0:01:04/0:03:08 Robert Young
0:04:07/0:12:45 Dr. Joe May
0:14:12/0:17:51 Robert L. Thornton, III
0:19:27/0:23:47 Dr. Ruth Shaw
0:25:02/0:25:52 Dr. Terry O’Banion (read by Robert Young)
0:26:53/0:35:50 Dr. H. Deon Holt
0:37:05/0:52:15 Dr. Kathleen Krebbs Whitson
0:54:05/1:09:22 Dr. Stephen K. Mittelstet
1:12:00/1:19:24 Dr. Bettie Tully
1:19:46/1:25:07 Dr. Vivian Dennis-Monzingo
1:25:24/1:28:48 Dr. Chuck Dale
1:29:58/1:36:16 Matt Priest
1:37:28/1:41:23 Dr. Jill Priest Amati
1:42:45/1:44:48 Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr.
Good afternoon, I'm Robert Young, and I'm former district legal counsel for Dallas County Community College District, and more importantly, I'm a long-time friend of Bill Priest.
It's my distinct honor to facilitate our time together today.
I want to thank Eastfield College, and faculty, students and staff who have been so willing to help with hosting this event, and participating in it. We could not have orchestrated this celebration without you.
Welcome to the family of Bill Priest, and to his many friends and colleagues as well.
We are here to celebrate a very remarkable and unique man. Bill Jason Priest, who among other accomplishments, devoted his life to making higher education accessible to all.
Some brief facts about Bill's life, born in California, BA, MA, and Doctorate from UC Berkeley, where he started on a baseball scholarship.
He played pro baseball.
He served in the Navy during World War II.
He was an administrator in the California Junior College System.
He created American River Junior College in California, and he founded the district in 65 serving as its first chancellor.
Today, we celebrate Dr. Priest's life through testimonials of various individuals who became his friends and colleagues.
And upon whom he had great influence through his life and work.
I am one of those individuals, and I thank God for Bill's influence in my life.
We also have the special treat of hearing from Dr.
Priest's grandson Matt, and granddaughter Jill.
Thank you all for being here to join in this celebration.
After the celebration there will be a reception uh, in the Foyer.
Uh, my task, originally was to introduce the chairman of the board of trustees, Ms. Charletta Compton.
But she had a family emergency.
So I will not do that.
Instead, um, I will make a very brief introduction of Joe May.
Uh, he was my boss for maybe a couple months there I think, [LAUGH]
Between transition [COUGH] after I retired, um, ah, I, I went elsewhere.
But in his time here, which is a little over a year I believe.
Ah, I know from sources still in the district that you've done many great things and I know many people are appreciative of that.
And I know you will do great things to enhance the lives of students in the, in the college district as well as the college district itself.
Thank, thank, thank you very much, Robert.
Yeah, it was uh, and, and uh, and appreciate the uh, the introduction.
I don't know if you thought over it too much, he had me straightened out, or just gave up.
Uh, but uh, it, it, it really is uh, an honor for me to be here, and as kind of the new, the new, the new guy.
Uh, uh, coming into the district and uh, having an opportunity to really look back on the uh, the, the history over the last year.
Uh, it has been uh, I have to tell you, it's been uh, educational, but mostly inspiring.
As I uh, have thought, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about 50 years ago, what it was like uh, in, in, in Dallas.
And uh, it's great to be here tonight with uh, with so many of you who uh, knew Dr. Priest.
Uh, knew him as a person, knew him as a leader, knew his values and what, what, what he, what he represented and many of you who didn't have that, that, that pleasure.
I uh, I was fortunate after coming on board a little over a year ago to uh, be able to have a conversation, uh, with, uh, with Bill.
And to, uh, and we, we, we took time to, to really talk about those early years.
And, uh, and, and were able to bring up some names that, uh, that we, uh, shared in common.
And people that we knew and, and talk about that.
But, but I have to tell you, I've kind of dwelled on, on, uh, uh a, a little bit of that, that conversation because it dawned on me.
It's not just about creating a vision.
It's not just about grasping the mission.
That he had to really start picking the people and pulling together what I think has to be the greatest collect collection of individuals ah, committed to the mission of community and technical colleges ever brought together uh, and that lives on today.
Uh, and ah, and that was, that was ah, that was inspired by him.
And then people have told me that ah, uh, that were, that were working with him in those days saying, and he just didn't always just leave you alone either.
Uh, that uh, that, that it wasn't just turn you loose and let you go out and figure it out.
It was he had a vision and he had a plan about what this, you know, and a lot of people talk about the district.
But, but I'd become convinced uh, uh over the years that it was more than that.
It was a, it was a vision for the community.
Uh, it was a, uh, a, a vision about what Dallas and Dallas County could be uh, as a, as a place to, to live and work.
And he, uh, clearly never lost sight of one goal.
And that he knew the citizens of Dallas needed an affordable college, where they could get an outstanding education, whether it be to transfer to a four-year college or university or prepare for the workforce.
And he put it all together in such a way that it didn't matter where you lived, there were uh, it eliminated the barriers of access.
And it provided great opportunity for individuals.
And, and as I uh, begin, and, and asked uh, you know, when, when, when you kind of coming anew.
You, you, you start to pull some figures together that are, that are just, just kind of uh, striking as we, as we look at it.
Since 1965 the Dallas County Community College District has had come through its door almost three million people.
Think about that.
Three million people.
Now there are only 2.7 million people living in Dallas County today.
And so I got to thinking, what, what mathematically, kind of what, what does that mean?
Well, that means that probably, any of us living in this area, every single day will touch someone, interact with someone, on the phone, in person, behind the desk, uh, in a, in a bank uh, uh, in a, in a business or industry that's been through our doors.
Isn't that amazing?
I think, I think everyone of us will, on, on a, on a daily basis.
And, and, and it was a, and, and i think that's really what it was about that uh, uh, about creating something not just big and not just important but essential.
Uh, uh, essential for uh, the, the, the people of the county, essential for our employers, essential for uh, our uh, uh, our community and the, and the quality of life for, for everyone here.
And its, its reflected uh, uh, around the district with uh, with some great names like uh, Eastfield College and, and Gene Conway, president here thanks for, for hosting this today.
And uh, uh, I appreciate that Richland College, Cedar Valley College, Brookhaven, North Lake, Mountain View, El Centro, of course the big footprint that uh, that, that, that started the district years ago.
And then I think about uh, the uh, each year the number of individuals that march across a stage like this all over the district to be handed those awards and certificates that, that give them not only a sense of accomplishment about themselves.
But represents something about the community in which we live and work, indicating that we're bringing together the knowledge and skills and ability of individuals to meet the needs of our, our community.
And as I thought about Dr. Priest in those days, as he's laying this out.
Uh, it uh, it had to be an incredible vision and, and process to, to put that together and uh, I thought, how do you even explain something this big when it's never been done.
And never been seen uh, before and uh, and, and, and make that happen but he did and obviously he did that's what leaders do.
They create the vision and they get people to buy in and follow.
They were able to get, continue to do that over the years and invested in the district, making it one of the largest, most respected community college districts in the world.
Not for just what, what we are but for what we do and what we represent in terms of meeting the needs of individuals in the uh, the communities that we serve.
So as we think back, you know, I've uh, I've been, been thinking to myself uh, as we approach this fall.
We'll be celebrating 50 years, the Golden Anniversary of the Dallas County Community College District.
Uh, and uh, and, and it's just caused me to think and spend a lot of my time.
And I've come to believe that maybe it's good from time to time to think like a founder.
To think what it could be and where we are as, as we go forward, you know, we, we honored uh, Dr. Priest 25 years ago with uh, with the Priest Institute of uh, Economic Development.
Which is now part of El Centro College and in 2002, it won the 2000 uh, two Texas Award for Performance Excellence but I was thinking about that, 25 years ago to me that seems like yesterday.
I remember that, that, that event, and I uh, uh, I remember uh, marveling at the uh, the, the innovation uh, that this district continued to show.
And uh, and, and recognize that innovation naming that center after him as uh, as a reflection.
I think to this day it stands as uh, as a one of the many legacies to his outstanding contributions.
