S. Senate. The United States of America was in turmoil. The early 1960s witnessed not only a dramatic increase in the numbers of Americans dying in the Vietnam War, but a corresponding tidal wave of social unrest. The anti-war movement gained momentum, resulting in numerous demonstrations including a march on the nation’s capital by 35,000 protestors.
Against this national backdrop, the city of Fort Worth faced its own struggles. Packing houses closed. The city battled rising decay. And as the downtown area seemed to be declining, establishment-backed City Council members refused to seek reelection.
It was an era ripe for change. Facing a void in experienced office holders, Fort Worth city leaders threw their support to a coalition of candidates that included Bayard Friedman. Friedman, later elected mayor by his fellow council members, became the last Fort Worth mayor to be placed in office without a public vote.
In this challenging climate, local leaders decided the time was right to pursue recommendations from the 1947 Truman Commission which, in part, called for a paradigm shift in higher education. Rather than focusing solely on the "intellectual elite," the Commission called for a broadening of educational scope to meet the "growing need for skilled workers in a shifting economy."1
The newly elected Fort Worth City Council coalition recognized the opportunity to make necessary improvements to the city. With education central to their vision, they successfully garnered enough voter support for a bond election. That election would achieve not one, but three major accomplishments: the erection of a downtown convention center, the creation of a new junior college and public school expansion, reportedly in that order.
Those supportive of the junior college district were clear about what they wanted for their community. At the time of the vote, Fort Worth attorney Tom Schieffer was the 17-year-old student body president of Arlington Heights High School and headed the "Youth for the Junior College" committee that campaigned heavily for the establishment of the college district.
"In the very beginning, …(as) part of the election process, we talked about multiple campuses. We wanted to get it as close to people as we possibly could," recalled Schieffer, who eventually served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1992.
We didn’t want to have one big institution that was trying to serve the community. We realized that if the community was going to be served, it had to have educational resources close to home.
Voters demonstrated their agreement by establishing the Tarrant County Junior College District on July 31, 1965. Ten days after its creation, the District’s first elected board met in the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce offices where they took the oath of office, drew to determine the length of their staggered terms of office, elected officers and set their top priorities.
The trustees elected Fort Worth attorney Jenkins Garrett as president, John Finn as vice president and Dr. May Owen as secretary. Also elected as part of the handpicked "Town Hall Slate" were Delbert Adams, Dr. J. Ardis Bell, Rev. L.L. Haynes (the first African American elected to county-wide office) and Edward Hudson.
The new board quickly started working on its top priorities, which were to select a chief executive officer and acquire sites for the first two campuses. Joe. B. Rushing, a native of Brown County in West Texas and founding president of Broward County Junior College in Florida, was hired to lead the college at the annual salary of $25,000. The $8.6 million contract to construct South Campus was awarded to McCann Construction in 1966. One year later, McCann Construction also won the contract to build Northeast Campus for $6.12 million.
When it became time to dedicate its first campus, College officials asked Texas Gov. John Connally to be the keynote speaker. Connally indirectly was responsible for the District’s existence by laying the groundwork to make it possible: it was his 1963 Texas Commission on Higher Education that had called for more junior colleges, including one in Fort Worth. The governor also was responsible for introducing TCJC’s first board president to the junior college system. Garrett had served on another Connally panel, the Committee on Education Beyond High School.
TCC veterans fondly remember the early days at the College. "The first days at the College were both chaotic and exciting. It seemed to rain constantly," recalled Northeast Campus Vice President of Academic Affairs Gary Smith, one of only two current TCC employees who were among the original South Campus faculty. "I do not remember having all the sidewalks laid, so there was much mud."
Colleagues had persuaded Smith to leave a career at a four-year university and join them at the junior college because he would be able to try new things. "They convinced me it would be a place where one could experiment, be creative and innovative," said Smith, who later was among the first three recipients of the inaugural Chancellor’s Awards for Exemplary Teaching awarded in 1986. "You could make a difference in students’ lives. They made it sound like one’s creative imagination was the only limitation."
