Tyler Junior College will always own a special place in my heart just as it does for my wife Janice. Janice and I grew up in Arp, Texas and have
been sweethearts since Janice was in the eighth grade. Tyler and TJC played a special role in our early years. Most of our high school events took place in Tyler.
In fact, because I was two years ahead of Janice in school, we attended junior and senior banquets for four years in Tyler.
A “big” date was to go to the TJC games, especially those between Kilgore and TJC. We always enjoyed the rivalry between the schools and the performance groups. Even now, our Provost, Dr. Ric Berry,
who graduated from Kilgore College, continues the Kilgore-TJC rivalry with me. We have a great deal of fun with him, but as President, I usually get in the last word! While Kilgore is a fine college and does a great job, I remind Ric that both Janice and I made the very wise choice of getting a superior education at TJC!
I finished at TJC just when Janice was beginning. Janice took the bus each day to TJC with a group of students from Arp. They went to classes, ate lunch, and studied together in the library between classes. When she went on to Baylor University, she missed the close knit bond that she had enjoyed with the students at TJC.
I attended TJC and then came to Stephen F. Austin where I went straight through for both bachelors’ and masters’ degrees before going to work for
the University. While there, I went on to earn my doctorate at Texas A & M University. It may be unusual now to stay at one place (for 44 years!) and to be married to one person (for 44 years!), but when you are as fortunate as I have been in my choice of
a spouse and an employer, I just count my blessings and wouldn’t change anything!
Janice also received advanced degrees, became a professor in her field, and is now the Chair of the
Elementary Education Program at SFA. Our own stories help illustrate the historical partnerships between SFA and TJC and how the two schools have worked together to change thousands of lives in East Texas for good!
Over the years I have been invited to many universities to participate in the inaugurations of their new presidents but I have only attended one—Dr. Metke’s, because of my background with TJC and with him. The relationship between SFA and TJC has never been better. Recently, Dr. Metke invited us to attend the George Foreman scholarship luncheon. We really enjoyed Mr. Foreman’s message and were so glad to see so many people from the area who also share a connection with our colleges. Afterwards,
we were able to procure George Foreman as the
first speaker in our Speaker Series at SFA. His son, George V, attends SFA.
We have established even stronger connections between SFA and TJC. Mike and I signed a partnership agreement that allows TJC students to get a jump start toward becoming public school teachers by coming to SFA’s program. SFA’s online programs also allow us to work closely with TJC students, and we have a FIPSE Grant that provides funding for them.
Among our many connections to TJC is fellow Arp High School graduate, Ruth Parris Flynn, who directs the Apache Belles and helps us keep up with TJC. (Janice was the drum major in high school and taught little Ruth how to twirl!) Retired TJC history professor Linda Brown Cross also grew up with us in Arp, graduated from SFA, and has held the East Texas Historical Society’s meetings at SFA.
Whatever success Janice and I have accomplished is due to our parents and our teachers. The teachers at TJC made a significant impact on our lives. We are very proud that we graduated from TJC. If you go to TJC, you can go anywhere and accomplish anything.
- TJC Hero and Friend Baker Pattillo has been president of Stephen F. Austin State University since 2007, and as his story stated, he has been employed in different capacities at SFA since his graduation in 1966. He is involved in the Nacogdoches community as a member of Rotary, the Nacogdoches Booster Club, the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce and the SFA Alumni Association, and he and Janice still enjoy any opportunity to spend time in Tyler. Recently, Pattillo and TJC President Dr. Mike Metke signed letters of agreement to establish Destination SFA, a seamless transition program for TJC graduates,a seamless transition program for TJC graduates destined for Stephen F. Austin State University.