You know, the um, uh, one, one thing that, that is clear to me, when you, when you set something on the right course, when you bring in the right people.
When you have the right, right vision, good things happen and continue to happen.
And that continues to happen to this day because of his vision, his leadership, frankly his, his unwavering commitment to quality and doing things right.
We now continue to have and provide an opportunity for the millions of people that live in, in this area.
The millions of people that, that will come in the future, that we don't yet know but will contribute to uh, to the future of this great city, the state and country.
You know, I, I think that uh, in, in kind of thinking back and reflecting.
It was clear to me that, that he understood that perhaps of all the big things that he did.
The real genius in many ways was focusing on this community and making sure that its needs are met.
And it's my honor to pay tribute today and to be a part of the district as we move forward in the future.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Dr. May.
If you've lived in or around Dallas for any period of time, you know the name Thornton as businessmen and civic leaders.
Robert L Thornton III, his father and grandfather have greatly influenced the Dallas area for almost a hundred years.
Bob is a retired vice chairman of JP Morgan Chase, he's immediate past chairman of Dallas County Community College District Foundation and a member of its executive committee.
He's a trustee of the Nature Conservancy of Texas, a member of the advisory board of the University of Texas Press and past chairman honoree director of the Dallas Arboretum.
He's a former director of SMU's school of business.
I have a little more on Bob, uh, Bob received a 2000 Linz Award, Dallas' most distinguished civic award.
And received the Dallas Historical Society's 2002 Community Service Award in Humanities.
He and his wife Vera are avid wildlife photographers and have co-authored a number of books on the subject of bird watching.
We are going to see a video now for Bob Thornton.
Good afternoon, some old timers may remember my grandfather.
Was the son of a tenant farmer who went on to become a successful banker and civic leader.
This despite the fact, he only had a 6th grade education.
Later in life he used to joke that the only college he ever knew was CC&M which he said with a twinkle.
Stood for cotton, corn and mules.
Now you could do that back then but not today.
CC&M simply can't cut it anymore.
People need knowledge and skill sets.
Not to automatically succeed but simply to have the opportunity to compete.
Because 80% of the new jobs being created in this country require the equivalent of two years of college.
The old jobs are fading away and they are fading away fast.
Anticipating this 50 years ago, a group of visionary leaders in Dallas County set out to create an outstanding education hub that would be accessible to all citizens, my father.
Along with Margaret McDermott and other community leaders, saw the importance to create a community college system to give students from all walks of life.
The opportunity to obtain a college education but they also knew it would take a special leader to make this system grow and to thrive.
A person with integrity, vision, and a can-do attitude.
Bill Priest was that man, an extraordinary leader he built the DCCCD into one of the top community college systems in the country.
He was built like a linebacker, and he wore a bow-tie.
No one was ever confused as to where he stood on an issue.
But his goal was to grow citizens of Dallas in large numbers, and knew a vibrant community college was the best way to scale.
His motto was simply, Build it, grow it, make it high-quality.
Bill Priest built a system that delivered on that promise, and all of us are greatly indebted to him.
Today, more than a 100,000 students attend our colleges.
Many of these students are on scholarship, and we also owe our thanks to Bill for that too.
Because in 1973, he crafted the resolution that established the DCCCD Foundation, and he supported that foundation by creating three scholarships.
The Bill J Priest endowment, the Marietta Priest Memorial Endowment and the Anne Priest endowment.
When Bill started the DCCCD 50 years ago, we were called a junior college.
But what he knew, and what we all know today, is there is absolutely nothing junior about anything we do.
Although I am unable to attend this afternoon's tribute, I join many of you in celebrating a remarkable man, who left an immense legacy that continues to impact the DCCCD, his students and our entire community.
Bill Priest was one of a kind.
We feel privileged to honor him today.
When Bill Priest retired in 1981, he said this about Ruth Shaw, she is Wonder Woman in disguise.
If she'd lived in New England in the, in the 17th century, she would have been burned at the stake as a witch.
Because she knows things that her training and experience could not possibly have taught her.
There is something sinister about a 50 year old mind in a 30 year old body.
She should be kept under continuous surveillance.
Ruth Shaw worked for the Dallas County Community College District from 1977 until 1986.
She was Vice President of Instruction at Cedar Valley College, Assistant to Chancellor Priest, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, and finally President of El Centro College.
Bill Priest led the surge that selected her as President of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina.
She led the college for six years before joining Duke Power Company, where she became President and CEO until her retirement.
Ruth and Bill maintained their friendship over the years via visits and phone calls.
She and her husband, Colin, live in North Carolina.
And Ruth is with us by video as well.
It's a real pleasure to be with all of you to honor Bill J Priest.
I'm sure you've heard paeans to his leadership already today, and my tribute is a simple one.
A tribute to a man who was my mentor.
I met him when I was 29 years old and applying, somewhat foolheartedly, for a position as Vice President of Instruction at soon to be opened Cedar Valley College.
I went in to his office with fear and trembling.
He was legendary, and not all the legends were pretty.
He was, in some circles, considered to be a bit of an ogre.
Rigid, overbearing, demanding, and absolutely uncompromising about the people who joined the Dallas County Community College District.
As a current student in the University of Texas doctoral program, and inexperienced in extreme, I went into his office with fear and trembling.
Dressed somewhat like a middle aged Mary Poppins, I had smoothed my hair into a bun, wore a dowdy suit.
But somehow the interview went brilliantly.
We just struck a chord, and his comments made sense to me.
Mine apparently made sense to him.
As I was leaving his office, he looked at me.
In fact, he looked me up and down and said, tell me, do you always dress like that?
And I said no, sir, I don't.
And he said well, you never need do it again on my account.
That was such a lesson in authenticity, and it was a lesson that Bill Priest taught me over and over again throughout our nearly 40 year friendship and relationship.
The next story occurred a few years later, and it was a lesson in another of his characteristic traits.
I was working as Assistant to the Chancellor; in his office was Robert Young, who was then council to the district.
We were in a board meeting and an item was being discussed that I had worked on at great length, as had Robert.
And much to my amazement the infallible Bill J Priest made a mistake when he was explaining it to the Board of Trustees.
He really just got it all wrong.
So I nudged Robert and said Robert, he's getting it wrong.
We need to straighten it out.
Do you want to do it or should I?
Robert, he'd been around the block, nudged me and said you do it.
I sat there and I waved my hand, eagerly.
He looked at me and then he just looked away.
I waved it harder, so the Chair of the Board of Trustees couldn't ignore me and called on me.
I made a brief and, I thought, very intelligent comment, and then waited for my reward after the board meeting.
It came swiftly and with a vengeance.
Bill Priest gave me the chewing of my life.
And told me in no uncertain terms that I was never, ever to help him out in the course of the board meeting.
He was the Chancellor.
He had a view of circumstances and situations that no one else could fully comprehend.
Even if he appeared to be far out on a branch and sawing it off, I was to keep my trap shut.
That was one of the other things I came to appreciate when you know, so much as a mentor.
Utter clarity, complete swiftness with feedback, and absolutely no fear to give it in the harshest of terms, if that's what was required.
We developed a long-lasting friendship, one that ending, lasted until his death.
He was an extraordinary man ,and I'm a lucky woman to be able to call him my mentor and my friend.
Thank you Bill.
Well now, I don't know what you think of me after that.
I told Ruth I had another version of that story, but I promised not to give it because she wasn't here for a rebuttal, so I wont.
I remember Terry O'Banion as being a countercultural man.
During a district wellness event, Terry picketed with a sign reading, I hate exercise.
When Terry was hired as CEO of a League for Innovation in 1975, it was Bill Priest who chaired the search committee.
O'Banion was CEO of the League for 23 years and worked with Bill on countless projects and activities in the League.
When Bill retired, Jan LeCroy recruited Terry to become Vice Chancellor of Educational Affairs of the college district.
Terry served as Vice Chancellor for two and a half years in the early 80s before returning to lead the League full-time in 1982.
Terry continued to see Bill over the years during reunions with Ruth Shaw and Bettie Tully.
Though Terry couldn't be here with us today, he wanted to participate in celebrating Dr. Priest's life with this writing titled Remembering Bill J Priest, and he wanted me to read it to you.