Jane Harper, a recently retired colleague of Smith, expressed similar sentiments about what attracted her to the newly established two-year college. In 1968, Harper left a position teaching French at The University of Texas at Arlington to join the inaugural faculty at the Northeast Campus, the District’s second location.
"We were the pioneers for Tarrant County College. We had a great deal of academic freedom. It was in the ‘60s and people thought in a variety of ways and that was permissible and considered good," Harper said.
Also taking advantage of the innovative climate was Tahita Fulkerson, Trinity River Campus’ founding president, who this summer will end a career that began as a part-time teacher in the 1970s.
"I'd always wanted to teach--but I knew absolutely nothing about community colleges", Fulkerson recalled.
A friend from graduate school called me to say that South Campus was poppin' with students and that I should apply.
I did and fell in love immediately with TCJC students.
Fulkerson’s interest in the students spurred her to try new things, such as using Time magazine as a textbook for her Composition I class.
"(The students) were young and old, dedicated and carefree, smart and up for challenges. We found examples of good writing and great topics for class discussion," Fulkerson recalled. "It was my first semester to teach with 100 percent retention."
Not only were faculty attracted to this new educational opportunity, but so were students. Enrollment forecast escalated—2,000 to 3,000 and then to 3,600. When South Campus opened its doors in 1967, its initial enrollment of 4,272 was the largest opening enrollment for a junior college in the United States.
Northeast Campus opened the following year in 1968, but fall day classes met at South Campus because of construction delays caused by a labor strike and bad weather. The combined enrollment was 7,427 and the 1968-69 budget was set for $7.4 million.
Groundwork for a third campus was laid in 1969 when TCC accepted a land donation from the Walsh family. That was the same year that Northeast Campus students were able to attend classes for the first time on their campus. It was also the year that TCC held its first official Commencement in the South Campus gym. The College conferred degrees and certificates to 107 students. These students, however, were not the first TCJC graduates; the College hosted an impromptu ceremony in 1968 to award degrees to two students, Albert McCord and Charles Williams, who had transferred credits to TCJC.
As the years passed, the number of graduates increased to reach 800 in spring 1974. TCC began taking tangible steps to begin construction of its next campus. A dramatic ceremony paved the way when then-Chancellor Joe B. Rushing and Board Vice President Ardis Bell broke ground with a plow pulled by a span of mules, symbolizing that the new campus would be the site of TCC’s agribusiness program.
Enrollment continued to grow steadily, exceeding 15,000 students in fall 1974. Expansion efforts to accommodate the swelling growth hit a snag, when for the second time, a labor strike delayed construction of a TCJC campus. As a result of the delay, the Northwest Campus opening was pushed into the next year, landing it in 1976. It earned the special distinction of Bicentennial Campus as the only college or university campus opened amidst nationwide celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Continuing to distinguish itself by its growth, TCJC enrolled its 100,000th student one year later at Northeast Campus; in fall 1980, TCJC became the largest college or university in Tarrant County when its enrollment hit 22,026.
With more students came the need for more staff to handle administrative duties associated with running an expanding College. TCJC staff outgrew its latest leased space in the Electric Service Building. The college purchased land to build a 40,000-square-foot facility on Throckmorton Street, just north of Lancaster, for District offices. The May Owen Center was dedicated in 1983, honoring the only female founding board member.
During this period, southeastern Tarrant County was undergoing substantial growth. The Arlington-Mansfield area experienced a combined population jump from 94,311 in 1970 to 181,720 in 1990. A 123-acre tract was purchased to build a new campus in 1987, but construction could not begin until Texas 360, south of Interstate 20, partially was completed. Nearly a decade after land was acquired, the District opened the 5,500-capactity Southeast Campus in Arlington in 1996, with an enrollment of 3,993. The long-awaited campus quickly exceeded capacity and was serving about 15,000 students when a new addition opened for classes in spring 2011.
