The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Professor shares military experiences

By Khanh Nguyen/reporter

Experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps influenced one SE computer science assistant professor’s perspective and teaching style, the war veteran told SE students Oct. 14.“Life is not a report card,” said Ernest Gines, a 2009 Chancellor’s Award honoree, during Untold Stories: Effects of War.

Growing up, Gines said he did not have much, and not much was expected of him.

“You can’t miss what you never had,” he said.

Gines was raised in New York City during the times and tension of the Cold War and even tougher racial politics that encouraged stereotypes.

Of Hispanic heritage, he said his parents did not graduate high school. They were not expected to, but Gines did and received his diploma in 1969. However, Gines said he knew college was not the path for him after high school.

Believing that college would entail a lifestyle of “routine — a lack of fulfillment” for him at the time, Gines worked for Blue Shield and then enlisted in the Marine Corps at precisely 1:53 a.m. on Aug. 25.

“Team cohesiveness” was appealing to the professor and, most importantly, “all are treated the same,” he said. “It did not matter where you came from or your skin color. Everyone had the opportunity to advance and earn his ranking.”

He volunteered, but the military then was filled with illiteracy (all brochures were written on a ninth-grade level) and was an option for criminals who did not want to serve their sentences in prison, he said.

Yet working together, it was a group of people with important responsibilities who fought and were ready to die for what they believed in. Gines said they formed bonds that no one else would understand.

His primary concern was “bringing the majority of my men home alive,” he said.

This same quintessential value of teamwork is required and enforced in his classroom today, Gines said.

Boot camp was an exercise in mental toughness that broke one down and reassembled him to learn to work and depend on others, Gines said. He advanced and earned his promotions at a quick pace because he was programmed that quitting was not an option. Although he later lost a battle with calculus in college, he knew he did his best and took away an experience he could live with.

Gines definitely did not join the Marines for the money — his paycheck was $124.50 a month, possibly another prophetic indication of his teaching career today. His career in the Corps came to completion after 30 years of service. Gines went to college for his bachelor’s degree and then attended graduate school.

Today, he has been teaching for more than a decade. His relationship with his students is strictly “mentor to mentee” and never “blind obedience,” he said.

He has earned his authority, but there is no trust between a teacher and his students if there is not room for clarification, Gines said. That was how it was when lives were at stake, he said.

“You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit,” he said.

Gines said he expects mental toughness out of his students.

SE student Blanca Barajas, who is bilingual and studying to be a language teacher, was inspired by Gines’ accomplishments as a minority.

“My family said they could not do it, but Professor Gines is living proof, and they are from the same generation,” she said. “It is double the challenge for me because my English is not as fluent as it could be, but that is not an excuse.”

This event was part of TCC’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

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