If Bill Priest had been a mythic figure he would have been Zeus.
If Bill Priest had been a dinosaur, he would have been a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
If Bill Priest had been a bird, he would have been an eagle.
If Bill Priest had been a tree, he would have been a sequoia.
In the world of community colleges, he needed only to be Bill Priest.
The brightest and most gifted leader in the history of the community college movement.
Those of us who loved, admired, and learned from him are forever blessed.
Thank you Terry.
This is what uh, Dr. Priest said about Deon Holt.
That man never makes the same mistake once.
Deon began his community college career in the late 50s at American River College in Sacramento, where he taught journalism and served as Public Information Director before being named Dean of the Administration.
In the 60s and 70s, he coordinated the planning of the new seven campus community college system in Dallas and was founding President of two colleges.
First Richland and later Brookhaven.
Deon concluded his 36 year higher education career in San Diego County as President of MariCosta College for twelve years. Deon.
I've heard that term mentor several times here.
Bill Priest was my mentor for most of the 23 year span uh, that started with that uh, position at American River College in Sacramento, until he retired in 1981.
Thanks to Bill, I learned to take risks and try new things, to put the utmost importance on thorough well documented planning.
And to certainly value, give the utmost importance to the quality of a professional staff and their training.
He also modeled many effective skills in CEO and governing board relations that served me well in my later years.
I first connected with Bill in the summer of 19, late summer of 1957 at the University of Utah where I had completed uh, my first two degrees in journalism while working full time in the field.
[COUGH] I was uh, browsing uh, the bulletin board in the University placement office and came across an announcement that the President of a new college in uh, Sacramento, California would be there in a few days interviewing applicants for several faculty positions.
And although journalism wasn't mentioned, I made an appointment to meet him anyway, perhaps egotistically thinking I might have some skills that he needed for his new college.
We had a uh, a very nice friendly chat.
He said he didn't have a specific opening that uh, I would fit but he would keep me in mind in, in the event something came up that might work out.
He asked one question that I still remember.
[COUGH] How would you uh, uh, describe yourself as a public speaker?
Uh, say, where would you fit on a spectrum, a continuum with a dynamic orator on one side and a shrinking wallflower on the other side.
And I'm sure I nervously pondered that question a few seconds before responding, oh, probably somewhere in the middle.
About a week after that interview, Bill telephoned to offer me a new position he had created.
A, a Public Information Director and journalism instructor, half time in each role.
That was to begin when the new campus opened in the fall of uh, 1958.
As a footnote to that uh, first, that big question I mentioned uh, I, not long after I reported for work I enrolled in a class, night class in uh, business and professional speaking at Sacramento State College.
[LAUGH] And uh, I've been retired just over 20 years now so I'm a little out of practice.
In 1964 as we've heard, Bill became ah, a Chancellor of ah, Superintendent of the new Los Rios district that uh, encompated, encompassed four counties in uh, Central Valley uh, including Sacramento.
And I was promoted to Dean of Administration replacing the ah, previous Dean who followed Bill to the district office.
About that time the new district, the New Dallas District was established here.
Uh, the board here asked uh, the President of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, Ed Glaser, to advise them on recruiting an outstanding Chancellor for the new district.
He told them that the best prospects won't be in the job market, and he said I'll give you a list of names that you might invite as consultants, and Bill of course was on that list and accepted the invitation and the, uh, board liked him and offered him the job and the rest is history there.
That suggestion worked, invite him as a consultant.
He'd served in that Los Rios position less than two years.
He hadn't been in Dallas very long until he telephoned and offered me the position of Public Information Director.
I told him we were enjoying Sacramento, and I was finding my new job challenging.
And, uh, we were kind of reluctant to leave.
But he was persistent, during a later phone call he said oh, I've wondered how you'd like to consider a new job we've got here, Director of Planning and Research.
You'd be in charge of coordinating the planning of several new colleges.
He summarized my qualifications as uh, you don't know much about planning, but you know a lot about community colleges, and you're a fast learner.
After much deliberation with Dianne, I accepted and became part of the team here in uh, 1966.
Fortunately for me, Bill had retired a, had, had employed a retired school planning specialist as a consultant for a few months.
And he became another of my mentors as I became that fast learner.
During our early years in Dallas, Bill took me to uh, meet with several area school superintendents uh, to ask for their advice and suggestions, kind of in Attempt to build, build positive relations.
Although I don't recall his name, I still remember meeting with the uh, superintendent of the Highland Park school district.
He was very friendly and offered to help us any way he could, but he communicated a, a rather elitist attitude when he said, but don't expect us to send you any students.
He proved to be wrong, illustrating the fine reputation the district established uh, early on.
Uh, Richland enrolled more Highland Park High School graduates in its second year of operation than were attending University of Texas.
Sometime during our second year here uh, I asked Bill whether he thought I could become president at one of the later colleges.
He said, oh, you probably could, but you'd need a doctorate degree.
I subsequently commuted to Austin.
I should work on that degree part time, while we were redoing the planning and construction of Mountain View and Eastfield College.
I didn't have very many free weekends during those years.
Uh, Bill, uh, gave approval of my dissertation topic, the developmental planning of Mountain View College.
Fit right in.
[COUGH] After Bill recommended me as founding president of Richland, we invited Ed Glaser back to be our dedication speaker.
After the ceremony, I asked, uh, Ed, what do you think is more important for the effectiveness and success of the community college?
The physical facilities of the campus or the faculty and staff?
And he said, well that's, his answer was probably one Bill would have given.
But it went something like, that's like asking which uh, blade of a pair of scissors is more important.
Uh, but I think Bill probably gave a little uh, preference to the faculty and staff part of that.
My very competent secretary at uh, Richland, her name was Ann Sparks.
Uh, she later became Ann Priest, Bill's very supportive wife, uh, sometime after both her husband and his wife had passed away.
I remember and appreciate the number of what I call Bill Priest-isms, such as if you never make any mistake, you're not trying enough new things.
And another one, the only dumb question is when you asked twice.
[COUGH] Bill drafted me back to the district office to coordinate the planning of uh, Cedar Valley, North Lake and Brookhaven with a new title, Vice Chancellor of Planning.
That planning completed, I became the first president of Brookhaven in 1977, the year before it opened.
Before I left Dallas for San Diego county in 1982 to become CEO of MiraCosta college in a district that was uh, approaching its 50th anniversary, Bill shared one last perspective with me.
He said to something like you'll find your new position a different challenge than the one you had at Brookhaven.
There you only had to focus only two major areas, your college its faculties, staff, students and the community your serve.
In your new role, you'll have two more area of focus, your board of trustees and uh, the State legislature and Agency you have to deal with.
He said, you've got to get a passing grade in all four of those areas.
If you fail in any one, you're going to be a failure in your job.
And, I uh, remember that advice and perspective, and uh, consider it very sound advice as I juggled priorities in my last community college position.
[COUGH] I still consider Bill Priest to have been the most important person and positive influence in my professional life.
And, I'll always appreciate the trust and confidence he placed in me, and I thank you for having me join in remembering him and honoring him.
I've had the pleasure of knowing Kathleen Whitson for many years.
And so, I know that one of our proudest professional accomplishments is her dissertation on Dr. Priest, which she later turned into a book book well worth reading, Bill Jason Priest, Community College Pioneer.
Kathleen is a native Dallasite who watched the district being built and who was the fourth person hired at Cedar Valley even before the campus was finished.
She worked for the college district for 26 years as administrator at Cedar Valley and Brookhaven.
And, taught as an adjunct on four different campuses of the district.
Kathleen served on a task force which established in 2000, the Bill J. Priest Center for Community College Education at the University of North Texas.
As a capstone to her career, Kathleen served as Program Coordinator in the Higher Ed program at UNT.
Listening to everyone it's, it, it, makes me want to talk to respond oh, yeah, let me answer that, [LAUGH] let me say, I remember that.
But, that we each have our parts that we are to talk about and our special memories of Bill J. Priest.
I, I do have to share after Ruth Shaw's comment though, that I once said to him, you do realize that many people think you're an autocrat.
And he said, well sure.
