When South Campus President Peter Jordan began his role, he met with faculty, staff and community members to develop a shared vision for the diverse campus. At the end of one meeting, a young man turned to Jordan and asked, “Do you know what we call this campus? ‘Harvard by the Highway.’”
In that moment, Jordan found his vision. It’s one that still guides the campus, which turns 50 in 2017.
“The fact of life is that many of our students couldn’t make it to Harvard – not because they’re not intelligent enough – but because of jobs and life,” Jordan said of the campus near where Interstate 35W intersects with Interstate 20. “They need us to provide them that quality of education.”
That education for 50 years has put students on a highway to brighter economic futures.
Jordan sees the powerful metaphor transform into reality every day. The South Campus offers access to quality teaching and learning for a diverse student body that includes many first generation, college-bound students.
From its mechanical and industrial programs, to preparing students to pursue bachelor degrees, “TCC continues to change and save lives,” Jordan said. “Where else can a young man or woman from a family with a median income of $20,000 learn skills and earn credentials that lead to starting salaries of $50,000 and above in three short years? That’s the TCC and South Campus story.”
While Tarrant County Junior College began with voters’ approval in 1965, the South Campus opening with more than 4,700 students in 1967 made it a reality.
“What developed on South that first year set the pattern for everything that was to follow,” Jordan said.
Many of the original faculty, staff and administrators moved to the Northeast campus and others, taking with them the precepts that guided the South campus’ development.
“It’s the lessons learned by these early adopters and founding faculty and the example they set that have become the gold standard for TCC and community colleges across Texas,” Jordan said.
More than 100,000 students study at TCC’s six campuses, pursuing degrees, certificates or continuing education courses. At the South Campus, about 8,700 undergraduates learn with an additional 5,000 enrolling in continuing education courses study.
In its early years, the South Campus developed an innovative method of teaching drama by bringing in a small company of professional actors who acted in lead roles while teaching and mentoring students. Now, it continues to lead the way with its Center of Excellence for Energy Technology with its exposed mechanical systems for learning and training.
“South has always been the campus where you could incubate an idea, where you could try it first,” said Gladys Emerson, vice president of Continuing Education Services for the South Campus.
That can be seen throughout its history from a program that for decades helped high school students enhance their English, writing and math skills to the newest program of Generation Hope, which encourages middle school students in science, technology, engineering and math.
“It’s the people of South Campus, their commitment to serving students and the community, their creativity and innovative spirit and their passion for teaching and learning that sets South Campus apart from others,” Jordan said.
As it celebrates its 50th anniversary throughout 2017, the College wants to honor the legacy of those who designed, built and sustained the College. “It’s our goal to reconnect the campus with a past that will fuel and sustain its future,” Jordan said.