Blowing smoke and stating facts are often on the opposite sides of the “work scale.”
Some of the information in today’s Snippets has never been published. Thus, you can be an ‘eyewitness to history’.
This column is true, factual and accurate. Ye OLD Columnist (YOC) was there when a majority of this information became a part of our community’s history.
When YOC first reported for work at then Tarleton State College (TSC) on Sept. 1, 1954, I soon discovered my duties as Director of Public Information and Assistant Professor of Journalism would be varied and detailed. I would answer to President E.J. Howell, and since I would teach one course in journalism, I would also report to Dr. Dick Smith, Head of the Department of Social Sciences. This department included courses in history, government, economics, sociology and journalism.
Dr. Smith was also Chairman of the High School Relations Committee, which was directly tied to recruiting students.
During my first day, President Howell made sure I met Dr. Smith. From that introduction, Dr. Smith and I became friends. I’ve thought for many years President Howell and Dr. Smith had discussed my merits in having public school contacts, and thus I might assist in recruiting high school graduates. I had spent the previous four years teaching in two high schools in Texas – Falfurrias and Abilene.
After being on the job for about two weeks, I began to spend at least one day every two weeks on the road visiting high schools and Tarleton friends over the state. I would usually travel on Thursday.
The decrease in the number of students enrolling in Tarleton in the early 1950s had become a major problem. Much of this was due to the Korean War.
The 1952 fall semester saw the numbers hit the low mark of 663. By the time the 1954 fall semester had rolled around, the enrollment had inched up to 753. Three years later in 1957, registrations finally topped the one thousand mark – 1,072. Top enrollment during the post World War II era came in 1946 when the number peaked at 1,435.
Two of the best recruiters Tarleton had were NOT college employees. They were Tommy Thompson, Superintendent of the Kermit ISD in Winkler County; and Jack Hawkins, publisher of The Groesbeck Journal (Limestone County). Hawkins was an Erath County native.
Both Thompson’s sons, Barry and Dan, enrolled in Tarleton in the mid-1950s plus a number of other Kermit High School graduates came to TSC. In the mid-1950s, At this time, Tommy was President of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA). His contacts over Texas were tremendous.
Eleven of the 21 members in the 1955 graduating class at Groesbeck High School enrolled in college. Nine of these 11 came to Tarleton, including Hawkins’ daughter, Martha.
Jack Hawkins had many contacts throughout Texas with publishers of various newspapers, especially weekly newspapers.
Alumni over the state helped boost the TSC enrollment. These same people also gave their all-out support to Tarleton becoming a four-year college. I soon discovered Tarleton had many loyal alumni.
Five local leaders were significant backers with their money and work. These were Jack Arthur, theater owner; Joe Chandler, attorney; Rufus Higgs, newspaper publisher; Dr. J.C. Terrell, surgeon; and Dr. Vance Terrell, eye, ear, nose and throat specialist.
All of this points to Tarleton today. When I hear people complain about the heavy traffic due to Tarleton’s large enrollment, I want to tell them – “Look, it’s much better this way than the other way -- when we were trying to convince students to enroll at our local university.”
One other point – “What would Stephenville be like without TSU. Probably just a county seat with a population of about 5,000 or less.” It’s doubtful if our local industry would have come here without Tarleton being in our midst.
Ladies and gentlemen – we are fortunate to have Tarleton as our friend and neighbor. Many communities in our area would “give their eye teeth” to have Tarleton with its students, faculty and staff as a member of their city’s family.
Each time you thank the Lord for the good things in Stephenville, don’t forget “Stephenville is a major part of Tarleton and Tarleton is a major part of Stephenville – Amen.”
’TIL NEXT TIME – “Life is more what we do rather than what we feel.” – Anonymous.
Dr. Stuart Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He served on the Tarleton administrative staff from 1954-1966.