A Conversation with Louise Appleman


[ Music ]>>Well, I did grow up in Corpus Christi, the child of immigrant Germans
who escaped the Nazis. And that’s kind of an interesting story
in itself how they got to Corpus Christi. But I graduated from Roy Miller High School
and then went on to Texas Woman’s University and got a bachelor of science in nursing. All of my clinical work was done at Parkland. So I was at — on the Denton
Campus for a year in the summer. And then the rest of the years and summers,
until the last half of my senior year at TWU, I was at Parkland and did all
of my clinical rotations there. And then I went back to Denton and graduated with the girls I had started
with in 1960 — ’58. So I was working in the emergency
room at Parkland and had taught — actually, I had taught a couple of summer
semesters at the school — College of Nursing. Didn’t like that, which is kind of interesting
to see how my life has turned out in academia. But I was at the pool one day
and — at my apartment complex, and I met these two young ladies from Louisiana. And they were school teachers,
but they had left that career and they were now flying for American Airlines. And they said oh, this company loves nurses. You should apply. So I did, much to the horror of my mother. And I was accepted and in December of ’62,
CR Smith himself pinned my wings on me, and I went on to fly out of the
Dallas Love Field base for a year. And then they sent me out to what was
then called the Stewardess College, and I was in charge of emergency
training for all of the ladies. At that time it was just
women who came through there. And after that, I married Gordon and we
moved to Fort Worth, and I began working at what’s now called Baylor All Saints. At the time it was All Saints
Episcopal Hospital.>>Now, how did you and Gordon
enter one another’s lives?>>I was working and living and
having a good time in Dallas. And I met a guy named Morton Meyerson,
also the namesake for the now well known, well regarded Meyerson Symphony Hall. And Morton and I had mutual friends. And he thought it was pretty funny
that there was a nice Jewish girl who was not only a nurse, but a stewardess. And he dared Gordon to take me out. Gordon at that time had finished UT
undergraduate Harvard Law School and was working as Assistant Attorney General in Austin. And he told Gordon about me. And Gordon said, no Jewish mother would allow
her daughter to be a nurse and a stewardess. And Morton said, she did and she
is, and she will eat your lunch. And we — so he set up a blind date for us. And that was the beginning of
the end of Gordon’s happy life.>>You moved to Fort Worth in 1964 –>>Yes.>>– I read. And that was one year before the
foundation of Tarrant County Junior College. How much did you know about junior colleges? Were you aware that there was one coming?>>Oh, a junior college? Absolutely, because in Corpus
Christi we had Del Mar College, which is well regarded and well attended. And in fact, both my brothers
went to school there. So the idea of a junior college
was very familiar to me. So it was interesting to realize that
my new home didn’t have one of those. And I followed it closely and was very pleased when the town hall meetings endorsed
it and the voters endorsed it.>>Did either you or Gordon have
anything to do in the election?>>Not that I recall, other than voting for it.>>Oh. So the next year, Tarrant County College
— Tarrant County Junior College was founded. Now, you took some non-credit courses
back there after it was opened, I believe, prior to your coming on the board?>>I don’t think so.>>Oh.>>But what’s interesting is Gordon at that
time was officing at the Fort Worth Club, and that’s where the college had their offices. And So he met Dr. Rushing, I met Dr. Rushing. So we felt like we were akin in some way. But my children took courses
at TCJC while they were at UT. And I remember them coming home and
telling me, don’t let anybody tell you that that junior college is nothing. They were impressed with the academics
and the curriculum and the professors.>>When were you first approached
about being on the Board of Trustees? And how did that all come about?>>Well, interestingly, Dr. Rushing and I recently had a conversation
on email and by telephone. I was trying to set up a time to take Dr.
Giovannini down to spend some time with him, because he had never really
met him and gotten to know him. And in my initial conversation with him,
I knew that I was not going to run again. But I didn’t have the nerve to tell him. So I wrote him a long letter and told him how
much I had enjoyed my time on the college board. And he wrote back and said, how coincidental. He said my swimming pool —
he is now retired in Lampasas on the ranch and — but he swims every day. And he said he and his swim buddies had just
celebrated his 30th anniversary with them. And he told me in this letter
— or email that he — they knew Dr. Owen probably wouldn’t run again. And they were really trying to convince her
to step down so they could appoint someone and avoid the election commotion. And of course, she refused as was her style. I am not backing down or
quitting under any circumstances. She was 96, I think, at the time. And it’s a six-year term. So they decided they would — I guess, Dr.
Rushing and some of the board members would look around to see who might suit to
take — to run for her chair. And I wasn’t — I had to go back and look
at my resume, because he said he came to the Will Rogers Auditorium
where I was conducting a meeting. And the only thing I can figure out is that
it was at some sort of a town hall meeting. And I’m not even sure what the issues were. It had to be their billboards
or landscaping or something. We were doing some long-range
planning for Fort Worth at the time, and I was chair of that committee. And he sat at the back of the auditorium
just to observe what people were saying. And he watched me preside over this meeting. And he went back and told his board
members, I think I found the person who might be a good candidate to run for
Dr. Owen’s seat, which really touched me. And also made me realize how you never
know who’s watching or listening to you or getting an impression of you and
how important it is to get it right or at least give it your best shot. That’s how I used to terrorize my children. Be careful what you say and do. There’s someone that knows me who’s listening. So someone — and I was trying
to remember who approached me. I don’t think it was Dr. Rushing. It may have been one of the board members. And Gordon and I talked about it. And I remember he said, you don’t
ever want to get into politics. And I said, oh this isn’t politics. This is the junior college. He said, it’s an election. And I said, well, they said —
it — no one else would file. Well, three other people
filed, and I got into a runoff. And I lost a lot of weight worrying about it. And I remember sitting across the
table from Gordon at a restaurant and he said, well, how do you like politics? So somehow, I pulled it off. I won the seat. And I’ve always been very aware, conscious
of the fact that it was Dr. May’s seat. I knew her, of course, at the hospital. Everyone almost genuflected when she came out
of her lab, the few times she would emerge. And there was a lot of respect for her.>>You were well known at the time
for all of your civic activity.>>Yeah.>>You just mentioned chairing a board of some
kind, but then you were in elective office. And it’s sort of a different ball game.>>Very much so.>>What about that transition?>>Well, you learn quickly
there are a lot of rules. The policy manual is about that big. And I’m bringing it back here this week as
soon as I have a bag big enough to carry it. And that transparency and being sure that
you not only follow the local policy, but their state rules and their
federal rules, and being accountable, very accountable for everything you do. Not that being on a non-profit
board doesn’t require that, too, but there’s just a different
overlay, if you will, of accountability when you’re
in a public office.>>The first big thing to come up for the board after you joined was the
replacement of Joe Rushing. And I remember that the board didn’t
seem to look outside or anything. They named CA Roberson the new chancellor elect. But I remember that [inaudible]
sort of said something, you know, maybe we should have at least
taken a look outside. Of course, you were just a baby on the board. You had been on the board three or four months.>>Yeah.>>What was your take on all that? Did you think it maybe was a little hasty?>>Probably — I probably wasn’t
sure of how that should work. And I had been involved with some
head-hunting, some executive search at my synagogue and at Trinity Valley School. And I — maybe even Easterseal,
where I was on the board. So — but when you’re in a
public institution like this, and certainly all of the [inaudible] since,
just like when you’re biding on products or vendors, you need to open it up. And probably, we should have. CA was an easy choice. He was in on everything, had been
Dr. Rushing’s right-hand man. It was just a really, really,
really easy transition. And I think that’s what the board was looking
for, as less a fuss and muss as they could have. The other thing I remember — and that’s interesting that you
said that was the first big one. What I remember is the student
newspaper was on every single campus. And I think maybe even Dr. Rushing
wanted it moved to one campus. And the brouhaha that arose over
that, which over time, I think, has proven to be the right decision. But at the time, the students didn’t like it. The faculty advisors didn’t like it. And I thought, what have I stepped into? Getting into this big fight over moving
this student newspaper to one campus.>>Three years before you came on the
board, the college had acquired — or was in the process of
acquiring land for a new campus. The one that was to be in Arlington that
turned out to be the Southeast Campus. They looked all over the place, they finally
selected the site, and they paid for the campus. And then there was — we
were going to construct it. And there were all kinds of
problems, but the first thing — there was a groundbreaking in December
of, I think, 1994 maybe — maybe ’93. Do you — what do you remember
about that groundbreaking? Because I remember it very well.>>You’re going to have to help me remember.>>It was at the little cabin. The little cabin out by the pond.>>Yes. The — Judith Kerry [phonetic] and
I worked for years after to save and make it into a student center or