TCC leaders were continuing their commitment to bring educational opportunities as close to the people as possible when efforts were launched to seek a new location in downtown Fort Worth. The targeted audience was an underserved community near downtown and downtown employers. Circumstances arose in 2009 that allowed TCC to purchase a high-tech corporate headquarters to establish the Trinity River Campus in downtown Fort Worth. The campus expanded two years later after TCC built a new structure nearby allowing it to locate its nursing and several Allied Health programs together in one location. The move made it easier for cross-discipline exposure and opened the door for more health-care partnerships because of the College’s closer proximity to Fort Worth’s medical district.
As TCC leaders worked to skillfully manage resources to provide the facilities necessary to handle the demands of steady growth, they also were vigilant in establishing an environment where quality teaching and learning could thrive. The desire to reflect TCC’s growing commitment to meet the needs of the community was apparent back in 1999 when College’s name was changed.
Leaders constantly explored ways to best help students accomplish their goals and to do so within the prescribed two-year period. They sought options that would allow them to maximize TCC’s resources to achieve the best possible solutions to help students succeed. Their quest led them to get involved with a new movement that blossomed into the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network.
Joy Gates Black, vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success, described the transition this way. "We were still functioning under our mission of access, but it (was) broadened to include access and success. ATD helped us to refocus on why we exist."
Following ATD’s data-driven decision-making process, TCC leaders developed student success strategies to help students overcome obstacles and stay on course, including the establishment of mandatory advising, student success coaches and supplementary instruction.
Data shows that when students spend quality time with advisors, they receive information necessary to make smart decisions regarding the courses they need to take to successfully reach their educational goals as quickly as possible. The role of success coaches is to contact students at critical points to help them do what is needed to succeed in their current classes. Students taking classes that offer support from the Supplementary Instruction program are able to reinforce concepts learned in class with the aid of a supplementary instruction leader who attends each class and then uses a variety of activities to help students master the concepts.
"Here is someone who has gone through this (course) before. They have succeeded (because) they have figured out what to do in order to succeed in the course," said Amy Mullen, a Northwest Campus biology professor whose class is supported with supplementary instruction. Mullen said students may not do well because they failed to grasp part of the learning process.
"Maybe, they didn't understand how to take notes in the course or how to commit the information to memory or what exact level of detail they needed to understand the information," she said. "They learn from that (supplementary instruction leader) how to be a better student."
SI Coordinator Kate Johnson agreed. "There's a lot of course navigation that the SI leaders are able to give the student that they might not be prepared for quite yet. So, we are able to talk about study skills, as well as, how to work with the teacher."
It is apparent that learning these skills pays off. "It has been proven time and again that if you have regular attendance with SI that you can get up to a letter grade higher in the course," Mullen said.
Recently released TCC data supports the national trends showing that students who take advantage of the resources are succeeding at higher rates than those who do not. Students in spring 2015 who did not take advantage of the available SI programs had a success rate of 59.6 percent. Those who attended at least one session succeeded at a rate of 69.4 percent; those attending five sessions, 77.2 percent; and students who attended 10 or more sessions, 90.7 percent.
Strategies like these have allowed TCC, the 16th largest institution of higher education in the United States, to earn the status as one of only 78 Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges in the nation during its first year of eligibility.
As the "people’s college," TCC maintains a proud tradition of taking its programs and classes right to the community. A partnership forged by Northeast Campus and officials in Haltom City launched the Haltom City Northeast Center, which brings learning opportunities within walking distance of residents. In 2012, a similar agreement in Crowley resulted in TCC providing courses in Crowley Independent School District’s Bill R. Johnson Career and Technology Center. TCC also takes learning opportunities to 11 locations throughout the county. They provide classes for adults from Adult Basic Education and learning to speak English to opportunities for middle-school students in a Business and Service Education (B.A.S.E.) Camp to learn about product design and testing, financial investment, civic participation and community service.
Through its strategic partnerships with community organizations and corporations, TCC has effectively broadened its footprint to serve more than 100,000 students each year, as it annually touches approximately one in every 21 Tarrant County residents who take courses at TCC.
Regardless of their tenure at TCC, faculty and staff recognize the important milestones TCC is celebrating with its 50th anniversary. TCC’s newest president, Allen Goben at Northeast Campus, said this period in TCC’s history "marks a moment of reflection and pride of all things that we’ve become. As we pause to celebrate, (it) also offers a moment to turn the pages to the next chapter of the book."