I put that out there.
He said, then when everything is going along fine, you don't have to do anything.
But when you do, wham!
They go, well what did you expect from an autocrat.
In the days after his retirement and especially in these days, ah, in his passing.
It's become obvious that many of us feel that we had the most special relationship with Bill Priest.
That is not a reflection on us, but it reflects on him, because he could make you feel so very special.
He called himself a good people picker, and as you've heard from some and will hear from others, careers often went in directions not what we were planning, but what he came up with.
And, he was a good people picker.
He could see the strengths of those around him and help them in developing that.
And within that same framework, I think that, we feel like, those of us who have worked in the district and are working in the district, feel like that Bill Priest belongs to us, and that it is, the DCCCD is his legacy.
Well indeed, it is a major part, but it is not all.
It, well in fact, truth be told, he wanted to be a professional baseball player.
That was his ambition.
And, he had that uh, for a brief time.
His college performance as a pitcher uh, caught the eye of Connie Mack and his scouts, and he was recruited to the uh, Philadelphia Athletics, also called Philadelphia A's.
And after a year there, uh, his pitching performance earned him uh, a move down to the minors.
Well, he was always readily accepting of his weaknesses, and so he just left baseball.
He said it was not something from which I was arming my way up, I was slowly working my way down.
So he left baseball, and he accepted a teaching and coaching position at Modesto Junior College.
That experience, coupled with the fact that he had been a student several years before, before transferring to Berkeley, he had also been a student at Modesto, gave him the perception that the two year college concept was a model that was needed in higher education.
It was a good direction for postsecondary education.
1941 was a year of positive change for him, but it was also one of uncertainty.
After three years of dating, in 1941 he married Marietta Shaw, but he felt America's entrance into World War II was imminent and that he was a prime age to be drafted.
So he decided to live as though he only had two years left.
With his passion for education and his vision for junior colleges strong in his mind, he spent the next period of time fishing and playing baseball.
I always admired his priorities, his values, and his honesty.
Now this doesn't exactly flow, but I've got to tell this here because it's one of my favorite stories.
After he had worked, uh, as chance, as the newest chancellor in the district in Dallas for a little while, he was going to lunch with one of the people who had been on the interview committee, who had been on the search committee.
And he wanted to find out, learn some more about, what was it that he projected that, that made them think he would be a good leader, a good administrator.
So he asked him, he said, what exactly was it that, that caused all of you to decide to hire me?
And the man responded and said, well, you know, we met at dinner time and so we ordered drinks before dinner and he said, with each candidate and he said, and all of the other candidates would order some exotic drink and often give with great specificity how the drink should be made, and he said, when they asked you, you said think I'll have a beer.
And we said, that's our man.
Well, indeed, he did go to war in the Navy.
And he returned, though, hale and hearty.
And continued to pursue, uh, his career in junior colleges and his belief in the junior college system.
Which he helped move to the, from the diminutive of junior, to the comprehensive community college.
In California, he was the assistant superintendent of Orange Coast College District.
He was the first superintendent and president of American River Junior College District and also the first for Los Rios Junior College District.
There, in those jobs, he strengthened the offering of non-credit courses.
He realized that there was a population of non-college degree seeking people who needed to be served within the community.
He also believed in listening to the public.
Uh, he had done some postgraduate work in public relations.
He had a man come into his office one day, and wanted to, uh, suggest that they offer a course in goat husbandry.
And he said he struck him a little strange, but he didn't show him the door.
He let, he listened, and the man had his research, he had his, his information all organized and presented a good case.
And so he passed the information along, and they offered a course in goat husbandry.
And had 60 people enrolled.
So he thereby confirmed listening to, the, your community, listening to the public was a good thing to do.
He stressed the importance of vocational certificates and degrees.
Uh, after World War II, there was a great shortage of nurses, and the teaching hospitals who were training nurses at the time were very slow in turning out, uh, nurses.
So, the numbers were not keeping up with the need.
Ed Glaser, who at that time was the president of the American Association of Junior Colleges, started a movement and pulled in Bill Priest as the committee representative from California and they began to work with the hospitals and in trying to move nursing education out of the hospitals and into colleges.
He said the hospital personnel said, you're going to kill everyone.
But they believed in their, their process, and eventually did, and it was in one his colleges that they offered one of the very first ADN nursing programs.
He believed in the value, uh, to the nation's economy of the technical and vocational degree programs, based on marketable skills and future needs.
He knew that not every job in America was going to need a bachelor's degree.
And so he strongly supported that.
He piloted one of the first live, televised courses.
And it was fraught with problems, including one day when the instructor showed up at the studio inebriated.
He realized that probably pre-production of these courses, rather than going live would be a better way to go.
He also did not find good support from the state of California, who didn't seem to find it of making any sense to provide reimbursement for students who never took seat time in the classroom.
So he brought the concept to Texas, found Texas much more amenable to the concept, and, Dallas became not the first but certainly one of the premier producers of telecourses.
He believed in open access and giving everyone and opportunity to achieve the American dream through education.
Well, when you believe in open access that calls for remedial courses, for those that come underprepared, counseling, which we now call advising, to assist in student success.
He brought all of these ideas to, and innovations to Dallas.
He also, uh, within the first year was one of the, um, founders put forth the idea and founded the League for Innovation, which then hired Terry O'Banion as the first president.
But when he brought these ideas to Dallas
[COUGH] he then handed them all off to the excellent faculty, staff, and administrators, which many of them he helped to hire.
He would initially go on faculty recruiting sessions to the north, northern states during the winter months.
And show slides of Texas.
And talk about the temperature.
[LAUGH] Good recruiting tool.
But he gave it to the, to all of this, the excellent people, many of you are here, who helped to hone and continue to develop the concepts of a community college.
A dis, into a district that became a national model.
And it is all of these contributions, from 1939 to his retirement in 81, although his influence did not end in 1981.
He was Chancellor Emeritus and continued to work in many capacities in education.
But it was all of those contributions to the community college movement that motivated a group of the University of North Texas faculty to propose and establish the Bill J Priest Center for Community College Education in the higher education program there.
And it is another legacy builder who had been a DCCCD board member and worked with Bill Priest, Don Bujols, who provided the million dollars to endow the chair of the center, which is flourishing today, and will for many years to come.
To enhance the skills and knowledge of current community college administrators and faculty, and to introduce potential community college faculty and administrators.
It's interesting to me working in the program, when I would see students come in who were what do you want, what do you want this doctorate for?
I'm going to be a University President.
Oh, well good.
[LAUGH] I'm glad you got that goal in front of you and then watch them take the courses.
Begin to learn, begin to broaden their horizons, and some of them taking community college courses, just to kind of learn about the other side of things, and become enthralled.
Then leading into internships in a community college and going on and taking careers there, some of them becoming top administrators.
It is the goal of that program, and particularly, the center that bears his name for community college education, to keep the flame burning, passing the torch, and continuing the legacy of Bill Priest.
I used to enjoy that in my, I say used to because I retired, uh, just recently.
But I used to say to my classes, we'd get into a deep discussion and there would be some topic of, of, great controversy going on within higher education, and I'd say, you know what?
Not my problem, yours.
[LAUGH] Because I'm passing the torch, and it's you who have to learn, and to discuss, and to go on and keep the legacy in front of us.
Now this was not part of my assignment, that I want to say a few personal comments.
I admire the professional accomplishments of Bill J Priest greatly, or I would not have selected to write a dissertation on him.
I felt it was a labor of love.
At one point my committee said, this is reading like hero worship.
I said, it's the truth, everything in there's the truth.
I even cited some people who didn't like him, who said he was an autocrat.
I deeply appreciate his mentorship.
And yes, I am one of many.
His mentorship that developed me professionally and personally, and he showed great patience with me on many occasions.
And I also love and miss my friend.
Thank you Kathleen.
Dr. Priest said about Steve Mittelstet, he's a young Deon Holt with horizons unlimited.
I always had to be very careful with my writing around Steve.
He would correct my spelling and grammar when necessary.
He asked that, it was before spell checkers, so I had an excuse.
Steve Mittelstet joined Deon Holt in opening Richland college in 1972.