faculty lounge or something. But remind me, was the weather bad in December? Icy, cold, wet?>>All of the above. And we had had to cancel
twice because of bad weather.>>Oh my word.>>And so we finally got together, ran outside, you guys spaded a little dirt,
and then we ran back inside.>>And ran in — back inside into
the warmth and hot chocolate.>>Right. But as I said, the
construction at the Southeast Campus, there were a lot of problems
associated with that. And there was ultimately
legal action and everything. So what was the board’s feeling
about all of that? Because that was a very tense time.>>It was. We — and I remember when we approved the
contract with the Thomas S. Byrne company, Mr. Patterson and Tommy Seymour
were sitting in the front row. And I kiddingly said to them,
well, I hope you guys get it right. You — you’ve not been in business very long. And of course, that was a blatant lie. They’d been in business forever and had
done other work for us and were well known and well regarded in the community. And I — shortly after that, just a matter of
months, they sold the company to someone new. And I assumed things would go on as they
should, but we did run into some issues, either plumbing or electricity, at the end. We ended up in a lawsuit and
it was not pretty how it ended. And Tom Law, the attorney for us forever,
tried to write into another contract — or I guess, the settlement of the lawsuit that this particular construction company
would never again darken our doors. But he did it nicely.>>One of the big changes in the early 90’s was
the move from running at large to running –>>Yes.>>– in single-member districts.>>Yes.>>What was the feeling on you
and the board about that change?>>We –>>Was there some resistance?>>Oh, yes. We went to Austin several times. Garfield Thompson, who was our
representative at the time, and his aide was — and I’m blanking out on his name. He’s now — he went on and
became the representative and now has a private law
practice in Fort Worth. The issue was, they wanted to be sure
that the board always represented all of the diverse racial and
neighborhood entities in Tarrant County. And we went down two sessions and said, we do. We are. We — you know, we’ve always
been that way, and we always will be. Well — the answer was, well,
we’re going to make sure of that. So it didn’t pass the first session. The second session, it did. And we went into single-member districts. And so then it became incumbent upon the
board members to appoint someone to look at their areas of where they lived and
what they represented and to draw the line so that these single-member
districts would exist. And I asked a young lawyer in
Gordon’s law firm to represent me. And when it was all over, he came
in and he said, Mrs. Appleman, please don’t ask me to do
anything like that again. It was really difficult. And I’m not sure we ever carved out a
truly all-minority district, but we — you know, we have the North
side and the Southeast side. In fact, I just learned with this election
coming up that my district skirts the East side of Arlington Lake, Lake Arlington. And sure enough, we have someone running
from there who lives in an apartment on the East side of Lake Arlington.>>When CA Roberson announced his retirement,
the board, this time, did choose to go outside and looked and brought in,
I think, six semi-finalists. But Erma Johnson was not on that list. And that’s caused lots of angst
among the African-American community. Was that an uncomfortable
experience for the board? I know it was for Erma.>>And for me, personally, because one, not —
you remember our board meetings were in a room about the quarter of the size
of — maybe less than this room. And there was just barely room for
the board table for the seven of us. And then maybe four or five
rows to a wall where the faculty and the vice chancellors
and presidents would sit. And I was seated facing the door. And all of a sudden, a crowd of
African-Americans, all of whom I knew and had worked with and been friends
with, walked in and lined that other wall. And one of their leaders leaned down over
behind Dr — CA Roberson and yelled at us. And our process was we never
responded to the public. We always would listen to
them, and then just move on. And she said, if you don’t take Erma Johnson
Hadley — was her name Hadley at the time? Yeah. Or just Johnson, Erma Johnson. It has to be, because she’s
African-American and a woman. And it was all I could do to keep from
standing up and saying to this person, who I thought was a friend, never in my
life have I discriminated against someone because of their race, their gender,
their religion, their culture, but I’m not going to appoint
somebody or hire somebody or offer someone something
because of the same issues. So she was not chosen at that time,
and it was disappointing to her. The search process is a very complex,
tedious, and expensive process. And you rely a lot on the
professionals who help you. And the board did that and
came up with their selection. And I will say, Erma, as disappointed as she
must’ve been, handled it with Erma grace. Never quit working her job and
doing it to the best of her ability. And I will always love and respect her for that. Because that had to have been very difficult.>>Jim Worden was the interim chancellor –>>Yeah.>>– for a while, and then very tragically
and suddenly died in December of 1996.>>Mm-hmm.>>The board met and — on South Campus,
as I recall, and came out and said that Larry Darlich [phonetic] would
be the new interim chancellor. And that did not sit well with
the African-American community. Again, they thought Erma had been rebuffed. And indeed, some very senior
TCC [inaudible] members, candidate members at the time were
wondering, well, what is this? He’s been here a whole ten months.>>Mm-hmm.>>How did that come about?>>You know, Bill, I really don’t
remember the details of that. We were probably — part of the thinking
was probably — and you do this — we did this this last time
with an interim situation. You try to choose someone who’s not going
to be a candidate for that position. And so the thought, and maybe hope, was that
Erma would be a candidate for replacing. And Dr. Darlich probably
wouldn’t be, because he was so new and didn’t have the history that Erma had. But again, there was a lot of unhappiness
and disappointment and probably anger. And that’s — it — in fact, I look back on it. The woman who yelled at us at
the board table that night — we were on a couple of boards
together, and she quit speaking to me. And years later, when Erma was chancellor,
and they were good friends, of course. I told Erma, I said, you tell mm-hmm, that
this town is too small and life is too short. And we need to get together and overcome this. And she must have, because
we ended on a good note. And in fact, I recently had
a good visit with her. And she was dying of pancreatic cancer, too. And I felt like we had come to peace with
each other and the issues we’d confronted.>>The board brought in Leonardo de la Garza –>>Yes.>>– as the new chancellor. And he came in and one of the things
he started looking at was our finances.>>Mm-hmm.>>And he said, you have not been aggressive
enough in raising taxes to raise the money to take care of a lot of needs that I see. And for — some people thought
that was maybe a slap at CA. That maybe — that he was — he shouldn’t
come in and say something like that. What was your view on — I remember Bobby
McGee agreed with him wholeheartedly. Did the rest of the board kind of think, yeah, maybe we have been too slow
in coming around on this?>>I think so. CA had been here from the beginning of
time and we’d always done it his way. And he kept us solvent and
out of financial jail. And so we depended on him to
do that and to keep us going. And Dr. de la Garza did have some new ideas. And ultimately, we made some major changes
in our financial operations and taxing of the citizens, which I thought would
probably get us all ousted and impeached. But not a blip on the screen. And that pay-as-you-go system was celebrated
at our 50th anniversary down on the river, which was another controversial campus decision. But — and he was there to
help us burn that last bond. So we’ll see how it goes from here. There’s already talk of maybe
going into a different system.>>Pay-as-you-go worked very
well for us for a long time. But as you say, maybe the time has come
where it just cannot be used for an endeavor that we might be, like, building another –>>Exactly.>>– bricks-and-mortar campus
and all the infrastructure on the present campuses that need replacing. So is that being rethought?>>Yes. That — we’re looking into all of that. And in fact, one of our board
members, who is no longer on the board, began to question our pay-as-you-go system. And that’s not sustainable, he would say. And you-all need to think about other
ways of financing bigger projects. Because we were already — we’d done
maybe two facilities, long-range planning, and we could see where we were falling apart. And then the tornado hit Northwest
and really got our attention. And we knew we were possibly in
trouble with the pay-as-you-go and that other methods needed
to be part of the plan.>>In 1999, Tarrant County Junior
College became Tarrant County College.>>Mm-hmm.>>Was there any hesitancy on the part of
the board, except what will Dr. Rushing say? What will Jenkins Garrett say?>>Yeah. It was just — we
knew it was a bold move. And we knew that some of the senior
universities in the area would think we were about to encroach on their
operations and their students and possibly become a four-year institution. And so we were careful every time
it came up that we would say, we will remain a community college. I — it made me remember that when TCJC
was on the ballot, that some of the folks at TCU really didn’t like the idea of a junior
college getting in their way, which of course, in the end turned out to be a
wonderful partnership and collaboration and reticulation situation for our students. In fact, I was just at the Bob Bolen — or the Bolen, I should say Bob and
Jim, Math Competition Ceremony. And a couple of students got full rides to TCU.>>Yeah.>>You just can’t argue with that. So we have overcome that little thing. But going back to changing
the name, it was nervous-y, but a lot of junior colleges
were doing it across the country. I think there are just a handful
left that still say junior college. And it took me a while to stop saying
TCJC and probably a lot of others, too.>>Another big change came when — the
