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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

“I don’t think any of us will forget her.”

Toro mascot, Northeast Campus, NE
Jon Uzzel
Toro mascot, Northeast Campus, NE

By Jamil Oakford/ managing editor

Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley knew from the moment she was hired in 1968 that TCC was where she wanted to be. And after 47 years, the college never lost its luster.

Chancellor Hadley attends NE Campus’ orientation in 2011. Hadley is remembered as a champion for student success.
Chancellor Hadley attends NE Campus’ orientation in 2011. Hadley is remembered as a champion for student success.

“It’s like what I tell my co-workers, ‘You could find a place as good as TCC, but you’ll never find one better than TCC,’” she said in an interview with The Collegian in May.

Hadley died Oct. 1 leaving behind a legacy that can be felt through North Texas and beyond.

Districtwide, both current and former students as well as faculty are speaking about the woman who has led TCC since she was named interim chancellor in 2009.

“She is one of the smartest women I ever met in my life,” South vice president of continuing education services Gladys Emerson said.

Emerson is one staff member who knew her personally and found Hadley very down-to-earth.

“She was the rock star of community colleges,” she said. “She was so relatable. You could talk to her about anything, and she always told you the truth whether you wanted to hear it or not.”

Among employees who knew her personally, former chancellor Bill Lace found not only a fellow co-worker, but a friend in Hadley.

“She’s been my friend and colleague for 35 years,” he said. “I’m terribly saddened by this news.”

John Woods, Hadley’s divisional dean on NE Campus more than 40 years ago when she was first hired, was saddened to hear the news as well.

“She was such a wonderful person to work with,” he said.

Woods was also one of the people to recommend her for her first job downtown.

“After that, it was all up to her to go from a lower-level job to the chancellor,” he said. “We never got to talk much [after she became chancellor]. She was always so busy. But she was always very kind to me.”

The news has been difficult for Emerson to deal with, but she still finds strength in Hadley.

“I almost didn’t come to work, but I could hear her telling me, ‘It’s not about you. It’s about the students,’” Emerson said.

Students were a main focus for Hadley, creating initiatives with the intention to make student success easier to achieve.

“Everything she did whether you agreed or disagreed with her, looking at her, you could always tell what was at the forefront of her mind was what she thought was going to be best for students and their success and the success of the college as a whole,” NE legal assistant program professor Karen Silverberg said.

Hadley started a mentorship program for students to take part in titled the Chancellor’s Emerging Leaders. NE student Janaysha Brown met with Hadley several times throughout the semester.

“She always had such a warm smile and a generous heart,” she said. “And she cared so much for students.”

Danchees Ingram, a NE financial aid specialist, said she met Hadley at a work-study luncheon as a student.

“She shook every student’s hand and met us all personally,” she said. “She was so concerned with what I was doing as a student and even as a full-time employee years later.”

Ingram found Hadley’s speech that day inspiring.

“To see someone who looks like you on such a grand stage say you can do it really made the difference. I not only graduated, but now I work for TCC, and I’m not sure if I would have made it this far without that first encounter with Hadley.”

Hadley was also known as a visionary, someone who constantly thought of new ways to achieve the goals given to her by the board or herself.

“It’s a really tragic loss for Tarrant County College,” TR academic affairs vice president Bryan Stewart said. “She’s been an agent for change forever.”

After working closely with Hadley to open TR, Stewart believes the impact of her death will be felt greatly.

“It’s a great loss. I don’t think any of us will forget her,” he said.

But Hadley’s legacy is not just bound to TCC. With connections throughout Tarrant County, organizations and people outside of TCC remembered her too.

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, told the Star- Telegram that he admired her accomplishments and her groundedness.

“The fact that even after she made it very high up in TCC, she still stayed in the same neighborhood,” he said. “The community was very proud of her.”

United Way released a statement referencing her long-standing relationship with its organization and her impact on its community.

“Here at United Way, Erma will be remembered as a tireless volunteer who put her concern for the community into action as a United Way leader,” the organization said.

Hadley served as chair of the United Way Marketing Committee in 1991 to help it reach broader demographics in the community.

The University of Texas at Arlington president Vistasp M. Karbhari also worked with Hadley and spoke in a letter about her relationship to the university.

“Chancellor Hadley was a remarkable higher education leader and an incredible partner to us at UTA,” he said.

Karbhari also said that UTA is grateful to the partnership she helped build between the two higher education institutions to assist TCC graduates and transfers in receiving four-year degrees.

“We mourn her passing and will be recommitting ourselves to the tasks at hand and to the initiatives she started and championed for students to ensure her legacy endures,” he said.

But while the public success will be the legacy Hadley leaves behind, some faculty and staff will remember her personally.

NE registrar Brian Barrett knew Hadley as a family friend.

“My father and her were very close,” he said. “And many people didn’t see her personal side because it was always business on campus as it should be often. But away from TCC, she loved her family, friends. She loved to entertain, make people feel welcome in her home.”
Lace, who’s known Hadley for 35 years, will miss his friend. He also believes that the college was enriched and far better off having Hadley a part of it.

“She had just given us so much,” he said. “She has thrown so much of her life into TCC and her family. We would be much, much poorer for not having Erma around.”

— Samuel Medina, Brandy Voirin and Audrey Werth also contributed to this story.

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