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Heroes & Friends - D.M. Edwards

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The year 2014 promises to be big for one of my favorite institutions. Tyler Junior College will watch the completion of its largest construction project ever and see significant progress made on two others.

It won’t be long before I will be making plans to join them for ribbon-cuttings at the new Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center, the energy center expansion on the West campus and a new residence hall.

My family has a long history of attending TJC ground-breaking and ribbon-cutting events. I recall ceremonies welcoming Pirtle Technology Center in 1968 and the new Vaughn Library and Resource Center in 1971.

My father watched the campus grow, too, first as a student at the downtown campus in 1933 and ‘34 and later as a benefactor for continued expansion of its current campus on East Fifth Street.

Personal friends of ours, like Dr. Jim Vaughn, D.K. Caldwell and Jack White, also contributed resources, time and guidance for TJC administration as the college grew. It was easy for them to support TJC because TJC always supported Tyler and contributed to the city’s culture, prominence, economy and quality of life.

I lost my father earlier this year, but he and I had long agreed that TJC’s strength has largely been due to its strong leadership, from presidents Dr. Harry Jenkins, Dr. Ray Hawkins, Dr. Bill Crowe, and now Dr. Mike Metke. These men have provided vision for not only collegiate achievement, but for civic good.

Had it not been for the work of Jenkins and Mr. & Mrs. W.C. Windsor, devising a plan to recruit and share the talents of Joseph Kirshbaum between TJC our new Tyler symphony, our area might not have the East Texas Symphony Orchestra. Were it not for Jenkins’ steadfast interest in a school of nursing, we would not have had the Texas Eastern School of Nursing – the forerunner to TJC’s associate-degree nursing program.

All of these men were also members of the Downtown Rotary Club, so I credit Rotary with helping create connections for success, too!

When Jenkins learned my mother had supervised the work of public schools in a 14-county region for the Teachers Education Agency, he called upon her to help make the Texas Eastern School of Nursing a reality. Mom recruited the first class of students.

We all know that Tyler is now a medical hub and that health care fields are the greatest contributors to our local economy. I wonder how different Tyler might be were it not for the forward-thinking of Windsor, Jenkins and Caldwell, the latter of whom brought Tyler “out of the mud” by introducing iron ore gravel roads, and who championed the formation of Loop 323.

Visionary leadership and collaboration make a community strong. And when it comes to TJC, I look forward to seeing that kind of leadership make it even stronger in the years ahead.

Attending TJC first was a great choice for my father; it was a great decision for me, too. We both received excellent preparation for advanced collegiate studies and success in business. Now, I’m honored to be able to contribute to TJC’s programs and initiatives.

When the new Rogers Center opens, so too will the Davida M. Edwards Associate Degree Nursing Office – named in memory of my beloved mother. The work of the department chair who will occupy this office will serve to carry out my mother’s legacy and those of Jenkins and other aforementioned leaders, as Tyler grows and TJC contributes to that growth.

As my late father would say: “TJC is family.”

TJC Hero and Friend D.M. Edwards is a life-long Tyler resident and chairman and CEO of D.M. Edwards Investments. He is a graduate of Tyler High School, a cum laude graduate of TJC and holds a BBA degree from the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Tyler and served as president during its 90th anniversary year. He is a board member for the East Texas Symphony Orchestra and the East Texas State Fair, and previously served as president of each. He serves on the boards of East Texas Baptist University, Young Audiences of East Texas, Literacy Council of Tyler and the Advisory Board for Baylor University Libraries. He is a member and deacon at First Baptist Church, Tyler. He enjoys traveling, reading, hiking and swimming.