college had had a foundation before you came, The Friends of TCJC.>>Yes.>>It did not have a paid staff. It really wasn’t all that
successful at raising money. But in 2001, the foundation was
resurrected with a paid staff. You had been involved in
lots of organizations at — of which fundraising was part of their process. I assume you probably welcomed this
change and had a lot to do with it. And you were on the original
board of [inaudible].>>Yes. And it did suffer rebirth
several times with lots of staff changes. And I had been involved, probably — the
foundation most closely related in style and function was the Community Foundation,
which we created when we became aware that the Dallas Community Foundation —
realized there was significant money in downtown and residential Forth Worth and started coming
over here and looking at some of the donors. And Bob Decker, a prominent attorney in Forth
Worth, acted at the United Way and on the board, OSI, went to Glen Wilkins who
was then the CEO of United Way and explained community foundations to him. And he knew, because Tom Beech, who was
running the Tandy Foundation at the time, had come from a community foundation. And we said, we need one of
these in Tarrant County to — for families or individuals who had a
lot of money, could create a foundation, but didn’t want to staff it and run it. So it’s like a foundation pool. Someone is there to invest and manage and
make grants with the help of the donor, but a committee or a board
making the final decision. So Glen Wilkins, who was a retired
Alcon exec and in retirement, got nervous and antsy about being retired. And so he took over United Way and
did a wonderful job for many years. He agreed and he gave us office
space and an executive director and a secretary and a phone line. And off we went. And that foundation is now on its own,
very well financed with its own board, making huge grants to non-profits
in the community. So I knew from that experience that growing
a foundation takes a lot of time and patience and gaining the respect and the
recognition from potential donors. And there — it was not going
to be instant success. And it has not been. We — I looked last night, and
I think we’re at 30 million, which is fine, but we could be a lot more. And Dr. Giovannini understands foundations. And certainly Joe — Dr. Joe
McIntosh, he was the CEO, and Liz Sisk, who’s number two over there. And they’re working together. We have what we call an MOU, a member —
memo of — memorandum of understanding. And I think that foundation will
grow to much greater heights. One of the issues was, when you
go to a tax payer and you say, may I have some of your wealth
for our foundation? The almost always response
was I’m giving you my taxes. Why do you need more money, my private
money, for a private foundation? Well, all you need to do is spell out the needs
of some of our students and how hard it is even to meet our tuition requests and books
and all of that that goes with it. And they need assistance beyond
financial aid or pell grants or other things that put them into debt. We give them money to continue their
studies, and they don’t have to pay it back.>>Another problem with community
college foundations seems to be that — not only that people say oh no, I pay you taxes. But universities can go to their alumni –>>Yes.>>– wealthy alumni.>>Yes.>>Very different from a community college.>>Yes. We don’t have many of those. But it’s really been heartwarming
to see the list of donors that do recognize the value
of a community college. And who either because of their own personal
experience of their business’ experience with our well trained workers,
feel that it’s worth their time and effort to give us some of their wealth. And some of them are on the board and help us
identify others who might be helpful to us.>>Dr. Worden’s death and Joe Ed Spencer’s
retirement left two vice chancellor positions, key vice chancellor, academic
affairs and financial affairs vacant. Chancellor de la Garza kept those open
for a long time and was sort of fond of telling people, I am the chief
academic and chief financial officer. I know that some board members, I’ll even mention Bobby McGee
again, had a real problem with this. How did the board feel as a whole?>>You know, you — as a board member — and you’ve hired this person and you
know that they bring their own style. And while they are my, as a
board member’s, employee — I like to say I’m just a little
old housewife from the West side. What do I know? And here comes someone with all these degrees
and all this experience and all this bravado. And you think, well, maybe I don’t
understand this situation so well. Maybe I’m not understanding
what we need here at TCC. Bobby, of course, came from a totally
different banking investment officer background. And he was critical of a lot of things
we did and became very frustrated with us and once told me that this was
not a lifetime appointment, which was his way of saying get out. But he decided he would get out. And I respected his judgement calls as well. But I think the board was at a place
where they trusted de la Garza. We hired him. We knew what his credentials were. We knew what his track record was. And we were willing to let
him lead us down the path. But at some point, I think,
it was — became clear. Enough’s enough. Let’s get some people with some
qualifications in these positions.>>In 2002, the board instituted
a self-evaluation procedure, which as far as we could tell was the
only one of its kind in the country. Were you proud of that, and
does it still exist in any way?>>Yes and yes. And it changes every year. We redesign it and reevaluate it. And again, depending on who’s sitting at the
end of the table in the chancellor’s position, it gets tweaked and sometimes thrown out. And here’s a new form that
just came out from wherever. Let’s try it this year. And I thought that was pretty awful until
I got involved in another organization, and they’re struggling with the same thing. How do you evaluate yourself
and your fellow board member? How am I going to turn around
and tell Dr. Gwen Morrison, who’s been on the board ten
more years — or more than — yeah, ten more than I have,
that she’s not doing a good job? Everybody brings a different style
and a different manner to the table. You have to assume that their intentions
are honorable and that students and faculty and the institution are at
the top of their list. That’s maybe not always true or not
as intense as your own feelings. But again, you work through it. We also evaluate the chancellor. And one board member’s really negative rating
can throw the whole grade assessment off. And that happened one year. And I suggested that we fold
the evaluation system, but it had to go into the chancellor’s file. And it didn’t look good, but it was
that one unhappy board member’s — who left soon after under
questionable conditions. So you know, I — and my
suggestion of just throwing that in the trash can was not
an appropriate one either. But I felt it was so unfair and did
not reflect the other six members of the board’s evaluations.>>One of the things that came up in
the late 90’s, and this is, I think, an example of [inaudible] de la Garza’s
wanting to really get the college on the move. Let’s talk about downtown facility.>>Mm-hmm.>>The first discussion was a technical center, which would be across the
street from the mailing center. And they looked at it and
there just wasn’t enough room. And it grew and then finally, it would — to be a whole, freestanding campus,
which would be our fifth campus. We went to the taxpayers. There was going to be a 3 cent tax
increase set aside for the acquisition and building of a downtown campus. But people said, well, where is it going to be? Well, we don’t know. What’s it going to offer? Well, we’ll have to decide that. And I think Mr. OK Carter was one of the
journalists who kind of took us to task and said, this is all very vague. So was the board sort of concerned
about putting that out in –>>Yeah.>>Yeah?>>Yes. It just wasn’t our style, so to speak. And we had never before —
and — or ever since gone to the taxpayers with an incomplete proposal. Interestingly, we were recently in Austin
at the university and at a chancellor’s, which is the whole system, all
11 campuses around the state. And they initiated a fundraising
campaign akin to this. No goal as to how much they wanted to raise. No plan as to how the funds might be used. And they are into the million — we
were back later, and so what happened? They are collecting millions
of dollars down there because the trust in the system management. And I guess, the hope for a
name on a building is so great. These people are just giving money
without any real plan for it, which Gordon and I were like, mmm, not our style.>>Well, the site for the campus was
chosen, the bluff along the Trinity River.>>Yeah.>>One of the sites that had been proposed and rejected had been offered
by the Bass family, Ed Bass. Do you think that not going with that suggestion
maybe caused a little trouble down the line?>>Possibly, except that we made sure
that the model for the new Trinity was — we now call it the Trinity River East Campus, and this was before the RadioShack
building was in the mix. We had this beautiful model of
the way the buildings might look and how they would cross the river
and the river was running through it. And the first person we came — we had to come
— invited to come see this model was Ed Bass. And it had lights. It was really pretty dramatic. And he looked at it and he looked
under and he walked around. And he just — oh, it’s just beautiful. That’ll be just wonderful. And about three years later, he
looked out of his window and he said, what in the heck is going on down there? And of course, by then we’d done,
you know, the land purchase. We had a big hole under Belknap Street. And we had architects and engineers
and people everywhere, construction. And we’re well into the project. And he demanded a recall. He wanted a reassessment of the whole
project and brought in his own people. And we hired an independent, supposedly,
person who had no — nothing to gain. He wasn’t going to get a
job out of it or anything. And one — at least one of our board
members was ready to wrap the whole thing in tinfoil or plastic and wait it out. Wait for what? You can’t just leave that big hole
there and these half done buildings. I think we should wait. Well, long story short, we had a couple
of meetings, and I’ll never forget. One of the meetings was on the —