He served as a director and various dean positions as well as the Instructional Dean at the college.
Bill Priest hired him as his assistant.
Then as District Director of Instructional Television.
And finally, Assistant Chancellor of Operations and Planning before becoming President of Richland College.
Steve is now a Trustee in the Institute for American Universities located in Aix en Provence, France.
He has recently served as National Advisory Chair for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
And with his, with his partner Guy Gooding now operates Goodlestet Enterprises, which acquires and wholesales international fair trade folk art to small galleries and boutiques across the US.
And which carries their own men's and women's' fashion apparel designs under the Goodlestet and Brown label, currently featured at Maluth on the Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
And he may have some in the foyer for you as well as you leave.
Uh, for our little business, we couldn't possibly have afforded the uh, the rates for the ads in the Bill J Priest uh, program today, so thank you so much.
It was Bill Priest in fact, along with Deon Holt and Jan LeCroy, who taught me early in my career about the value, the art, the skill, and importance of being an entrepreneur for the DCCCD's institutional mission and vision.
Deon hired me to establish and direct Richland's first non-credit continuing education program, then called community service.
A program Bill saw, as already been stated by Kathleen, as inherently essential to the mission of the community college.
Bill later selected me to work with Jan LeCroy as she also um, mentioned in overseeing the expansion of the district's pioneering College Credit Instructional television program.
And to market more broadly, its increasingly expensive Interactive Productions, designed primarily of course to meet the learning needs of the uh, Dallas Community College students.
And then assigning me to market them nationally and internationally to help cover the production costs.
And we more than broke even with that.
In an entrepreneurial effort that resulted uh, not only through uh, my tenure but also that of Roger Pool and Pam Quinn, uh, resulted in higher education distance learning that was second only in the global market penetration.
To those produced by England's uh, BBC.
This was an entrepreneurial lesson that guides Guy and me today in our own Goodlestet mission related local and world community building life in retirement from the DCCCD.
And one which guides me as a current trustee of the International Institute for American Universities in Europe.
The operative emphasis of that lesson was on mission-vision being key to performance excellence.
In carrying out the critical comprehensive teaching, learning, community building mission of the Dallas County Community Colleges.
And Bill Priest was one of the nation's leading pioneers in advancing that mission.
Not only as founding chancellor of the DCCCD, but as has been said, also throughout this uniquely US American National movement that transformed the junior college into the community college the comprehensive community college that it has become in the United States.
And today, more and more broadly, in international circles as well.
Bill Priest saw to it, for all those hired throughout his found, founding tenure.
Whether faculty, professional support staff, or administrative leaders, that we would all be teacher-learners with him.
And with our students in supporting the DCCCD's comprehensive student learning, community serving mission.
Key components of which included the following elements.
With each component, like each side of the scissors being essential in serving Dallas county in its local and broader community context.
Of course, academic college credit, university transfer programs, in both Liberal Arts and professional careers.
Leading both to employment and in light and living, and what it means to be more fully human.
College credit and non-credit, technical career programs, as well as lifelong continuing education and career advancement beyond college degrees.
Developmental studies for those adults not yet college ready.
And student development support services, assisting students and their special, specialized faculty and staff, in achieving their own human potential with a dedication to advancing skills in lifelong learning.
So that the Dallas county residents might have the opportunity to live more satisfying responsible lives in building more vibrant local and global communities in whatever professions and careers that they might choose.
And Bill Priest inspired each of us to understand that together we could daily learn significant ways to contribute to achieve,achieving this lofty, comprehensive mission with our students and with the communities we served.
For Bill and therefore for all of us, being a community lead, leader meant first and foremost performing our individual responsibilities as members of a broad team of educators and active community members.
To achieve and exceed the expectations of those community leaders and voters of Dallas County, who created what soon became the Dallas County Community College District.
And for those who continue to support it now, half a century later.
Among those up and coming earlier community leaders was someone named Jack Miller, who was CEO of the then rapidly expanding brand of Sanger-Harris department stores.
One of which, of course, is the flagship building of El Centro College.
Miller believed in a centralized consistent branding was semi-autonomous stores.
Whose leaders were expected to tailor their stores to local community needs, freeing Jack to focus his energies more with new store CEOs and with stores that were needing more attention and were struggling.
This was a decentralized central branding concept, embedded also in the wisdom of Bill Priest and in our business oriented founding trustees.
When they created and strategically situated seven separately accredited colleges across Dallas County.
So that each would better reflect and serve the characteristics, culture and educational needs of its service area community.
Each within a 20-minute drive of its residents, while still having an easily transferable student transcript and common core curriculum.
Which later became the model for statewide transferable core curriculum and course numbering system for the first two years of all public Texas higher education.
A legacy that remains a strong foundation not only at the Dallas County community colleges, But also for the state of Texas.
On a more personal professional note, I learned much about leadership by observing and working directly with Bill and other early highly successful leaders of the Dallas Community Colleges, such as Deon Holt and Jan LeCroy.
Each with his own personality and leadership style authentic to who they are and were as human beings under Bill's mentoring, that word again, which continued with me up until the last days of his life.
I also learned from founding DCCCD trustee and chair R.L. Thornton Jr. the importance of partnership with the business community as noted earlier.
I learned from vice chair Margaret McDermott the enduring importance of aesthetics in lifelong learning.
And in making students and community members feel valued by investing in the beauty of their campus environments, including exemplary teaching-learning facilities that reflect the power of aesthetics on learning and living quality life both at home and at work.
I learned from Priest, Thornton and McDermott unwavering stewardship, stewardship of wise use of tax payer dollars.
And I might add, Bill set this example in his personal life.
In a manner that could arguably be described as downright miserly.
I learned from Bill the value of good humor and performing serious important work and the importance in investing in mind, body, spirit for living a good life.
Remember that fishing, and all those tennis games.
Which included both work and play in and out of work.
[COUGH] I learned more about Bill's personal life ah, using my in, interactions with his ever-gracious wife Marietta.
Who at one time was also an excellent student of mine in one of the team-taught humanities classes that I uh, taught at Richland College.
And she remained a personal inspiration to me until her passing.
And I learned so much from my first as well as Deon Holt's family president's assistance and then Ann Sparks.
Later to become Ann Priest.
From whom I am honored now to have celebrated and continued to learn from their mutually supportive and inspirational uh, marriage throughout the last quarter century.
While understanding that Bill's last couple of years of increasing loss of mobility and memory became more challenging him, for Ann and for the others who cared uh, for him so much.
I'll share two brief stories about Bill, provide a bit of insight into many of the lessons I just noted about.
Bill would, from time to time, invite me to a lunch break with him while we were both still employed by the DCCCD, and after, when we were in our emeritus lives.
I came to learn early on that an invitation to lunch would mean, unless it was a business luncheon with community leaders at the City Club, it would mean offering me a choice venue among the many two for one coupons that he collected religiously.
After one of these stimulating luncheons with Bill, his treat, at a north Dallas Burger King, [LAUGH] [COUGH] he drove me to a private tennis club where he and Ray Nasher had fairly regular tennis outings together.
When we arrived, Bill was clearly irritated that the chain link construction fence was still around the courts, which were under renovation.
He told me how he and Ray first discovered this interruption to their ritual matches.
Three weeks earlier when they arrived at the club a day after the fence had gone up.
Bill told me, Ray and I looked around and seen no construction yet under way.
Well, we just climbed over the fence and got in two matches.
Before a club employee invited us into the club, for a drink on the house and apologized for the inconvenience.
Bill and Ray graciously accepted the drinks.
Bill laughed in telling me that story, and then complained that still not much progress had been made on the court in three weeks.
That was a typical less than one hour business luncheon with Bill and me back in the day.
I also learned from Bill that there was, there were no little people in the DCCCD, whether students or employees, full-time or part-time, credit or non-credit.
Or in one's personal life, for that matter.
My second brief story illustrates the big heart of the man some, if not most, feared for his carefully timed and calculated, intimidating, rough appearance.
In Bill's retirement, he had an office across the lake from Richland's Administrative Complex.
Adjacent to the library and to the tennis courts, providing a convenient location for his emeritus work of consulting research, and networking on the tennis courts.
