By Dr. Don Newbury
Corsicana Daily Sun
There’s a delicious irony, really, that two Junction, Texas, historic vignettes bear similarities, despite separation by some six decades. Linked are unprecedented events tying football and Texas A&M University to this hill country community of some 2,500 folks.
That’s a mouthful, but there’s more. Two people have “Junction connections” — one a deceased collegiate coaching great, the other very much alive. On the notoriety scale, Texas A&M Coach Bear Bryant ultimately earned national legendary status. The latter, Dr. Renee Schulze, achieved similar heights locally soon after becoming superintendent of schools in her hometown seven years ago.
It is refreshing to write about an Aggie whose name isn’t Johnny Manziel. Clearly, Dr. Schulze demonstrates multi-faceted love for education as unorthodox as Bryant’s coaching. Truth to tell, her work load may well be as arduous as Texas A&M’s footballers who endured 10 days of torturous heat and work-outs when Bryant moved opening fall drills to Junction in 1954. One difference: Dr. Schulze’s work load is largely self-imposed. Her philosophy is to go “full throttle,” and there’s no end in sight.
Residents speak of Dr. Schulze in hushed tones. (Her doctorate in curriculum/instruction/administration was conferred by Texas A&M University in 1977.) They revere her, swearing that she’s constantly on the job “from can ‘til can’t.” One says she is the “total superintendent,” her proficiencies running the gamut from school finance to curriculum to providing leadership and support for both students and colleagues.
Another cites her community involvement and the numerous “little things” students and fellow workers have come to expect. They’ve long felt she’s “in the trenches,” right alongside.
What other superintendent, pray tell, greets more than 600+ students by name? And visits every classroom and school activity virtually daily? And who seeks out ALL employees on their birthdays to offer greetings? (Her “Achilles’ heel” may be her rendition of “Happy Birthday.” She’s known more for her sincerity than vocal quality.)
Ever heard of a school leader who extends athletes a challenge normally offered only by coaches, and precious few of them? I’m talking about an old-fashioned head-shaving.
Now don’t expect me to write something about football being a religion in Texas, albeit close. (Several years ago, I heard about a fellow describing a new science building; it was “longer than the football field and nearly as important.”)
Soon after her arrival back home in ’06, Dr. Schulze joined a community lament of a 32-year football drought with arch-rival Sonora. (The Eagles’ last win was in ’75, just a couple of years after she marched in commencement exercises to cap her 12-year sojourn as a student there. She was, incidentally, both senior class president and valedictorian.)
“Beat Sonora here Friday night, and you can shave my head,” she offered, and the head coach joined in, “Me, too!”
You can guess the rest. The Eagles won, breaking a 7-7 tie with a 20-yard TD pass with only 27 seconds remaining.
Jubilation reigned. The band went bonkers, and fans were borderline berserk, too. Bedlam prevailed in the gymnasium, where a joyous superintendent and stunned coach kept their word. Like jubilant basketball players mounting ladders to snip net souvenirs, the footballers took turns shearing locks, leaving two heads hairless.
The diminutive superintendent maintains a “twern’t nothing” remembrance of this unbelievable happening.
Those who know her best were not surprised. She takes immense pride in JISD, pointing proudly to all the senior class photos displayed in the hallway, to old, but unbelievably maintained facilities, and to the community revival of school support ignited by her administration.
And they are jubilant to have an athletic program the band can be proud of.
During the rare hours she’s not on the job, she’s at home with her mom, recalling Junction memories from “back when.”
Her late father, who died in 2007, is at the center of recollections. A community pillar, he’s remembered for unending support of both schools and his beloved Kimble County.
Dr. Schulze smiles at the remembrance of her 1973 graduation, and her folks’ gift of a new ’73 Volkswagen. It’s in pristine condition, parked out in the barn. It’s not for sale, of course, but during parades and other special times in Junction, watch for it.
Dr. Don Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He may be reached by email at email@example.com. His website is www.speakerdoc.com. Follow him on Twitter: @donnewbury. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org