Texas community colleges live up to Tom Hanks’ praise
Jim Lehrer
Jim Lehrer

“I Owe It All to Community College,” an op-ed piece published in The New York Times and written by Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks, gives readers insight on the impact Chabot College, a community college in Hayward, Calif., had on his life.

In the article Hanks said, “[the] classes I took at Chabot have rippled through my professional career… [They] made me what I am today.”

In Texas, the more than 50 community colleges located in the state boast these kinds of stories every day. According to TxSuccess.com, a website created by the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) and the Community College Association of Texas Trustees, the number of students enrolled in a community college has increased by more than 70 percent since 2000. That equates to about 300,000 lives touched by Texas community colleges. Nearly 60 percent of all nurses and 85 percent of all first responders in the state hold a community college certificate or degree, and 78 percent of all Texas university graduates have community college credits as part of their transcripts.

In their local communities, Texas community colleges help provide a skilled and educated workforce. Over the next 10 years, Texas will have 4.8 million jobs to fill in industries ranging from manufacturing and healthcare to business and finance. Texas community colleges will be the first stepping stones that connect students with these careers.

Though not all members of their alumni have become famous like Hanks, some have made their marks in their respective fields and are worth mentioning.

Among Victoria College’s graduates, newsman Jim Lehrer is perhaps the most recognizable.

Lehrer, the former host of “PBS NewsHour” who is well-known for moderating numerous presidential debates, was a 1986 recipient of the American Association of Community Colleges’ Outstanding Alumni Award. He graduated from Victoria College with an Associate of Arts before earning his journalism degree from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in 1956.

Lehrer has visited Victoria College for various events and speaking engagements. Most recently, he was the keynote speaker for the Korean War Conference in June 2010. He presented then-VC student James Soto with the Jim Lehrer Journalism Scholarship at the conference banquet.

He also established and continues to support the Jim Lehrer Endowment Honoring Charles Spurlin, the late VC history professor who was instrumental in initiating VC’s Lyceum Lecture Series. The endowment supports bringing journalists and historians to Victoria as a part of this series.

Lehrer's career in journalism has been recognized through numerous awards and honors, including several Emmys, the George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award, a William Allen White Foundation Award for Journalistic Merit, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism's Medal of Honor.

While Lehrer is just one example, there are hundreds more that show the impact Texas community colleges have had on the lives of their students, their communities and the state. More information about Texas community colleges and their importance to the Texas workforce, economy and higher education can be found at TxSuccess.com and TACC.org. TACC can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Published: Wednesday, 04 February 2015

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