Janet: I did not originally plan to attend TJC. I was enrolled in Centenary College where my dad was a graduate and also on the governing board. All that changed when I met John Hills. I was a senior at Robert E. Lee High School. He was attending TJC. Tyler Junior College quickly became not only a place of social interest but an academic one as well.
John: After graduating from John Tyler, I enrolled at Tyler Junior College planning to become an engineer. Being at TJC helped me transition with small classes and teachers who cared about me as a person. I made new friends and kept many of my old friends. During my freshman year, a mutual friend set me up for a “blind date” with a high school senior who happened to be Janet’s cousin. I called Janet often to “check” on her cousin.
Janet: The “blind date” was a dinner at my house before a formal dance. Johnny showed up at the door in a tux. He was one of the best looking men I had ever seen! I went straight to the kitchen and told my mother, “I am going to marry that guy some day.” My favorite part of this night involved dinner itself. Dessert was a meringue mom had fixed with fruit inside. When Johnny cut into it, it slid the entire length of the dining room table! I loved his sense of humor. He was very gracious when I awarded him the “etiquette award” for the evening.
John: Dinner at our house was far from formal. There were five children in my family. I was the only boy and often offered to eat my sisters’ vegetables for half of their desserts. For years, I thought my dad loved chicken wings because that is what he always ate. After I was grown, he told me he didn’t like wings but that was all that was left when the serving plate got to him! We grew a lot of our food. Formal dinners were new to me, but Janet intrigued me.
Janet: We dated six months. As college got closer, I decided I could not leave my Johnny behind. Not only was he good looking but he was, and IS the sweetest person I’ve ever known. Even at that age, he was kind, intelligent, compassionate and a man of integrity. My daddy was not pleased when he forfeited the deposit to Centenary and I attended TJC. He not only came to admire Johnny but loved him as a son.
John: I felt a great deal of responsibility for this change in plans and wanted to make sure Janet ended up with a positive TJC experience. She ran for cheerleader and won. At that time, TJC had teachers available in the library to help students with their homework. I made sure we went to the library to study on a regular basis. TJC professors taught me more than subject matter. They helped me grow up, and I give them credit for helping me become a successful student.
Janet: When Johnny finished his pre-engineering coursework and went off to UT Austin, I continued cheerleading for a semester. I was concerned someone else might try to “help him” transition to UT. After all, my cousin never really got over how her blind date became my husband of 39 years! I left TJC halfway through my second year to join him at UT and we’ve been together ever since.
TJC has played an important role in both of our lives. I am so proud of Johnny for serving on the TJC Board. He does not enjoy the politics involved with running for an elected position but feels strongly about giving back to the institution that helped him in so many ways. The late Dr. Ben Fisch told us that when he moved to Tyler years ago, TJC was known as Harvard on the Hill. It was not a slam in any way to refer to TJC by that title. It was a compliment… the folks who attended TJC were capable of going forward and doing well… even at Harvard! With a rich history of success, we are proud to be a part of the TJC family.
- TJC Heroes and Friends, John and Janet Hills have given back to Tyler and the Tyler community. Janet has served the community as a volunteer in many capacities. John graduated with a BSCE from UT Austin and is a practicing petroleum engineer. He currently serves on the TJC Board of Trustees.