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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

NW’s original president dies

By Jamil Oakford/ editor-in-chief

NW founding president Michael Saenz poses next to the plaque outside of the Michael Saenz Conference Center in 2006. Special to The Collegian
NW founding president Michael Saenz poses next to the plaque outside of the Michael Saenz Conference Center in 2006.
Special to The Collegian

NW Campus’ founding president Michael Saenz died Nov. 3 in Fort Worth.

Just nine days after his 91st birthday, Saenz leaves behind a legacy on his campus and among his former colleagues.

“He did a lot to establish the culture of collaboration and supporting each other,” NW president Elva LeBlanc said.

She said the tone Saenz set is something that remains at NW today.

“We started in the community because the building for NW wasn’t complete,” said Joe Rode, NW student development services vice president. “We actually started our classes at Castleberry and Boswell high schools. From that day forward, we’ve been to help the community. We’ve been family-oriented and welcoming to strangers.”

Saenz was the first NW president when the campus opened in 1976. For the last 40 years, the campus has grown and added specializations in aviation and technology as well as a fire academy.

During his time as campus president, Saenz earned a warm reputation that preceded him with prospective faculty.

“I was told he was a very astute interviewer,” said former TR Campus president Tahita Fulkerson, who once taught on NW under Saenz. “That made me nervous.”

She said by the time she made it to Saenz’s office and shook his hand, she wasn’t a bundle of nerves anymore.

“At the end [of the interview], he said, ‘I want you to know that I’ll value what you do in the classroom,’” Fulkerson said. “He said, ‘I want you to make me proud, but I also want you to make your family proud.’”

Fulkerson, who was also a founding president, found inspiration in Saenz’s style of administration and tried to develop TR similarly.

“He set a model for us,” she said. “Working alongside him, I learned a different style of administration.”

Many people considered Saenz the person who brought the feeling of family and connectedness.

NW sciences divisional dean Janice Smith said Saenz kept everyone together.

“He created a family of instructors that deeply care about each other,” she said.

NW administrative assistant Ruth Gonzalez agreed with that sentiment.

“He embraced the TCC family motto,” she said. “He meant it when he said bring your families, bring your kids to the parties.”

The news of Saenz’s passing was met with the same feeling: sadness.

“It was odd,” Rode said. “Earlier that day, several of us were talking about him and wondering how he was doing. And then we got the news.”

NW math associate professor Edna Greenwood was taken aback as well.

“I was surprised because I didn’t know he was in poor health,” she said.

And poor health was something that many didn’t equate with the personable campus president.

Leaving his hometown in Laredo, Saenz enrolled at Texas Christian University. His family had no means of helping him attend. He wasn’t sure how he would pay for it, but he was determined.

LeBlanc hopes that students now can look at Saenz’s life and take notes from it.

“You can have a very modest beginning and still be successful,” she said.

Greenwood hopes students can recognize Saenz for his legacy.

“I think as a founding president at NW, his name is pretty synonymous with the campus,” she said. “I think this campus is his legacy.”

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