This is the fourth in a series of articles written in anticipation of Navarro College’s 75th anniversary. There is a full slate of special events and activities beginning on Sept. 16 with the Bulldogs Unite Ceremony and culminating with The 75th Anniversary Gala on May 21, 2022. This year of celebration has been given the tag-line “Looking Back, Moving Forward.”
After the resignation of Ben Jones in 1973, the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Lary Reed as interim president of Navarro. Reed, a 1959 graduate of Navarro, had returned to the college in 1962 as a drafting instructor and later would be appointed dean of the Technical Arts division. When Dr. Reed was appointed to the interim position, the college consisted of 104 acres, with fifteen permanent buildings, some of which had been moved from the college’s original location at the Air Activities site to its present location on the west side of Corsicana.
The Board selected Dr. Kenneth Walker as the college’s third president and he assumed his duties on March 1, 1974. A native of Greenville, Texas, Walker received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin, his MA from East Texas State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to his arrival at Navarro, Walker was at Central Teas College in Killeen, Texas where he served in various administrative positions.
From its founding, Navarro’s role had been to provide basic core courses for students planning to transfer to four-year schools. However, in 1968, the Coordinating Board of the Texas College and University System changed the thrust of two-year colleges in the state of Texas. The original charge given to the two-year “junior” colleges was to provide lower-division transfer courses. That did not change and remained (and remains) an integral part of the college’s mission. The change was to add continuing education courses, compensatory education, and cultural and public service events. The word “junior” was dropped from the school’s name in 1974 to better reflect the school’s intended scope and has been recognized as Navarro College since that time.
President Walker enlisted the help of W.D. Wyatt, a local banker and well-known civic leader, to assemble a committee of other leading citizens to help create a master plan for the college. That committee was called the Master Action Plan and their charge was to evaluate the college as an educational institution, projecting the directions the college should take in the future, specifically, with respect to the areas of educational programs, research and development, human resources, financial resources, and physical facilities. A major recommendation of the MAP committee was improvements to existing facilities. In 1975, work began to renovate the Administration building. Very little had been done to the building since its construction in 1951. Consequently, while renovations were in progress, classes and meetings were held all over campus- reminiscent of the early days of Navarro’s existence.
The MAP committee had recommended improvements to other existing facilities, including the Gooch Library, the Student Union Building and other. New buildings were constructed as well at the recommendation of the MAP committee. Among these is the Fine Arts Building and the Bulldog Gymnasium.
As the Walker years continued, there was an emphasis on buildings and programs, but people remained the most important part of the college’s foundation. As in its early days, Navarro had sought the best instructors available. In 1981, Geraldine Johnston, English instructor, and Phi Theta Kappa sponsor, was named Navarro’s third Piper Professor. In 1986, McAfee Daniel, Chairman of the Division of Communications, and an English Instructor, was also named a Piper Professor. Mr. Daniel was freshman in the first class at NJC in 1946 and joined the Navarro faculty in 1965. Ms. Johnston and Mr. Daniel joined two other Piper Professors at Navarro, Ms. Margaret Pannill (1961, English Instructor) and Ms. Lucille Boyd (1971, French and Spanish Instructor).
As Bob Dylan had said, “The Times They Are a Changin’” and that was true during the tenure of Dr. Kenneth Walker. The mission of the college had been changed to provide a broader educational opportunity to more students. Enrollment had increased significantly, some existing facilities had been renovated while some had been razed and replaced with new facilities, producing a strikingly attractive campus. Dr. Kenneth Walker resigned as President of Navarro College in 1988 to accept the presidency of Oklahoma City Community College.
Acknowledgment and special thanks is given to Dr. Tommy Stringer whose book, WE ARE NAVARRO! A history of Navarro College was used in the preparation of this article.
If you are or if you know the whereabouts of a former Mr. or Miss NJC or other homecoming royalty or if you have NJC memorabilia you are willing to lend to the college for display, please contact the college at email@example.com or you may call Michelle Smith at 903-875-7337.