we were in the RadioShack building. I guess by then, had we bought it? We must have, or we were just meeting there. Anyway, Ed and about eight
of his cronies walked in. And I thought, oh this will
be an interesting meeting.>>Northwest Campus.>>Was it Northwest Campus?>>Yes.>>I just remember an auditorium. And so, anyway, he was there
and brought his folks. And they were there to tell us how
we were about to make a big mistake. We were into the mistake. Long story short, they went away. The architects and the consultants
all said, you can’t stop now. And so we continued. The problem was Katrina happened in New Orleans. And I remember at — I — one of my
claims to fame is that I was on one of the original Streams and Valleys Committee,
which was set up independent of the city, which I’ve always kind of laughed about. We were not approved. We just went to work, thanks to Phyllis Tilley. And we built low-water dams
and we put in bike paths. And we moved from the very beginning because
we were being coached by the Corps of Engineers and by the Tarrant Regional Water District. Thou shall not put anything within a certain
number of hundreds of feet of the river, because that’s flood control and
that’s why those banks are there. If the Benbrook Lake has to be let out, that
water has to come through town and it has to, you know, hopefully, stay within the banks. Well, any of you that were here in
the 40’s remember the Great Flood, and there’s still pictures hanging at
[inaudible] Montgomery Ward under water and lots of downtown under water. So those people who grew up in
Fort Worth remember that flood. And they don’t ever want to see it again. So that’s why that river
was dug and banked as it is. So when I saw that building, that model,
I was the one who said, you can’t do that. You can’t put pylons into the riverbank. And the architect said, don’t
worry, we’ve got it covered. Well, what he meant was, we had a congresswoman
who was working with the Corp of Engineers to get us permission to do exactly what we had
never done in the 30 years I’ve been involved. So sure enough, Katrina came and the Corp
went, welp, maybe we better rethink this. Because of destruction of
New Orleans and other places. So we stopped the construction
on the South side to — and confined it to the South side of the river. At about the same time, actually, Bobby McGee
was on a golf course or a cocktail party or something and got some
inappropriate information that RadioShack was having a little trouble
keeping up the rental payments to the REIT, real estate investment trust, in Germany that
they had been sustained by for several years. And the REIT wanted to sell that building. Because of that pay-as-you-go
situation, we had the cash to pay for that building, which is unheard of. So we bought the building. RadioShack rented space from us up until last
year, and that was a means of income for us. We had to remodel several parts of the building. And we had to — we stopped construction. That’s — luckily we hadn’t gone across. And we’d even had some people say,
I’d like the bridge named after me. And we said, show us how. And of course, all of that went away. And we have what has now won several awards for
design and function, a beautiful East Campus and a — I still call it the
RadioShack building, and I shouldn’t. The Trinity River Campus building, which is
oversubscribed almost any day of the week.>>There was a press release sent
out when we started construction, or were going to start construction,
on the bluff campus. It said the cost would be $135 million. And I think if the administration ever wanted to take back anything it said,
it was that price figure.>>Yeah.>>Because the ink hadn’t dried on the
Star-Telegram when it was up to 170.>>Yeah.>>And then over 200, and then it was 300. So was the move to buy the RadioShack complex in
part just the end of the series of frustration on the board’s part about the fact that
we just could not stop the cost increase? We could not get permission from the Corp? That was a bad time.>>It was one of the more difficult
periods in my time on the board. There was a website created by Steve
Murrin, a very popular man in town, and I think I still have copies of it. In fact, I think it’s still online. He never did take it down. But he really took in after us. And I can see — I mean, now people are taking
in after the Trinity River Vision people for the same reason, or essentially
the same reasons. A project that’s gotten out of control with
design and intent and certainly finances. And that campus probably qualified
for all of the same criticism. And I can’t justify it. I can’t explain it. As some people would say,
it was above my pay grade. You know, I remember we questioned the
consultants time after time after time. Oh, don’t worry, we’ve got it under control. Trust us. And again, the little old
housewife from the West side thought, well, maybe this is how it goes in
the business building world. But it was not a good operation at the time. Fortunately, for us the camp — both
campuses, as I said, are oversubscribed. We can hardly admit — we don’t admit
all the students who want to go there. We have an early college
high school with U and T, the Texas medical students
who are just unbelievable. They’re the Einsteins of the next century. And they arrive in school buses. Charlton’s getting ready to
hold night classes there. When people want to have an event on a
campus, they always call that one first. Dr. [inaudible] probably spends a good portion
of his time dealing with reservations for space. The cafeteria, the eating establishment, stayed
there where the RadioShack employees ate. And I went there a couple of times
when they were still in the building. They were so undone with the fact
that the community college had taken over their space, which had
been long and coming. It was a beautiful building,
and they were working there. And here these interlopers were not only in the
building, they were eating in our restaurant. They wouldn’t even look us in the eye. And if you met one coming down
the hall, they wouldn’t greet you. So [inaudible], who was the president of that
campus, finally just took her gracious self up to the CEO’s office and just sat there
until he agreed to see her and she said, we’re going to be living and working together. We have got to get this to a point where
it’s acceptable and friendly and not hostile. Only she could’ve pulled that off. And parking became an issue because they
wanted their spaces, we needed ours. It was a difficult time for a lot. Even after we moved into the new building.>>When Bobby McGee came forward to the board
with the idea, hey, the RadioShack complex is for sale, let’s think about buying
that and making it the campus. What was the reaction of the board?>>You’ve got to be kidding. And I have another part of my life where I do
relocation work, and I had done a lot of work for RadioShack over the years
bringing new executives in. In my mind and in the mind of
the community, they were growing. They were adding significant
people from all over the world. They were — John Roach had stepped
down and he hired Len Roberts. And then Len stepped down,
and it was Len’s building. And he and Marvin Girouard, the CEO of
Pier 1, had kind of a fun contest going between whose building was going to get
finished first and which one would be better. And then, ultimately, both companies — Pier
1 is still in existence, but struggling. And of course, RadioShack, may it rest in peace. No one can really believe
they’re really, really gone. But they are, and they were going. And it made sense that that
building might be for sale, but we couldn’t even imagine
ourselves in such a grown up building. And again, because Bobby brought it to the
board and he had it on good information and we checked it out, and it was true. They were having serious trouble. And again, long story short, we bought it. And it’s ours. And it’s — you know, we’ve
had to add parking lots. It — the other issue was when
RadioShack put that building there, they displaced the public housing community. And that was very emotional for a lot of
people, including one of our board members. And you remember the Leonard Brothers trolley. That was gone. You know — so a lot of things changed in what
seemed like a long time, but it was a heartbeat. And we’ve all had to adjust to it.>>While all this was going on,
there was some friction arising between the board and Chancellor de la Garza. Part of it was due to the new
campus, the cost overruns, but there were other things at work, too. I — Mr. McGee seems to come
up a lot in this conversation. But he — on behalf of the board, the board
asked the chancellor for the evaluations of the [inaudible] members, the executives
who reported directly to the chancellor with the eye of a possible succession. The chancellor refused. And that went on for some time, even
though these evaluations are public record. How did the board feel about that? How did you feel about that?>>We didn’t like it. It was the beginning of the end. And I obviously cannot go into
details, but I can tell you that I ended up in a conference room in my son’s law firm. And I asked him to please stay in his office. I was dealing with one of his attorneys and
— who was representing Dr. de la Garza. And at one point, I just asked all
the attorneys to leave the room. And I told Leonardo — I never called him that. And I said, Leonardo, it’s time. And he looked at me in the
eye and he said, okay. And so we called the attorneys back
in and I said, start the paperwork. It’s just — you know, legalese
is important, and obviously, I believe in it and live it daily. And am very proud of my husband
and my son and my father-in-law, who practiced keeping people
according to the law. But at some point, you just
have to go for the gut. And he knew that. And I did, too. And it — I hired him with my six colleagues. So I had to admit — we had had several
good years, but I had to admit there — that’s not how you want a relationship to end.>>But a year before that, then — when the board offered Dr. de la Garza a
one-year contract, in which he was very upset that you managed to — you were
president of the board at this time. Dr. Bell had retired, and it
was a very interesting time. That’s the same day that we announced the —
that we had bought the RadioShack complex. And then here we came with — to change the
offer and make the contract three years. So that intervening time from June 2008 to
June 2009, did things just sort of continue to go downhill until apparently both