Goben described the College’s coming years by invoking the words of management consultant and author Peter Drucker, who said "the best way to predict the future is to create it."
That future will build on the District’s innovative spirit, recalled by early faculty, to continue developing mechanisms to improve student retention and graduation rates; in the five years that Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley has been at the helm, graduation rates have increased 78 percent. As an ATD Leader College, TCC will intensify its efforts to ensure that everyone who wants to attend college—regardless of barriers—will be able to do so.
TCC’s longest-serving board member Gwendolyn Morrison, elected in 1976, describes why such efforts are important.
TCC will continue its role as an active, integral part of the community by bringing more people who never envisioned themselves as college students into the culture of college completion.
"This will help more citizens of Tarrant County gain life skills, job skills, degrees and certifications which lead to a more vibrant economy," said Morrison, who represents District 6 that includes east and southeast Fort Worth, Forest Hill, Everman and part of Southwest Fort Worth. "TCC must continue to be a source of hope to serve the needs of the people of Tarrant County."
Newly elected board member Teresa Ayala said that for some students it is important to them that they meet their educational needs close to home. "For many students, it is important to attend classes with others in your neighborhood with whom you share similar interests and values," Ayala said. "This can help provide a stronger support system and a sense of belonging."
That support system often includes positive involvement of parents, grandparents or other caregivers, said Ayala, who represents District 1 that includes Saginaw, Fort Worth North Side, downtown Fort Worth and Fort Worth Southside primarily west of I-35W. She said she would like to see TCC collaborate with local schools at all levels "to implement parent-university programs in neighborhoods early on to provide families effective tools to help them grow through education."
Ayala, a former TCC student and adjunct professor, traces her appreciation to learning the value of what TCC offered when she participated in a summer reading program as a middle school student. "I have intimate knowledge of what value this college brings to students and to the community. TCC provides a path to better job opportunities and the ability for people to provide for themselves and for their families. I want to serve our community to continue that tradition and to help students to achieve what they envision."
TCC Connect, a new operational division of the College responsible for administering Dual Credit, Online Learning and Weekend College, has worked to strengthen Tarrant County’s college-going culture by enhancing college access for non-traditional students. As an example, students who otherwise would not be able to take college classes due to work- and family responsibilities during the week can earn an associate degree in 18 months or less by attending Weekend College full-time. While classes are centralized at the Trinity River Campus, Weekend College also incorporates technology to merge face-to-face, hybrid and fully online courses into one comprehensive program.
As it was in the beginning, so it shall be going forward: student success represents the College’s unwavering priority. Accordingly, TCC’s future will be characterized by its sustained commitment to helping students maximize their potential.
Black, whose initial student success responsibilities were expanded to encompass Academic Affairs after four years at TCC, describes the process.
"A student comes to Community & Industry Education (formerly Continuing Education) just wanting to learn a skill that can immediately help them to get a job," Black said.
After the student earns his or her initial certification and lands a job earning a decent wage to provide for his or her family, Black explained TCC still has a role to play in the student’s life.
"This is an opportunity for us to help a student. They have already seen and experienced success. They now understand the benefits of education in their lives, and so they want more," Black said.
With this recent success under their belts, students often venture beyond non-credit courses that helped them land a paycheck to enrolling in their first credit course. "They take one course, then another and another, continuing from one semester to the next," Black said. "When they see that they are halfway to an associate degree, it inspires them to keep going."
TCC’s commitment to student success informs its ongoing quest for partnerships that will benefit its students, no matter where they are on their educational journeys.
"Creating specific educational pathways will make us more attractive to business and industry, while helping us develop even better relationships with our university partners," Black said.
She pointed to TCC’s current collaboration to operate a unique early college high school as a prime example. The Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences (TABS), a cooperative effort in conjunction with the University of North Texas Health Science Center, the University of North Texas and the Fort Worth ISD, demonstrates what TCC can accomplish with its strategic partnerships. Last May, the first TABS graduates joined another 32 early college high school graduates from Marine Creek Collegiate High School to walk the stage and receive their associate degrees. This was the second group of early college high school students to graduate; last year, 13 students from two school districts were the first-ever early college high school students to earn associate degrees in Tarrant County.