Without, as he put it, messing with Richland's administration.
One of the individuals who addressed some of Bill's clerical needs during that time was former Richland part-time student, then student assistant, and then part-time university student, and full-time professional support staff member on my support team.
Her name was Kim Holly.
When Kim was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized, facing this challenge with no living immediate family members, each of whom had died from cancer, to help, Bill visited her frequently.
And worked with Richland's Executive Assistant to the President, Janet James, before Kim's death in seeing that her personal financial needs were met by writing personal checks to pay for her non-hospital bills.
And by working with the hospital administration to cover any co-pays that Kim's insurance would not include.
Bill Priest, as so many have said before me, was a giant of a leader, and a human being with a big heart.
Carrying a big stick when he deemed it to be um, to his advantage, and motivating.
A man whose life inspired so many, even in his increasingly challenging last years and months.
And his legacy in the lives of our students and community will live long after his name is much less frequently remembered and recalled, so long as this nation's community college movement continues to thrive.
As with the other speakers, it's my personal honor to have been a professional colleague of my teacher, yes my mentor, and friend Bill J Priest.
And to remain a life long entrepreneur of the mission and vision of the Community College in what, whatever form it might take in my retirement years.
Thank you and thank Bill Priest.
Thank you Steve.
I'm going to introduce three distinguished former faculty members.
Um, and then they will all speak, so I'll do sort of my little bios on each one of them.
About Bettie Tully, Dr. Priest said, Bettie's always on the right track.
Bettie'd call me frequently when I was district legal counsel, she would typically end the conversation with, yes that's what I thought too.
So I think he was right, that she really was on the right track.
Bettie retired this past year, from the college district in El Centro College, after serving in various administrative and faculty roles for 39 years.
She received the first district wide student development leadership award while at El Centro, and was named teacher of the year while at Brookhaven.
Most recently she served as counseling faculty and ombudsman at El Centro and as the Chancellor's office ombudsman for the district.
Bettie worked closely with Dr Priest as a faculty, faculty leader, and process consultant, and they remained good friends after his retirement.
Vivian Dennis Monzingo has always been a person who is easy to work with, friendly and straightforward.
You always know where you stand with her, just like Dr. Priest.
Vivian was employed as an adjunct math instructor at El Centro College from 1968 to 1970.
She was a charter member of the full time faculty when Eastfield College opened its doors in 1970.
And she served as interim dean for the last three and a half years of her full time employment.
During her tenure, she was elected President of the Eastfield College Faculty Association.
President of the District Faculty Council.
And she retired from the College District in 2010 and presently serves as president of the DCCCD Retirees Association.
Chuck Dale began his career at El Centro College as an electronics instructor in 1967, Chuck, my gosh.
And retired from Eastfield College in 2013, that's a heck of a long time.
He developed many innovative programs at both colleges, and was a good friend of Annie Priest, Bill.
You know, when uh, Ann called me, we were in Colorado.
And, she called like the day after Bill died to let me know the news.
And, it was so interesting because I immediately harkened back to my last visit
with him, which was just before Christmas and at that time, he told me, well, I'm not going to make it to the new year.
So, this will be our last visit.
And, my response to him was the same as it had been for the last five or six years.
And I said, Bill, you said that for the last five or six years.
And when I come back, you're always here.
So when I got the phone call, I immediately thought once again, he's showing me that he's right and I'm wrong.
Which uh, kind of characterized our friendly rela, relationship because we had many wonderful times where we agreed on many important things, and many passionate times when we had really big disagreements.
And, I would usually wind up insisting that I was right one out of ten times, but he always was right nine out of ten times.
My tribute to Bill uh, is based on what happened right after that phone call from Anne.
I sat down and I wrote a letter to him.
Posthumously of course, but I thought, I want to do this while he's fresh on my mind and while my feelings are at the surface.
So, here's the letter I wrote to Bill.
[COUGH] Dear Bill, I first became acquainted with you as a colleague in the late 1970s, when I was president of the Brookhaven Faculty Group.
Those of us who were college faculty presidents in the early days were assigned to meet with you, the Chancellor, at your regular Faculty Council meetings.
We gathered around the big table in your office and had discussions, pronouncements by you of course, and a few passionate debates about faculty concerns and issues that were nothing more than debates because he always made the decisions in the end.
We knew you then as a tough, no-nonsense pragmatist who was reputed to have little or no respect for soft skills, and no patience at all with what you called fuzzy thinking.
Since both of these descriptors were often used when referring to faculty in those days, and maybe still these days, I'm not sure.
Imagine my surprise to later discover that you were an advocate for having every college fully staffed with counseling faculty.
And, for hiring instructors with soft skills who were not only competent in their disciplines, but who were also committed to helping students beyond the classroom.
You were a visionary who recognized early on how much our community college students needed extraordinary support and caring, both in and out of the classroom.
It was your commitment to this principle, and your strong leadership, that attracted faculty and staff with similar values to the DCCCD, and who shaped the caring culture that is still prevalent to this day.
A few of your believers who have outlived you, Bill, are still teaching and supporting the students in our district.
Some of us retired recently, and many retired a number of years ago.
But, the bottom line is that we are still here to carry on your mission in one way or another, and will continue to do so with gusto.
While all of us in this room, saw you as the consummate professional, it was only after you and I became good friends that I could see how much your personal qualities and experiences influenced your leadership style.
And ultimately, the organizational culture of the DCCCD.
As your friend, I knew you as a man who clearly loved and respected your wife, Marietta, and who enjoyed a very good life with her.
I have memories of dinners in your home, drinks on our back porch down the road from you.
Boring tennis matches on television and heated semi-civil conversations about baseball and politics.
I knew you as a man who faithfully ministered to Marietta when she fell ill.
And grieved mightily for her when she passed away.
As your friend, I also knew you as a man who recognized your own need to have another partner after Marietta passed away.
A new wife and a loving companion who could help you move on with the rest of your life.
You were able to do this when you chose Ann Sparks to be that companion.
And as luck would have it, she also chose you.
I have memories of your enjoyable years of travel with Ann, visiting with many friends old and new over dinner.
Taking part in our geriatric reunions, sharing wine, moderately priced of course.
[LAUGH] And scarfing down pizza from Campisi's.
As your friend, I also knew you as a man who enjoyed and supported your grandchildren with Marietta and who then did the same with the young children in Ann's family.
Your generosity and affection for those children, was seen and appreciated by them, and by many of us who were your friends over the years.
And so, here we are, remembering you as a sterling leader and a community college icon.
But most importantly, Bill, we will remember you as a really good man.
We will continue to carry on your legacy as leaders and as good men and women who will always try to do the right thing.
Now, I know, Bill, that you are not at all into music, despite my fantasies and wishes.
But if you were, I'm guessing that if you dared to show your sentimental side, your message back to all of us, colleagues, friends, family, would be in the lyrics from an old song called Sweet Survivors.
Carry on, my sweet survivors.
Carry on, my lonely friends.
Don't give up the dream and don't you let it end.
Carry on my sweet survivors, though you know that something's gone.
For everything that matters, carry on.
With love, from your friend and colleague, Bettie.
And now, Vivian.
Why was Dr. Priest so good at being a pioneer in the community college movement in Dallas County, and in an entire country?
He attended a junior college, he taught at a junior college.
He was a coach at a junior college and he was an administrator of a junior community college prior to accepting a leadership position in Dallas.
As stated earlier, Dr. Priest was able with support of the Board of Trustees and adequate funding to bring to fruition the best comprehensive community college in the country.
He was allowed to select his own staff and recommended policy to the board in establishing the Dallas County Community College District.
He used his expertise and personal traits.
He believed in hiring the best.
And many had the feeling that Dr. Priest had an unusual, a real knack for selecting the right person to do each job.
Paying well to those best implied an expectation of high performance.
Dr. Priest initiated and conducted quality control evaluations of all personnel.
He involved the faculty in the decision-making process and established a faculty council for direct input.
The establishment of a faculty council was another first in Texas community colleges.
Dr. Priest was strong advocate of faculty rights.
One story told was the faculty association president and other members of the faculty council presented a proposal with statistical backup asking for a raise for the faculty for the next year.
