TJC Presidential Honors Scholarship Program will continue its legacy of attracting top talent as a result of historic gift
Tyler Junior College has received the largest gift in the College’s history as well as what is to be believed the most significant monetary gift from an individual to a Texas community college and largest gift to an institution or organization in the City of Tyler, TJC officials have announced.
The gift from the estate of Virginia and Jim Gatewood -- which, following Mrs. Gatewood’s passing in 2017, has resulted in the creation of the James F. and Virginia Hawkins Gatewood Memorial Fund at TJC -- will ensure the long-term support of the TJC Presidential Honors Scholarship Program, the College’s signature program for attracting academically talented student leaders from throughout East Texas.
In September 2012, TJC Chancellor and CEO Dr. Mike Metke held a meeting regarding his vision for the future of the honors program at TJC, expanding the existing program to a more robust program of civility and high-quality academic experiences for the best academically prepared students. The redesigned Presidential Honors Program began in fall 2013 and has grown to more than 300 students annually.
Presidential Honors Scholarships are awarded to deserving students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes. “We look for students who can demonstrate, through writing and involvement, exemplary cognitive skills, academic drive, curiosity and need to achieve,” said David Funk, Presidential Honors Program director.
Graduates of the program have gone on to achieve success at schools including Texas A&M’s Mays School of Business and aerospace design program as well as engineering, finance and mathematics programs at Baylor University, Sam Houston State University, Texas Christian University, Texas A&M, the University of Houston, UT Austin, UT Tyler and Whitworth College in Washington State.
“Mrs. Gatewood discovered that nothing so close could take young people so far in life. She loved seeing them develop their full potential and realized that her donations to TJC were incredibly cost effective. It was her desire to change lives now and forever and that’s what will happen through her generosity,” Metke said.
Over the years, the Gatewoods had contributed more than $775,000 to TJC, funding 10 endowed scholarships and numerous annual scholarships.
After Jim Gatewood’s death in 2001, Virginia Gatewood continued his legacy of giving to TJC and endowed several scholarships in honor of prominent individuals whom she and Jim admired, including: U.S. District Judge William Steger, Dr. Ben and Maytee Fisch, Patsy Clyde, James Wynne Jr., Mary John Spence, Dr. Harold Cameron and others.
“Jim and Virginia Gatewood were always faithful supporters of TJC students,” said Mitch Andrews, executive director of the TJC Foundation. “Prior to this gift, 126 students received scholarships as a direct result of their generosity. Even in Mrs. Gatewood’s final years, she was known for taking a personal interest in the scholarship recipients, often meeting with students in her home to learn about their lives, college experiences and plans for the future.”
In honor of her late husband’s love of gardening, she provided a significant gift in 2005 to create the Gatewood Garden located behind TJC’s iconic Jenkins Hall.
In 2010, when she was awarded TJC Alumni Association’s “Black and Gold Award” to recognize her generosity to the College, Mrs. Gatewood said she viewed the couple’s contributions to the TJC scholarship programs as “giving a helping hand so that others can help themselves.”
“The Gatewoods’ gift is largely designated for Presidential Honors scholarships and reflects their confidence in the quality education that students receive at TJC,” Andrews said. “We know our community realizes the value of TJC and we hope the Gatewoods’ gift to the Presidential Honors Program will encourage others to support TJC students as we seek to fund scholarships for the new TJC Promise.”
The TJC Promise is a distinct, “first of its kind” program for the region that guarantees scholarships to students within the College’s tax district who, during their freshman year in high school, commit to academic achievement, persistence and community service and maintain those standards throughout their high school years. The Promise program, by instilling a college-going culture early on, will impact the lives and futures of students and the East Texas community for generations to come. Contributions to the TJC Promise are establishing a dedicated endowed fund to support the Promise program. The fund will provide scholarships in perpetuity to students entering TJC beginning fall of 2020.
Established in 1926, Tyler Junior College is one of the largest community colleges in Texas, with more than 11,500 students enrolled per semester. For more than 90 years, TJC has embodied the true sense of the term “community college,” as reflected in its foundational promises to provide students with a quality education, a vibrant student life and opportunities for service to the community.
TJC offers more than 125 degree and certificate programs, plus extensive training and technical programs, and offers opportunities for students to transfer to a four-year institution or gain the skills they need to go directly into the workforce; and it is the only Texas community college to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene.
TJC features a 137-acre campus, rigorous academics, 58 national championships in athletics, stellar fine and performing arts programs; modern residential facilities, and organizations and clubs that reflect student diversity.
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program once again named TJC as one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges.