VC was foundation for longtime educators

Tripsons2 Former Victoria College students Joye and Robert Tripson devoted a combined 53 years of their lives to education.

A nudge was all it took to change Robert Tripson’s life forever.

Tripson was back home in Victoria attending Victoria College for two semesters before resuming his studies at Texas Lutheran University when his mother informed him of a young lady in her church choir.

“She said there was this pretty school teacher I needed to meet,” Robert recalled. “When we were at church, Joye walked by us and my mom bumped my arm and said, ‘That’s her.’ ”

Robert soon took his mother’s advice and gave Joye a phone call.

“I asked her, ‘Have you already eaten?’ and she said, ‘Well, yeah, it’s 9 p.m.’ ” Robert said. “Then I asked her, ‘Well, do you want to go watch me eat?’ She said, Yes.’ ”

Joye Oliver also said “Yes” in December 1964 when they became husband and wife. Joye, who also attended Victoria College, and Robert went on to serve a combined 53 years as educators in the Victoria Independent School District. Robert made his mark by becoming the all-time winningest baseball coach at Victoria High School by compiling a 301-184-2 record. He was inducted into the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011.

Joye’s family moved to Victoria from Jasper in 1953.

“My daddy managed movie theaters, so if there was a better job, we moved,” said Joye, whose father was the general manager of Frels Theaters.

There wasn’t much of a decision to be made about Joye’s college destination after she graduated from Victoria High School in 1959.

“One of the reasons my dad liked his job here in Victoria was because of Victoria College,” Joye said. “He came home one day with brochures about Victoria and saw it had a college. There was also the Victoria fine arts program. He said, ‘You know, this could be a really good place.’ ”

Joye, who was a first-generation college student, was amazed when she received a choir scholarship from VC music instructor Ruth Williams.

“That just bowled me over,” Joye said. “I was not in the choir at Victoria High School. Ruth was the choir director at First Methodist Church where I sang. I get emotional about it to this day. It was very special.”

Joye participated in Victoria College’s choir, dance team, the Saberettes, and the Methodist Student Movement. She said the environment at VC helped her overcome some academic challenges.

“My strength was in making relationships,” Joye said. “I was not the best student, but I think God gave me the gift to build relationships. I was able to utilize that gift at Victoria College and grow from that. I enjoyed the camaraderie at VC. There was a closeness in the student body.”

Joye received her degree in 1963 from then-Southwest Texas Teachers College in San Marcos and immediately began her 30-year teaching career at Smith Elementary School.

Robert returned home to Victoria during the Fall of 1962 after struggling academically at Texas Lutheran University for two years. He enrolled at Victoria College and took six hours of classes in the fall and six more the following spring.

“I can say that at Victoria College, I learned to study,” said Robert, who attended TLU on a baseball scholarship. “I had gone to Texas Lutheran, but was really only there for baseball. I told my coach at TLU that it would be great if I could just go there and play baseball. But he told me that going to class was part of the deal.”

Robert credited two of his VC instructors, Esther Etzel and Charles Spurlin, for helping him get over the academic hump.

“I was beginning to grow up a little bit,” Robert said. “Ms. Etzel was the kind of teacher who took a personal interest in you. She was always encouraging me, and Mr. Spurlin was the same way. They taught me how to study. I started doing well and all of a sudden began to like school. My GPA went up from then on.

“Joye also told me she wouldn’t marry me unless I finished school, so there was a little fear in my head.”

Robert, who would later return to TLU and obtain a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, discovered his life’s calling when he and a fellow Victoria College classmate, David Campbell, went to Riverside Stadium to watch a Victoria High School baseball game.

“During about the fifth inning, I told David, ‘See that guy over in the third-base coaching box? I think I could do that for a living,’ ” Robert recalled.

Robert’s coaching career began in Falfurrias in 1966. Three years later, he accepted the head baseball coaching position at Victoria High. During his 17-year tenure as head coach of the Stingarees, Tripson mentored seven players who would later play professional baseball, including former major leaguers Mike Macha, Allan Ramirez, Ron Gant and Kevin Coffman.

Joye and Robert said they are thankful for Victoria College’s transformations of their lives and value to the Crossroads.

“Victoria College is a jewel for this region,” Robert said. “If you just show up and apply what you learn here, you’re going to do more than well.”