you and he said, enough’s enough?>>Yeah. We — trying to
give him a graceful exit. You’re still dealing with human beings. And titles be damned, excuse my French. You’re dealing with a human being with a family,
with a reputation, and you try to make it as pleasant as unpleasant can be.>>While all of this was going on, those of
us in the trenches were looking at the board and saying, what’s going on here?>>Yeah.>>Because the board had been known for
its collegiality, for its cohesiveness. And all of a sudden, there was all of
this friction among the board members. What happened? How did that disappear? Was it just too much stuff going on?>>Well, I think — and I think we
had more grown up board members. When I first came on this board,
meetings were really boring. And I don’t even know — I look back how much
— now I have a one-on-one with the chancellor so that I can see the draft
agenda, and I can ask any questions that I might have in not
understanding the issues. Then we have the Governance Committee
Meeting, which is open to the public. And staff — anyone who has
anything on the agenda is there. So that if board members
have questions or concerns, it helps the staff sometimes rewrite the
— even the way it’s listed on the agenda. There was something last month. And I thought, that doesn’t
make any sense to me. Well, they reworded it. And because it’s in draft form and within the
72 hours before becoming public information, even though the meeting is open to the public. And then if the — they always offer a narrative
of several pages beyond the proposed motion. And as we read through it, if there
is something that’s not clear or — one day I found a mistake in a date
or a number of years or something. So it gives us a chance to kind of clean
up our act before we go public, public. And it’s helpful to the board. I think they have come to realize
how professional, how skilled, how experienced our people are, starting
with the chancellor and the vice chancellors and the presidents and the deans. These people weren’t hired just
off the street or in a vacuum. They came to us with resumes. I’m always astounded at the
wording on the resumes. And I don’t see them until it’s
over, except for the chancellor. But we have an incredible
workforce here of professionals. That if we can’t trust them,
yes, we should ask questions. And each of us is at the
table with a different level of understanding ourselves
and experience and skills. And some are more detail
oriented in their questions. But I’ve never seen a staff
member to this day — if they didn’t know the answer,
I’ll get back to you. Or let me look that up for you. And then the whole board gets the
answer, not just that one board member. But everybody gets whatever that person — usually, through Regus office we find
out what the answer to the question was. But 99% of the time, they know the answer. And they know it so well, it’s almost
difficult for them to explain it to lay people. And — or they’ve done it in such
a way that we don’t understand. Or they’ve left it out because it wasn’t
significant and somebody says, well, what about? And they’ll have the answer for us. And I’ve always been very appreciative
and respectful of that, so –>>What you seem to be saying is, the
board grew into a true governance –>>Yes.>>– board.>>Yeah.>>And not just — some people
have said the rubber stamp.>>Right. And that’s why every
board meeting I tell the audience, because they either don’t know or didn’t come to the Governance Committee
Meeting, we’ve been there, done that. We’ve vetted this material. I still bring my notebook to
the table in case someone wants to see it, but it’s on our computers. And I really don’t like the computers, so
that’s another reason I have the notebook. But I noticed the chancellor does the
same thing, so I don’t feel as guilty. But there it is in black and white. And only on a rare occasion do they switch
out the papers to correct whatever we asked for at the Governance Committee Meeting. This week, we pulled two items
because Ms. Petty decided they — there were some adjustments to it. They were actually money coming back to us. And so we said, well, make
it — the amount higher. But she realized that the
numbers weren’t quite right. And it was less than 72 hours that
the public requires for disclosure. So we just pulled it from
the agenda until next month.>>Shortly after Dr. de la Garza left, there
was a very long, closed meeting of the board, and Erma Johnson Hadley was
named interim chancellor. It was longer than many of
us thought it might be. Now, was –>>The meeting?>>Yeah. The meeting — before
you came out and named her. Was — we thought that might be a
slam dunk, but I guess it wasn’t.>>Well, because most of us had
been around for the other search. And we knew — and maybe the
search before that, or non-search. And so we understood the implications of handing
the title to someone without a verified search with a consultant and a fee,
thousands and thousands of dollars, and because of the history of
consideration of her before. And we didn’t want it to look
like, okay, so it’s finally yours. Get over it. We wanted to feel like she was
the best choice at the time. And so through discussion and — I don’t
remember anyone being ugly about it or arguing. I think, mainly, we wanted to be sure
that it was the best thing for the college and the students and the
faculty and staff at the time. And it was a unanimous vote that came out.>>In 2010, Erma was chancellor. It seemed like we had sort of weathered
the storm and things were calming down. But then, in the board election that
year OK Carter came on to the board and Bill Greenhill came onto the board. And the upshot was that you were
voted out of the presidency –>>I was bullied out.>>– of 4 to 3. How did that happen? And it had to hurt.>>It — I just — you know, I can laugh now, but I look back on that and
say, how did that happen? Bill Greenhill asked me to coffee, and we
went to Starbucks on — at Montgomery Plaza. And I paid for the coffee. I didn’t know — I thought he
was coming to get wisdom from me about how to be a good board member. And he looked at me and he said, I have the
votes and I’m going to be the new president. And I said, you can’t do that. That’s called a walking [inaudible]. It’s against the law. He said — and I said, why don’t you serve
a couple of years and see how things go. What is it you want to change? And if you know Bill, he’s an interesting guy. He kind of fell over. He was in the booth side of the
table, and he kind of fell over. And then he came back and he said, I
just think I’d be a better president. And I thought, well, it — does he really have
— has he really already lobbied the votes? I can’t imagine. We don’t ever do that. Well, he had. And he did. And he was president.>>Now, he was president later. But in 2010, I bet it was Joe Hudson that –>>He got it for Joe.>>Ah.>>Yeah.>>Aha.>>He wanted Joe to be it. And Joe just came out of nowhere. We had never heard of him or worked
with him or done anything with him. But he really felt like — in
fact, his first announcement after being elected president was we’re going
to rotate the gavel amongst the board members. And I remember Angela Robinson was in the front
row, our in-house attorney, and she looked — I looked at her and she looked at me. And I thought — and after the meeting
adjourned, she went up to him and said, Mr. Hudson, you can’t do that,
that’s no — that’s not workable. Well, I think everyone should
have a shot at this. And she said, well, then you’ll
have to elect them to it. So he — I don’t know what Joe — Joe had
actually been a legislator somewhere –>>Arkansas.>>– in Arkansas. And so he was into politics and
doing things the political way. But he did not have the community
college system down. And he lasted, what, another two years? Or one year after — he was
— had been there two years. He took the gavel, and then
he just said, I’m out of here. This isn’t any fun.>>Well, you were board president. And then Joe Hudson was board –>>Joe was, and then Bill.>>– then Kristen [inaudible] was interim?>>Yes.>>And then there was another election, and she
was running for president as was Bill Greenhill.>>Right.>>And 4 to 3 vote, Bill
Greenhill was elected, but in –>>And I think I got my time
at Starbucks mixed up. I think it was after Joe and I — I’m
not sure how — what happened with Joe. He must’ve done some back hall
politicking to get elected.>>But if you count –>>But you know, it was a message to me. We don’t like the way you handle the job,
so who am I to argue with six other people?>>If you count Kristen’s interim, there
were four chancellors in 14 months.>>Yeah.>>What does that tell the people at TCC? What does that tell the community?>>It was a time of turmoil. That’s what it tells them. We could not get our act together. We had a lot of personal agendas going.>>Aside from what was going on with
the board, the new chancellor, Erma, was putting things into high gear. It was kind of like we had been in neutral,
and then all of a sudden it was warp speed. And that was Erma’s way.>>Yeah. Erma was a woman on fire.>>And we did so many things. We started early college high schools. We embarked on our Achieving the Dream journey. There was all this new focus on student success. Was there ever a feeling on the board
— I know there was with the faculty, that we were moving too far, too soon, too fast?>>Yeah. Well, and what that did
to the faculty and to every — to the administration and management teams —
it was just above and beyond duties and work and trying to figure out the best way to do an early college high
school, to work out the contracts. And the Achieving the Dream
committee meetings — and I went to most of them
— just went on and on. And you know, we became a model for the country. And I think it was based on the
amount of time we spent on it. But you know, to know Erma is to love
her and to just try to keep up with her. And that was so her style in wanting to
do the very — it was like — it was — she had kept all this inside her
all those years of rejection. And here she was at the table
in the throne seat. And she was going to see to
it that we tried new things and made new strides and achieved new success. But you know, she never lost
sight of who that was for. And I’d get on an elevator with her, and
there’d be a couple of students on there. And by the time we reached whatever floor we
were going to, she had all of their resumes, biographical sketches, whether or
not they needed scholarship help, were they being advised on
