Karen Thornton likes the view from the Tarrant County College Foundation’s new offices located at TCC Trinity River. But the Foundation’s newly appointed board chair’s vision extends far beyond the soft bends of the Trinity River.
She clearly sees where the Foundation is and where it can be. She’s excited by both.
Driven by a personal passion for education, Thornton sees her tenure as chair as an opportunity to serve TCC’s students by leading the Foundation’s transformation from a traditional fundraising organization to a dynamic, proactive partner with the school and the community.
“I am continuing the wonderful work that started under the previous chair (Janet Hahn). We are where we are because of her leadership,” Thornton said. “Janet formalized the movement to turn the Foundation into an office for proactive advancement and advocacy, to engage and attract people to TCC in ways that go far beyond just giving money. There’s always a place for people who just want to give. But whenever possible, we want them to become champions for the school in the community and to become active partners in the students’ and school’s success.”
Working closely with Kristen Bennett, executive vice president of advancement, and TCC Chancellor Eugene Giovannini, Thornton is using her platform to raise the College’s and Foundation’s visibility and presence in the community.
“We want to tell the College’s story. There’s a real opportunity to share the value that TCC brings to the community, which is often underappreciated,” said Thornton. “TCC is this little— actually gigantic—golden nugget in Tarrant County. There are 100,000+ students and it is one of the premier educational institutions in our area. So, we want others to know the kind of value that it brings and the contribution it makes to the lives of our students and the life of the community.”
As the chief administrative officer for FTS International, a leading national energy services company based in Fort Worth, Thornton knows that successful culture change starts from within. She also knows the transition will be a lengthy process that will require redirecting some existing resources and Board activities to set the stage for new initiatives.
“This is a rebuilding year. We’ll be resetting our bar,” she said. “It doesn’t just happen overnight. We will be redirecting the efforts of some of our more tenured Board members and recruiting new members who will undergo a comprehensive orientation. But when we have everything in place, we all will be starting from the same point.”
Those initiatives include the recent announcement of four new Board members from the area’s business and social service sectors and the change from quarterly to monthly Board meetings. In addition, the meetings will be held on different TCC campuses to familiarize Board members with the diversity and scope of TCC’s entire system.
“We are excited by the passion, vision and drive for excellence that Karen will bring to the TCC Foundation,” said Bennett. “Karen exudes the type of leadership that’s needed to guide us through our next phase in building a Foundation that is sustainable and poised for meaningful impact and success! This is an exciting time for the College and the Foundation because individuals like Karen are willing to selflessly give their time and talents to help the College and its Foundation achieve the critical mission of providing affordable and open access to quality teaching and learning for all.”
Through all the changes and activity, Thornton’s vision remains focused on the Foundation’s primary mission: serving students. To that end, she said, she will continue to emphasize ongoing community support of the Foundation’s scholarships and grants, especially the Eliminating Barriers Student Emergency Assistance Fund. The Fund assists students who may need to leave school because of financial emergencies that stem from lack of income.
“My goal is to double the scholarships we have available so that all of our students’ needs can be met,” Thornton said. “But my heart lies with the Eliminating Barriers Fund. It’s for students who are close to leaving school because an unexpected emergency took their funds. It derails their education and reduces the chance that they will be able to get it back on track.
“If we can eliminate that from happening, we can help our students in ways that will impact them, their families and their communities for their entire lives. If we can accomplish that, we will have fulfilled our goal and the ultimate reason that the College and everything connected to it exists,” she said.
“I can see it coming,” she added, smiling.
To learn how to support TCC students through a Foundation scholarship, please visit TCC Foundation.