After the council's presentation, Dr. Priest sent the group back for further study with current data that he had generated and gathered and had assembled.
He also at this proposed that and he instructed the instructors, to ask for twice, notice I said twice, the amount that they had originally proposed.
Dr. Priest has been described as tough, smart, brutally honest, fair, upfront, straightforward, truthful, straight shooter, strong, protective, unquestionable integrity, punctual, autocratic.
Encourage risk-taking, obedient to the laws of the land.
A leader, had a work ethic, knowledgeable, sought input, encouraged decision-making at the lowest level.
He was informed, had know how, a competitor and was a gentleman.
He possessed expertise, confidence and always strived for excellence.
In 1980, Reba Blackshear, president of the DCCCD Faculty Counsel Association say it.
I'll tell him exactly what I think, he listens and may or may not agree.
Last week in our telephone conversation, Reba stated the same sentiments as in 1980.
She also stated that she did not need to have any statements from Dr. Priest in writing.
He always stood by his word.
She respected Dr. Priest as a person.
She could agree and disagree and because he was always fair every time, she was comfortable.
Dr. Priest always put the well-being of the district above all.
He was the best person for the formative years of DCCCD.
He truly was the right man in the right place at the right time to coordinate the development years of Dallas County Community College District.
Don Rippee wrote a book about the early years of DCCCD entitled, Some Call It Camelot, The El Centro Story.
Because those of us who worked within the district during the formative years with Dr. Priest, we knew that the district was Camelot.
On behalf of my many colleagues family, thank you Dr. Priest and your family for allowing us the opportunity to contribute to the evolution of the Dallas County Community College this group.
Dr. Priest was truly a legend in his own time.
Next, Chuck Dale will pay tribute to Dr. Priest.
It is my honor to speak on, on the topic of vocational education and, and thank Dr. Priest for all the things he did for the students and faculty.
Due to time limit quotation, I have selected only two topics Dr. Priest did for vocational education.
One was the Open Door Policy and the second was the integration of vocational and technical programs throughout these wonderful facilities.
First, let me set the state.
When El Centro opened its doors in 1966, there was, that was the time when the SAT scores and the ACT scores determine if a person could attend college or not.
[COUGH] Secondly, the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act of 1963 stated that every vocational course must have a number three in the center of the number.
What that told universities was do not accept these courses.
If you do, you will lose vocation, you will lose funding.
So, in short, Dr. Priest went against all these things.
He decided an Open Door Policy was very simple.
If you could afford the price of tuition, come on in and pay for it.
Thousands of students benefited from this kind of thing.
Automotive courses, a course on automotive brakes.
A course in keyboarding.
A course in electronics that would greatly increase their salaries.
And as Dr. Priest knew that the students who only wanted one course kept coming back for one more course and one more course.
And ultimately, got their associate degree.
[COUGH] Those courses that were federally mandated not to transfer and often labeled not equal in academic rigor, as transfer courses were typically regal, relegated to buildings out back.
Dr. Priest distributed these programs and faculty throughout the wonderful new college facilities.
Here at Eastfield College, the air conditioning lab actually was adjacent to the student cafeteria.
Now, not all these wonderful integrations worked out that well.
The auto body paint and body, the auto body paint booth backed up to the student cafeteria.
[LAUGH] And on occasion, the food smelled like fresh paint.
[LAUGH] Although I never personally worked directly for Dr. Priest, I did get to know him on a personal basis through my lifelong friend, his son, and my retirement running buddy, Andy Priest, who sits right here in the first row.
Through this friendship, I watched his two children grow up.
At this time, it is my pleasure to introduce Matt J Priest, Dr. Priest' only grandson.
[APPLAUSE] Wait a minute, wait a minute, I want to say some good things about you Matt.
Now, my son thinks that Matt's the firecracker wizard, okay?
But that's a personal story.
Matt attended A&M, and at A&M, he was captain of the track team.
He also received a master's degree in International Management from the University of Texas.
In high school, Matt won the state cross country.
Cross country and was the last Southwest Conference champion in cross country while attending A&M.
Matt is the Senior IT Project Manager at JC Penney.
He is, he currently resides in Frisco with his wife Laurie, and their two children Kate and Jenna.
Thank you, Chuck, for that overly long introduction there, but I do appreciate it.
And to thank you all for coming today to share so many wonderful stories and memories about our grandfather, Dr. Bill J Priest.
Well, I'm very proud to have had a number of things in common with my grandfather.
I do have to go on record and say, I still have no idea how to tie a bowtie.
[LAUGH] To Dr. Lassiter, Dr. Shaw, Dr. Whitson, and all the other presenters and well wishers.
Our family cannot thank you enough for this honor.
Our grandfather would be overwhelmed with the respect and appreciation that has brought us here today.
And to Molly and Kathy, who have weathered so many storms, literally, putting this thing together, thank you very much from our family.
It has been a pleasure seeing old friends again today.
It brings back so many wonderful memories that my sister and I were chatting before the ceremony.
We've always felt that growing up in the district, they were part of our extended family, and that continues today, and we appreciate it.
While I was working on this speech, and I'm sure most people do, I struggled with what to say.
To us he was simply Papa.
To the people here today he was so many things.
Educator, innovator, hunter, fisherman, world traveler, bow tie wearer, baseball and tennis enthusiast.
And for some folks here, probably some words we just can't use in public.
To us, Papa was so much more than words can express.
As such, I thought it would be nice to share a few personal stories about him.
Papa joined the United States Navy during World War II, where he earned the rank of captain.
He had the choice of joining the European Theater or the Pacific War.
He chose to go to the Pacific while many of his friends chose Europe.
When we asked him why, his reply was simple.
Marietta, his wife of only a short time, was in California.
In order to travel to Asia, he had a layover in San Francisco.
Who would have known that Papa was such a sentimental man?
I've always been fascinated with World War II history and I would talk to Papa at great length about his experiences during the war.
One of the most miraculous stories that he would tell, was when he received orders to go in ahead of a deadly assault.
He knew at the time that the orders, that the orders were a death sentence, as survivors were not anticipated due to the nature of the mission.
He wrote and sent one last letter home to Marietta and to his mother stating that the situation was dire, that he was unlikely to return, and that he loved them both dearly.
As fate would have it, in the eleventh hour, the Australians asked to be given an important mission to help with the war effort.
In doing so, they stepped in and took the mission.
The casualties were as expected, and he always thanked his lucky stars that the Australians had jumped in.
Papa would talk about how he was part of an advanced intelligence team that entered Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 shortly after the atomic bomb.
Members of this select team were the first Americans to enter the city.
His purpose, in part, was to assess the damage and the impact of using the atomic bomb on the population.
What's interesting about this story is that Papa's team was not allowed in the restricted access zones.
According to Papa, and I certainly had no doubt, he convinced his driver on multiple occasions to take him into those restricted areas because he wanted a first hand understanding of the destruction.
Papa was persistent and a bear for details and frankly wouldn't take no for an answer.
Papa married our grandmother Marietta, Mimi as we called her, on March 8th in 1941.
Marietta was the consummate wife, mother, grandmother, and ultimate supporter for Papa's educational and professional endeavors.
They raised a son Andy, as well as two grandchildren, myself and my sister Joan.
Growing up, Mimi and Papa stressed the importance of education in our lives.
They believed education was the foundation for professional success, and that a degree insured unlimited potential.
That still continues today.
We were fortunate to travel quite a bit with my grandparents.
We had many wonderful adventures together traveling extensively through western United States, Hawaii, western Europe, Scandinavia and Russia.
Mimi and Papa were married for just under 50 years when she succumbed to cancer in 1989.
He later married Ann Sparks, who's here with us today and they remained married for almost 25 years.
When I was around 15, Papa took me on a fishing trip to northern Saskatchewan in Canada, and this whole, trip holds some of my fondest memories.
Things I remember most about the trip were traveling via seaplanes, seeing the Northern Lights, and catching 25 pound fish at every cast, which for any of you that know him, know he loved dearly.
Once we hauled in our catch, the guides would take us to the closest island.
They would clean, prepare and cook the fish that we just caught for dinner.