their curriculum choices. She was amazing. So — and she cared about her staff, I think, which I heard from all the
people who worked with her.>>Mm-hmm. I remember Joe [inaudible] –>>Mm-hmm.>>– on Northwest Campus told me
at that [inaudible], the faculty and campus administrators
just could not keep up with –>>No.>>– what was coming down the paddy. He said, they have — we
have initiative fatigue.>>I heard that. And I believe it. And you know, I don’t know how many of
the other board members were involved, but I tried to keep up. Because I felt like it was important. I understood what Achieving
the Dream was all about, but in early college high schools
it was an entirely new concept. And how it has grown — and
I don’t know why every parent in town doesn’t take advantage of it. But it was a deal to keep up, not
with Erma, but with her initiatives.>>No. There were some people here
in the mailing center who said, don’t let her go to another conference. She’ll come back with something –>>Come out of [inaudible].>>– else that she wants done next week.>>She and I went to a conference
together, and we were in Baltimore. And we were both in my room at some
point, and I pulled the curtains and right across the river — this
hotel was on the river — was this old power plant that had been converted
into — kind of like that area in Boston, Faneuil Hall and all of the shops
and restaurants down on the harbor. And I said, look Erma, there’s
the THU building in Baltimore. And I pulled the curtain, and
I said, don’t think about it. And we’re still thinking about it.>>At the same time though,
there was plenty to celebrate because the Trinity River Campus opened. TREC opened, Trinity River
East Campus, next year. As you walked through those
facilities and looked at the students, as you saw people in the plaza, the famous
below-ground, underground plaza with its tunnel, and what we had achieved, was it all worth it?>>I think so. One of the smart things Erma did, as soon as
we could walk those halls and those sidewalks, is she started putting together tour groups. And guess who was in the first one? Ed Bass and Johnny Campbell and Bill
Baker, the Sundance Square people. And I said, I want to go with you
because I bore the brunt of this. I want to celebrate this. And I went on several of the tours. And she would take them all through the
building and then down onto the plaza and that beautiful water feature. And she’d get to that archway
under the street and she said — and she was quoting one of our
critics, someone I knew had — our kids had gone to school together. And he got in my face one night at a
meeting and said, you’re going to get raped and mugged under that dark tunnel. And I thought, oh my gosh, I hope it’s not you. And I backed off from him. And I said, I don’t think so. I think you don’t understand it’s going to
be very open and you’re going to be able to see downtown and all the buildings, and — so she would go under that
tunnel and she’d say this is where Mrs. Appleman’s going
to get raped and mugged. And people — I said, Erma, you
have got to quit saying that. They don’t know what that means. They think you’re threatening me. So she did quit saying that, but we did. We gave tours to — you know, every business,
person, and club and neighborhood association, starting with the ones who had been on our case. Because we wanted people to see how really
beautiful and functional those spaces were. And the whole campus was — it is a showcase, and it’s been featured —
in fact, I found a magazine. I was going through some things
that might go into the archives, and I found an article with
beautiful photographs. And the architect firm had been named architect
firm of the century because of that design.>>When you were taking those people
through and pointing out this and that, was there an inward feeling of self
satisfaction as almost like a na-na –>>Some –>>– we were right?>>Not so much self satisfaction as relief
and pride that we had accomplished it. It wasn’t a perfect process, and
it had been expensive and painful. But what we had — the students will never know. You know, the — and the painful past will
go away, except for one magazine article that I still have where the writer
managed to spell it all out. But we need that for history. If nothing else, if and when we face
something similar, we have learned, hopefully. And our — we’ll be able to keep tighter
reins on the people we’re working with who are professionals in their own right. But I don’t think the board ever lost the
feeling of responsibility to the taxpayer. Knowing these were public monies we
were spending, but even our main — in fact, Ed Bass had Johnny Campbell come
back, make an appointment to come back to look at that utility building that’s right on the
street that you pass by a hundred times a year and you don’t really even notice
because it’s so nondescript. But he was already thinking in terms of
future projects and how simple and efficient and attractive or unattractive that building
was that no one noticed it in the midst of all this beautiful architecture. So to me, that was like, okay, you got it. And you just can’t walk by or drive by and not
be proud of that building and what it’s doing for healthcare professions on that east end and
then everything else in the RadioShack building.>>Well, the parade of initiatives
just sort of kept going. And one of the things — one of the things
that it encompassed was online learning.>>Oh, yes.>>We have had online learning
since back in the 70’s.>>Right.>>But it really took off in 2011, ’12, to
where we’ve had such an online presence. And it became so large — this is one of Erma’s
things — that we want to bring online learning and weekend college and dual
credit, all under one umbrella. It will be a sixth campus. It will be called TCC Connect.>>Right.>>And the faculty, again, had lots of angst. Now, you had a reputation, and
I think it was well deserved, as someone the faculty could talk to. Did they talk to you about this?>>Yes. And you know, I had to remind
them when we were building and — well, when we were designing the Southeast
Campus and the library space came on the table, there was a question about
whether we should build a library. Do you remember that? And — because everything was
going to go digital after tomorrow. And so the compromise, finally,
was there will still be libraries in the world, thankfully, I thought. But the under part — the under the floor of that library are 1 million
plugs and connections. And so it was a compromise, but a good one. And certainly, our libraries are still
well utilized and important to us. And TCC Connect has become a
given and an important part of our operation and well utilized. My own niece did her entire master’s
work at Texas Woman’s University to get her library science master’s online. She went up there a couple of times
a month, maybe, maybe once a month. She was working full-time. She had a child. It’s perfect for her. My daughter got her master’s in New York at
Columbia while working full-time at Microsoft, who by the way, wouldn’t pay for graduate work. It cost almost as much as a wedding. But anyway, she — it was perfect for her. Because she went on campus even
less times than Kerry went to TU, which in New York was a blessing. She didn’t have to do that. But more and more people are
using online as a convenient, effective way of achieving
their educational goals. It’s just a reality. I don’t think I could do it as an old timer,
but certainly my children and my grandchildren. It will be very natural for them.>>It’s — TCC Connect has had
something of a bumpy ride –>>Yes.>>– coming of age.>>Yeah.>>But when you look at how complex
that is to put all of that together –>>I can’t even imagine.>>– the faculty was saying, so I’m
going to report to my campus president for face-to-face courses and over
here for online courses that — was there ever a thought that
maybe we should’ve thought things out a little more before
going into it full force?>>Well, yes, always. But it was so new that you went with the
person that you thought could manage it. And it didn’t always work out. And I think now — I maybe need to check the
coffee shop — that it’s running fairly well. And they have their own space at
RadioShack now at Trinity River. And they’re very proud of it. And they’re very proud of
the work they’re doing. And I have not had any complaints from students, which I occasionally will get a
formal letter or email of complaint. Or — I call it my produce
counter consulting work. If I hear something more than
twice, I take it to the chancellor and I say, we need to look into this. Something’s not working, so –>>But it seems to be working now.>>I think so. I hope so. Check with me this afternoon.>>And speaking of Trinity River Campus and
TCC Connect being there, before too long, the administration offices will move there. I was very surprised, and I
must admit, a little shocked and saddened when I drove up Lancaster –>>I know.>>– and saw the for sale sign.>>A for sale sign.>>And it just kind of got me.>>Me too. I didn’t know it was going up. And I came to get into the parking lot. And I saw that and I thought, what’s for sale? And I realized, we are. And I’m not particularly crazy about the sign. I don’t think it’s very attractive
or eye-catching, so — which I mentioned to the young men
who are — they’re all my children. I helped raised them. I said, I don’t like your sign. You’ll notice it hasn’t changed. But we’ve had some nibbles
and some things are working. And I — you know, my goal in life is to be sure we preserve the mail
and name somehow when we move. And I don’t know how that will happen, and
I won’t be around to be bossy about it. But hopefully the board and others
will say, you can’t just do away. You’ve got to do a hallway with a big
picture or something, a room, an auditorium. But — and you know, Dr. Rushing, his
philosophy was thou shall not have the central administration building anywhere near a campus. Because that makes it looks
like that’s the favored campus. And so we’ve — between Gwen and
I, we’ve tried to honor that. But I think as with so many other
things, we’re in a new place. And when we opened TCC Connect,
we had to add a door, a new entrance to that building
with a different address. And we may have to — I’m
just — this is me talking. We may have to do that with the
administration that we move down there. And the foundation may have to move. And in a way, it’ll be better because we’re
all in the same space, the same campus, whereas now we’re pretty spread out. There are some other departments
