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

TR Campus’ founding president retires

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By Audrey Werth/tr news editor

Although she originally planned to stay at TCC a few years and move to a university, TR Campus’ founding president, Tahita Fulkerson, has retired after more than 34 years with the college.

Fulkerson feels now is the right time to move her focus onto other opportunities she and her husband would like to pursue, like travel and volunteerism.

“I’ll always be interested in TCC,” she said, “but I think I’ve done what matters most to me and that is to start the campus in a direction that supports the people who work here, the students who come here.”

Tahita Fulkerson celebrates her 34 years with TCC. Photo by Audrey Werth/The Collegian
Tahita Fulkerson celebrates her 34 years with TCC.
Photo by Audrey Werth/The Collegian

Sean Madison, who is replacing Fulkerson as president, has experience as an associate professor of English, department chair and dean of academic and student affairs at Miami Dade College. Most recently, he served as president of Broward College’s Judson A. Samuel South Campus for five years.

Fulkerson also began her career in English, starting out as an adjunct on South.

“I fell in love with TCC students,” she said. “The students were so amazing to me. They had obligations, but the overwhelming majority wanted what education would give them. I was convinced that I didn’t want to teach at a university. I would stay with TCC.”

Shortly after making this decision, Fulkerson became a full-time instructor on NW. Later, she returned to South as a department chair only to go back to NW as a divisional dean.

When SE Campus was opened, then-president Judith Carrier asked Fulkerson to join that campus as founding dean of humanities and student services.

After a few years there, she moved to the district office as dean of instruction and accreditation services.

At the time Chancellor Leonardo de la Garza asked Fulkerson to be president, she was working on his staff at the May Owen Center, preparing for the new campus to open.

There, she was responsible for facilitating conversations between the architects and designers of the downtown campus and coordinating what programs would be moved to the new campus.

“We got it all together and then he asked me if I would be the president,” Fulkerson said. “I was shocked because I hadn’t had that as a goal, but it happened, and it’s been terrific.”

Though the offer to be TR president was unexpected, Fulkerson decided she had to accept.

“It was important for me to do because I knew from my years in the classroom that students respond to authentic caring,” she said.

Sue Milner, a longtime colleague and friend of Fulkerson, said she was confidential about the appointment.

“She can always keep a secret,” Milner said. “We went to dinner the night before, and she didn’t divulge that she was going to be introduced the next day as the president.”

Milner and Fulkerson both began teaching English on NW Campus during the early ’80s.

“We would go to these university English conventions that kind of looked down on the junior colleges,” Milner
said. “She was very outspoken about how we teach the freshman English that university professors don’t want to teach.”
Sharon Maxwell, who worked with Fulkerson as her secretary for 15 years, witnessed her compassion toward students.
“I’ve watched students come in with situations ranging from life issues to health and school issues, distraught and needing to resolve them,” Maxwell said. “She would talk to them, and by the time they left her office, they had good guidance and a sense of direction.”

Fulkerson said she is leaving at a time when she still enjoys everyone she works with and can still do the job, but she is glad to let someone new step in.

As TR president, Fulkerson had certain hallmarks she wanted to emphasize.

She had every member of the faculty and staff read Inside the Magic Kingdom, a story about the successful customer service practices of Disney.

“We used that as a way to make certain, first of all, that we were all on the same page with how we would talk with people and how we would greet people,” she said.

It was important to her that students felt administrators and instructors had their interests in mind.

“We agreed for example that we would not just give directions by pointing,” she said. “Whenever it was possible, we would walk people where they were going so that they wouldn’t get lost. We’d have a chance to talk to them, and they would have a chance to see that we mean it when we say we want to serve students.”

Fulkerson has committed herself throughout her career to education and doesn’t plan to give that up with retirement.
“I can still be wholehearted about education, but in different ways,” she said. “I cannot imagine any other work I would have enjoyed more than this. I like seeing students grow and succeed. It’s thrilling to me.

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