These partnerships with school districts not only benefit individual students and their families, but also play a fundamental role in TCC’s ongoing efforts to expand its partnerships with four-year institutions to create seamless pathways from the College to them and ultimately, into the work place.
"TCC is all about collaborations, communication and partnerships. We have outstanding faculty and student support staff care deeply about the students and are willing to be innovative and creative in finding ways for students to be successful," said Elva LeBlanc, president of TCC’s Northwest Campus, home to TCC’s first early college high school.
As the growing need for a prepared and trained workforce continues to dominate the national discussion, TCC will continue to forge new pathways to success for current and future students. This fall, TCC will open two new facilities, both at the historic South campus: the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology and the Tarrant County College/Fort Worth ISD Collegiate High School. The Center of Excellence will be the second to open as part of TCC’s continued commitment to institutional excellence while positively impacting the community. In 2014, the first official Center opened at Alliance Airport. The Center of Excellence for Aviation, Transportation and Logistics now houses all of the components of TCC’s nationally recognized aviation program. Plans are in the works to eventually house a Center of Excellence on each campus.
The Collegiate High School will be the fifth early college high school on a TCC campus, completing the Chancellor’s vision to open educational opportunities to children and their families who might not otherwise consider college as an option.
"These two facilities powerfully illustrate our continued commitment to Tarrant County and its healthy future as fueled by education," said TCC Chancellor Hadley, who joined the College as an inaugural faculty member on Northeast Campus in 1967. "By being willing and able to quickly respond to the needs of business and industry, we are in a unique position to positively impact the economic viability of this region and in doing so, to help create a better place to live, learn and work for our community members."
This responsiveness was lauded earlier this year when the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce conferred its annual Spirit of Enterprise Award on TCC for its commitment to providing workforce programs that help fill job market needs.
Noting in its celebratory comments that TCC and its former students generate annual economic impact of $1.6 billion for Tarrant County, the Fort Worth Chamber recognized TCC’s importance to the city’s very foundation.
"With its vast range of degrees, certifications and training programs, Tarrant County College offers pathways to success throughout Tarrant County’s expanding universe of business and industry," said Chamber President and CEO Bill Thornton. "TCC plays a core role in delivering the 21st-century, knowledge-based workforce that’s essential for global competition."
The major role that TCC will continue to play in providing economic stability to Tarrant County and its residents is not lost on its leaders. Northwest Campus President LeBlanc, also a TCJC alumna, shared her optimism about TCC’s future.
The next 50 years is going to be exciting. I wish I was just getting started so I could say, ‘I’ll be here for the next 50 years!’
Read more about TCC’s history at www.tccd.edu/50th, where TCC’s 50th Anniversary video can also be viewed.
1965 to 1988
1988 to 1996
1997 to 2009
2009 to Present
Tarrant County College District
1965 to Present
|District 1||Delbert Adams|
1965 to 1972
1972 to 1982
1983 to 1996
|Robyn Medina Winnett|
1996 to 2015
2015 to Present
|District 2||J. Ardis Bell|
1965 to 2008
2008 to 2011
20ll to Present
|District 3||Jenkins Garrett|
1965 to 1971
1972 to 1978
1978 to 1987
|Dixon W Holman |
1987 to 1988
|Tom Demarest Jr.|
1989 to 2002
2002 to Present
|District 4||L. L. Haynes|
1965 to 1975
1975 to 1977
|Clay Berry Jr.|
1977 to 1997
|Robert J. McGee Jr.|
1997 to 2010
2010 to Present
|District 5||Edward Hudson|
1965 to 1972
1973 to 1986
1987 to 1992
1992 to 2003
2003 to 2010
2010 to Present
|District 6||John Finn|
1965 to 1976
1976 to Present
|District 7||May Owen|
1965 to 1988
1988 to Present