that may join us there. But I think that will be the location of choice. And when you look back on
that, that’s pretty amazing. When you think how many years
ago RadioShack was there, one of the preeminent companies of the world. And now the community college is
there and doing very well, thank you.>>You mentioned that the
college is kind of in a new place. And I think that really came home to a lot
of people when Erma died in October of 2015. And you know, skipping over de la Garza, you had
a progression from Rushing to Roberson to Erma. And it seemed like that really — and
it coincided with the 50th anniversary, that that age of the college was over. It was the end of an era.>>Mm-hmm.>>Did the board have that feeling?>>I don’t know about –>>Especially those of you who –>>Yeah.>>– had been very close to Erma for years.>>Right. And I don’t know
that others did, but I did. And I came to really appreciate
her and her attitude about things. It helped me overcome some
[sighs] why am I here? Why am I doing this? She was always pretty positive. And she had little sayings that — ending
with it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, get over it, and you can do this. And that’s how she tackled her illness, too. And you can’t help but admire
someone with that kind of courage. She knew what was right. She came — you know, she had an exceptional
background on the DFW board and chamber board and she had held some pretty
heavy duty responsibilities, so it wasn’t like she didn’t
understand what her role was. She dealt with it. And she knew she had her critics. And she — we had — she once told me, she
said, I know they say I’m an uppity N-word. And I was like, [gasps]. And she said, I can say that. You can’t. And one time, we — I made —
I cooked some collard greens. And I took them to her and she tasted them. And she said, you stick to the Matzo ball soup. I’ll do the collard greens. I mean, we had that kind of relationship. You know, and the fact that I
could go to her and tell her to tell our mutual friend to shape up. And let’s be friends again. Because I couldn’t even get that woman’s
attention to tell her to her face. She was that evasive of me. And so Erma took care of it, and she
knew that was the right thing, too. And she knew she was caught between
two friends, but she had guts. She was the steel magnolia of my life.>>Well, the fact that it really was the passing
of an era and the college was in a new place, did that make it easier for the
board to really have wide-open eyes when they were looking for her successor?>>I think so. We interviewed an interesting array of folks. And I think what got Dr. Giovannini to
us was at one point in his interview, he said something about schools in — public universities in Arizona
no longer receive state funds. And I am not a great a numbers person, but
I knew and I’ve known that when I first came on the board, our funding from the
State of Texas was in the high 70’s. And we are down less than 20 right now. So I have lived through the
state diminishing our support. And I was sitting next to the head hunter,
who was Dr. Stephen Kinslow, who was — had been president of Austin Community College
and was now in the head hunting business where a lot of administrators go. And he kind of leaned over to me and
he said, and you’re headed that way. Really? You’re right. And Dr. Giovannini had created — got — he’d
been a president of a campus for 10 or 11 years, and then he realized that the income revenue
flow was not all that it could be for Maricopa. And he went to his chancellor and
suggested this corporate college. And pretty much what it is,
is what we now call a CIE, a community industry education
program on steroids. And he worked — I didn’t realize how many
big companies are in the Phoenix area. And he had done that for a year and sort
of distinguished himself in that role. And when he left the room, now I’m talking out
of school because this is closed session stuff. But we talked about who else in that crowd
of people that we had met would be able to go to our business community, which is still
a pretty closed good ole boy system, I’m sorry to say. That’s the one thing I haven’t
accomplished in 30 years. But we needed somebody pretty strong who could
speak their language and get their attention and make training available for their employees
and create an income stream for the district. And a lot of our decision on
hiring him was based on that. And I thought — huh, silly me. I thought I was going to take him
around and introduce him to the world. The Bill Thorntons of the world
and the bank press and the CEOs that I had come to know over time. And before I knew it, he was Erma Johnson on
wheels out meeting and greeting and talking. And when you’re with him one-on-one,
he’s not — he’s difficult to bring out. But once you get him behind a podium or in
a business man’s office, it’s game busters. And one day — and I would try to
tell him how things used to work or how we did things or here’s
the history on that. And he would just sit there. And then he’d say, I know. And finally, one day I said, how do you know? He said, you don’t think I didn’t
study you-all and read all your minutes and watch all your board meetings while you were
looking at me to be, you know, the chancellor? And I thought, of course you did. And so he really has — when you look
at his appointment list at the end of the agenda each month, he’s
meeting people I’ve never heard of. But he’s meeting all the right people. And he’s — he went with Mayor Williams
to New York recently to meet some people, and Mayor Williams invited him to do that. So little by little, Tarrant County College,
even though the Star-Telegram has neglected to list this in here or elections coming up —
and the chamber still doesn’t quite understand that when you go visit a business and offer
them space and time and incentives here, you should take the chancellor of the community
college who is getting thousands of dollars from the Texas Workforce Board in
cooperation with Workforce Solutions, which is the local Workforce Board, which
a lot of people don’t even know about. But at the recent chamber annual meeting
they totally ignored us in their lineup of here’s what we’ve accomplished. And I just want to go marching into
their office and say, you know what? You would do best and would
do better if you would take us with you when you go hustle a business. And also Judy McDonald from the Workforce
Solutions board, she’s their CEO. So we’ll get it done. Maybe after I’m out of office I
can be more brassy than I am now.>>Chancellor Giovannini came in
and he didn’t do much talking. He did a lot of listening.>>Mm-hmm.>>And then he sort of said,
here’s what we’re going to do.>>Yeah.>>We have our three goals and we have our eight
principals — or maybe I have that backwards. And one of them is we are
truly going to be one college. We have been giving that lip service forever.>>Mm-hmm.>>We are one college. And yet, our campuses were
very distinct and sometimes –>>Competitive.>>– very competitive and sometimes
very jealous of one another.>>Yeah. Yeah.>>But you think — see things going on
where we’re gradually going that direction.>>I think so.>>Do you think it’s time we did that? Do you think we’ll succeed?>>Yeah. I don’t ever want to be as divided, if
you will — that’s not a good word — as Dallas. Where each campus is its own operation
with its own staff, its own — all — almost all the same org chart people
duplicated how many times over their district. Each — we — each of our campuses is
distinct in their programs that are unique to that campus, like the nursing and
health sciences campus on Trinity River. We’ve moved a few programs. That’s been a little — like nursing. We moved nursing from South. But once they saw the building and
new equipment, they quit fussing. Culinary it out — has outgrown
its space and equipment. We’re looking at a lot of programs
out at the new Texas Live Campus. And we may either move culinary
or take a branch of it out there so that those students have the experience
of those hotels and restaurants out there. We’ve talked to the Omni. I was at a meeting at — or luncheon
at the Omni several years ago, and I was seated next to the manager. And I said something about
our culinary students. And he said what culinary students? And Judith Kerry was president
at Southeast at the time. She was across the room. And I said, I’ll be right back. And I went and I — see what
I mean about being pushy? I went and got Judith and I said, I
need for you to come sit next to — and I can’t even remember his name now. And I’m sure he’s gone. And he doesn’t know about our culinary
program and Judith, of course, loved that. And so we switched seats and she sat next to him and I’m sure totally monopolized the
rest of his time at the lunch table. But you — we have to make changes
to accommodate our community. Erma used to say, we’re not
only a community college or the community college, we
are the community’s college. We have to respond to what the
community needs in the way of education for its citizens, but also the workforce. And that’s the thing — in fact, this
morning there was another article online in the Business Press. The consultant at the chamber meeting
last week said Fort Worth has no image. They don’t know what you have to offer. Your educational systems are siloed. I thought, no they’re not. We work with each other. And you’re saying the same thing that another
highly paid consultant said 30 years ago when I started my relocation business. People — they want to live in
Dallas and work in Fort Worth. No, you don’t. Come get in the car with me. So anyway, I’ve tried to calm down
about this, but after May 4th, I may have some meetings with some people. I can’t — I — you know, that’s the other thing
I’ve learned about being on a public board. You are always on the public board. And when you speak, if you’re not careful,
your comments could be attributable to the public board or the
institution you represent. So you have to be really careful in responding
to anyone’s questions, particularly the media. And I’ve had to counsel with some
of my board members over time, because they’re either not thinking about that. One of them told me, I’ve been here before. I know how to handle this. There was a reporter at one of our meetings,
and she was going after us for something. And he was dealing with her. We have professionals who will handle that. He said, I can handle this. I’ve been in this situation before. And I thought, okay. I can’t wait to see that headline tomorrow. So anyway –>>After the board election of 2013, it was