It was definitely the experience of a lifetime and one where I got to know Papa as a man.
A district related story that you might enjoy is how North Lake College came to its current location.
While searching locations for the district campuses, Papa found a parcel of land that would ultimately become North Lake.
The location was a farm owned by Lucy Belknap and her family.
The Belknap family was not interested in selling their land, but Papa had the backing of the city.
The negotiations were intense, but Papa and the Belknap family were able to reach an agreement.
You would think that Lucy Belknap would never want to see my grandfather, let alone uh, befriend him.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
She and Papa had developed tremendous mutual respect, and became very close friends.
For over two decades, Papa, my father, and I, would visit their ranch in Frisco during dove season.
The point being, Papa had the unique ability to develop long lasting relationships, even from the most difficult circumstances.
I'd like to share one final thought.
Papa and I had many wonderful conversations over the years about what had made him successful with the district.
Per our conversations, the bottom line was this.
Papa had the full support of the city of Dallas.
They wanted it to succeed like nothing before.
All those involved, banded together, guided by what needed to be done for the masses, they just made it happen.
It was an amazing time where politics were put aside.
I often asked him, if he were still working today, would he be successful?
He always stated that it would be much more difficult in today's climate.
He knew the world was changing when he retired and he knew he was ready, he was ready to hand it off to the next generation to face those challenges.
While he retired from the district in 1981, I have no doubt in my mind that if he were in his prime now, he would certainly accomplish major things for this city and the district as he did almost 50 years ago.
Dr. Bill J. Priest, our papa, was a great man.
You're not totally done with me just yet.
I'm very proud to present our next presenter.
I've had the privilege of knowing her all of her years on this earth, including those achieving her many degrees.
Hopefully, I helped in some small way despite being that old, that pesky, older brother.
My sister Jill who just arrived from New York, where she lives with her husband Mike and two wonderful children Ian and Marietta, also experienced wonderful times.
Education was obviously paramount in our family and Jill took this as a life mantra.
While I was pleased with having a master's degree, she far exceeded my educational endeavors, earning a master's degree in applied anthropology at Oregon State, a master's of public administration from Maxwell School at Syracuse and most recently a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Maxwell School at Syracuse.
In doing so, she continued to preach family focus on education, and she's currently an assistant professor at SUNY at Upper State College in New York.
I can not be more proud of her and it is my distinct pleasure to introduce my little sister, and I will go on holding on to that no matter how many degrees you have, Dr. Jill Priest Amati.
So I flew in late last night and my brother and I were talking about you know, memories of Papa, and we were comparing notes on the speech and I had a great panic because we realized we're actually sharing a lot of the same stories.
So I'm like oh my gosh, I have to rewrite this.
But then I remember hey, I tell my students things three, four, five times and they still get it wrong on the exam, so, for those of you that might have spaced out or were texting during my brother's speech, this is your second opportunity to hear, um, about Papa from a family perspective.
My grandfather once told me that no matter how many times he talked in front of a group, he was always completely and utterly nervous.
Of course I found this hard to believe because he always seemed so put together that I couldn't imagine him getting a little nervous about talking in front of a group.
But as I thought about what I wanted to say, I was reminded by him telling me this, and of course comforted, and it certainly made me feel better about being completely nervous.
Although I was, of course, deeply saddened when I received a phone call New Year's Eve that my grandfather had passed away, I realized that really, he was a best case scenario.
He lived an amazing life.
He grew up in a poor farming community with limited economic opportunity yet managed to go to col, managed to go to college at a time when less than 5% of the population even attended college much less went all the way to get a terminal degree.
And he completed graduate school in a record two years, a fact that he never let me forget is I trudged through four and a half years to complete my own Ph.D.
He was an intelligence offer during World War II.
He played professional baseball.
He played competitive tennis.
He was an avid fisherman.
He traveled the world and he had a successful career which is why we're here today.
The man lived to 97.
And the day before he died, he got to spend with his family, seeing all his great-grandkids together for one last time, he could finally let go.
It was his time.
On his passing I'm reminded of the many amazing stories he shared with me over the years.
One of my favorite stories, like my brothers, was that um, of when he was in World War II um, and stationed on the East Coast.
And he had the, he was going to be sent abrost, abroad and he had the choice of going to Europe or Asia, and he chose to go to Asia.
His reason he explained was it meant that he could go to California see my grandma briefly before he let, left the country.
That was it.
That was how he made the decision.
I love this story because it brought to life the human side of him.
He was always so calculated and well thought out and not to be one overcome by emotions, but this story illustrates his softer side.
I always found it very wonderful.
To me it was sort of a real life love story.
My grandfather was one of the most inquisitive people I've ever known.
I remember, as my brother also mentioned, that we used to joke about the, the Papa inquisition.
And when we'd visit him after not seeing him for awhile, we knew that we would be peppered with copious questions about what we were doing, what our plans were, and how what we were currently doing would fit in with those plans.
And how we would always joke about it, I actually always really enjoyed these visits.
Few people give such careful thought to their questions and responses and give genuine interest in your life.
It's kind of a therapy for me.
Who needed a psychiatrist when you had your grandpa as, as your own personal life coach?
As many of you know, my grandfather was insatiable thirst for travel.
From one of his first adventures hitchhiking to Alaska with a buddy in college with $5 in their pocket, to later walking across the Great Wall of China, he loved to see the world.
And we could tell, he could tell stories of the many adventures he'd been on to the tiniest details.
He had an amazing memory.
If you were going on a trip just about anywhere, he could offer some little piece of advice.
He could recommend a great suit tailor in Beijing or a great place for lasagna in Rome.
And his tales of adventures were so impressionable to me, and in fact I still have some stationary from an Iranian hotel on the wall of my office today that he gave me many years ago.
I realize how lucky I was.
He helped empower me to feel like I could go anywhere or do anything and I'm thankful to my grandpa for giving my enduring support of all my fanciful adventures and travel and education things for which he bestowed the love of onto me.
I know he was proud of all the things my brother and I have done and I'm so happy he got to meet our children.
And although I can't complain he was taken too soon, I can't help think if he only held on a couple more years to see me get tenure.
But alas, it was his time.
He was ready.
And I thank y'all for giving me a chance to say good-bye.
Thank you, Jill.
Dr. Lassiter is widely known throughout Dallas as a career educator, a published author, and restricted, uh, respected pastor.
As an aide, and matter of fact, he'll sell you a book.
He, he usually keeps them in his trunk, and so if you want a book from Dr. Lassiter, he's available.
As an able manager, he's intent on fostering the development of leaders, and is equipped with the humility necessary to be a good listener.
Dr. Lassiter served as President of El Centro College from 1986 to 2006, and as a, as chancellor from 2006 until his retirement in February 2014.
He and Dr. Priest had frequent exchanges when Dr. Lassiter came to Dallas in 1983 to serve as president of then Bishop College.
They continued those exchanges uh, throughout his tenure with the district.
Priest's frequent comment about Dr. Lassiter was that Wright could walk on water cause he knew where all the rocks were.
[APPLAUSE] Today we have remembered and celebrated the founder of the Dallas County Community College District.
Uh, four words can describe what you've heard today from all of these speakers.
There are some who say, but there are many who do.
But in our case, there was just one who said and he did.
Don't we all wonder at the work that was done in our behalf on the run.
Seemingly ceaseless, admired by all, but who among us made the call to say thank you?
We each feel Bill, you knew how grateful we were and are, how your stands of excellence were expected, for you always did more than was prescribed to do.
No challenge was rejected.
When accolades should be the fare, you received just a pat on the back.
For you had done it again, again, and again.
So what's new?
So today we say thank you.
On reflection, this mighty display of effort by Bill Priest, achieved by a man with a permanent smile, is powered by goals and a love for people.
A love for people, the total rank and file.
Being aware of effort expended, we each should shout anew today for in no way do we take for granted all the wonderful things done by the man that we know affectionately as simply Bill.
So Bill thank you for all that was done for the Dallas County community colleges.
Thank y'all for being here today.
This is obviously uh, a time, I think, well worth spent.
And I hope you that didn't know Dr. Priest got a little bit of sense of who he was.
He was a magnificent man.