kind of a case of what comes around goes around. And you had been defeated for
the presidency, 4 to 3 vote. Now you were reelected to the
presidency by a 4 to 3 vote. And the switch in the vote,
deciding switch, was OK Carter. What — how did that come about?>>OK will tell you this himself. He came on this board, ultimately,
to get rid of Erma and me. He really did not like us or
the way we were doing business. And we both knew that. Erma and I knew that. And Erma was the one who
said, keep on keeping on. What we’re doing is the right
thing for the college. He’ll eventually get on board. And I said, I don’t know, Erma. So sure enough, he came on and in private and
at the table, he would make comments that showed that he was critical of some of our programs,
some of our projects, some of our people. And I spent some one-on-one time with him
trying to — tell me, how would you change it? What changes would you make? And he really didn’t have much to offer. He just didn’t like the way it was. And I have with me to put in the archives some of his election campaign
material that was sent to me. And it was totally mean, ugly, rough. Nothing like we’d ever seen before
in a Tarrant County College election. So over time — and then to complicate
things, his wife worked for us. And she had a different name, so a
lot of people didn’t realize that. And right before the election, Erma decided,
independent of the election or the fact that he was a candidate, she really was
critical of the work being done by this woman. And she felt like any changes
or firing, if that — if he was elected, would be even more
trouble than if she did it before. And so she did, and that didn’t help. So anyway, he and I — I think he came
to maybe not like me, but trust me. And ultimately, I think he
did decide I was okay. And he showed up at my little
retirement reception the other day. He was the first person I saw
as I walked out of the elevator. And I was shocked. And I was so grateful to Reg or whoever of
you-all did the guest list that you thought to invite him and Kristen, who to me
was the ultimate in board members. And I tried every way I knew besides her
going to jail to keep her from leaving. But she felt like with her new job with Congressman Granger, it
— the optics weren’t good. And she was right. And so every so often, we just
have coffee and girl talk. But she was there. And for OK to make that trip from Arlington
and park and get in there with a bunch of people he probably didn’t know
anymore, that really meant a lot to me. And I feel like we had overcome
a real rough patch. And he and I have exchanged emails since. And his messages have been
reassuring that he still — you know, he — Mr. Grumpy, I used to call him. And you know, he was rough
before he was on the board. I remember going to something at UTA and he
was sitting on a couch, and I knew who he was. And I walked over just to say hello. And he was not friendly. He was just kind of a curmudgeon. And yet, when I see him out — I ran into
him at a restaurant in Arlington one day and he couldn’t have been
nicer, so — moody, maybe. But I think he’s come to care
about us and be okay with us.>>What will it be like next month
when you do hand over that gavel? To what extent will you miss this [inaudible]?>>I will. I can already tell sort of a diminishing number
of activities, although I’m trying to get to everything I can, just to say
hello and thank you to everybody. But it’s been a big part of my life. And I was trying to clean out the file
cabinet the other day, and I thought, ugh. You’re going to have trouble with this. You’re going to have some withdrawal symptoms. But you know, it’s a six-year term. And I’ll be 80 in October. And I know Dr. Owen lasted
until she was 96, but — and Gordon and I are both
in good health, thankfully. And hopefully, we will continue to be. But already, I can see — he wants
to go to this legal conference in May in Boston — I mean, in DC. And then he’s — we’re treating the
grandchildren in Dallas to a trip to Boston to see all the historical places in the summer. And I’m looking to see, is that a 3rd Thursday? And I don’t need to do that anymore. And what I’ll miss is all of these folks. And you and I have kept in touch. You didn’t stay away very well, either.>>No. I didn’t.>>Thankfully, because you’re
remembering more about me than I do. But it’ll be different. And hopefully, my preferred
candidate will be in place. And he certainly knows something about
governance and public meetings and dealing with the public and making wise decisions. His father was mayor pro tem while the community
— junior college was being considered. And then he was mayor for several years. So Ken is very familiar and
understands the importance. It was fed to him at the dinner table. The other thing, he’s — as — after he sold
the printing company, he’s gone into consulting. And he’s — because of his political
savvy and his business connections, he’s been helping companies and colleges,
including us, with some decision making. And we will likely float
a bond issue in the fall. And I said, the one thing I don’t want
the public to think that I’m leaving because I don’t approve of the bond issue. So I hope, somehow, they’ll involve
me in the bond issue campaign. So that I can continue advocating for
the college and its facility needs, is pretty much what that will be about.>>Since you announced your retirement from
the board, you’ve been consistently asked to name your greatest achievements. You’ve always deferred and say, I want to
talk about the college’s achievements –>>Yeah.>>– and the addition of campuses, the growth
in enrollment and the success in all of that. But what about you? What things do you look back on and say
— even if you don’t say it out loud, even if you don’t want to say it — that I was
really a driving factor in making that happen? And it was good for Tarrant County
and it was good for our students.>>Well, it’s the new campuses. I think it’s excellent faculty, even
though I don’t have a direct hand in that. We meet those people at the board meetings. And I know that the chancellor, whoever he or
she is, knows that we expect a high standard of resume and performance and
ultimately that decision is — the only person we hire and fire,
of course, is the chancellor. So he or she knows if they don’t get it
right, we might have issues with them. But — and I think the involvement of
programs like the Early College High School and dual enrollment and the TABS program
and the nursing and health sciences programs on Trinity River are just unbelievable. When I left nursing, the EKG
machine was just coming into being. And I found a picture going through
some of my stuff the other day. The Star-Telegram has a picture of me
in my white cap and my white uniform, and I was director of in-service
education at All Saints. And I’m showing these two nurses this new
wonderful machine that can monitor your heart. That is the ultimate in achievement that —
and when I thought I would go back to nursing, I knew I would have to almost go back to school. Because after 18 years of raising
kids and getting them off to college, the technology had just passed me by. And I was a menace to the industry. So we — you know, we all bring different
achievements to the grave with us. And I think making friends with the people here
and being a part of the growth of the college and its programs and its
offerings to the community. We have people teaching classes,
I think, in 11 other sites, in addition to our five land
campuses and our six online. We are all over the place. And 100,000 people a year are taking
advantage of what we have to offer. That’s a whole lot of people. And to be a part of that
is a point of pride to me.>>So fast-forward to 2065. It’s going to be the centennial
of Tarrant County College. I don’t think –>>You’ll find me in the time capsule.>>– either one of us will
— we won’t be around. But somebody is going to do a retrospective –>>Yeah.>>– and they’re going to talk about the
board presidents of Tarrant County College. What do you want them to say about you?>>She gave it her best. She cared. She left it a better place. All the trite things that you would hope
would be part of your obituary or your eulogy. There — I made mistakes. There were judgement calls that
probably could’ve been better, but I have to move beyond those
and look at the overall ending. And I’ve been lucky with the
board members I’ve worked with. Particularly, this group now. They are as engaged as any board
I’ve ever worked with at any level, whether it’s in the non-profit
sector or other schools that — I was part of my children’s private
school for a number of years. And I sat on an advisory board for
a bank and for a utility company. And you talk about just letting
the professionals do their work. And one bank — actually, I sat on two. One bank board for [inaudible] and
one as kind of a community advisor. And when the [inaudible] bank board
founder and funder came to me and said, we need to infuse this bank with
several hundred thousand more dollars, because it’s — it was during bank failure time. And I said, well, I’ll have
to talk to Gordon about that, but probably we’re not going to do that. He said, you can’t talk to Gordon about it. And I said, I don’t have that kind
of money in my grocery account. I think I’ll be leaving. So you know, you encounter all
sorts of different operations. But I know that whatever goes on here is being
live-streamed and being recorded somehow. And it’s honest, and these people care. They really do. I don’t think there’s anyone on
the board right now who is critical or negative about anything we’re doing. They’re looking for better ways,
perhaps, or asking questions about could that be done differently. But they’re on the team. And I’m pleased that I’ve been part of it.>>Well, in 2065, there will be
somebody else who will be president of the Tarrant County College Board of Trustees. And if you could walk through the door
like Marley’s ghost after midnight and say, I’m going to give you a piece
of advice, what would it be?>>Keep it real. Don’t take yourself too seriously,
but take the work seriously.>>Is there anything else you would like
to add before we wrap this thing up?>>I’m just flattered that you-all
care enough to hear me chatter on. And I did not want to do this, just like
I didn’t want the party the other night. But I’m glad I came, and I’m glad you asked. And maybe it would be fun
someday for someone to watch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *