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

TCC’s first chancellor dies at 100

Logan Evans
managing editor

Joe B. Rushing
Joe B. Rushing

Joe B. Rushing, founding TCC chancellor who managed the construction of three campuses, died Dec. 8 at his home in Lampasas. He was 100. 

“I, as a very young professional, had the opportunity to engage with Joe a few times,” Chancellor Eugene Giovannini said. “He was a wonderful human being.” 

Born in 1921, Rushing grew up in rural West Texas with his mother and grandparents after his father died when he was six. He served four years in World War II and received his master’s from East Texas State University. He went on to found Broward College in Florida before relocating to Fort Worth to build the newly founded Tarrant County College — then Tarrant County Junior College — in 1965. 

Former community relations director Don Newbury was one of the first hires Rushing made. He remembers the former chancellor as a personable leader. 

“I sat in hundreds of meetings with him,” Newbury said. “I think the two words that most describe him are adjectives he gave himself — incurable optimist. He dreamed of what could be and minimized what could not.” 

This was made clear to Newbury during TCC’s first spring semester. As community relations director, he was used to fielding strange calls and propositions for Rushing, but he wasn’t prepared when a young man called to ask “When is graduation commencement?” during the school’s first year. 

“We didn’t have a commencement scheduled,” Newbury said. “We didn’t think there were going to be any sophomores enrolled at TCC. It hadn’t occurred to anyone that we might have transfers.” 

Rushing and his faculty scrambled to put together a ceremony for the 1968 graduating class of one. The chancellor wore a robe and presented the student with a diploma in the South Campus student center. Newbury and other faculty members sat in the audience and watched over Dr. Pepper and crackers.

  “Dr. Rushing was always looking for the unique angle to things,” Newbury said. 

Rushing hired former vice chancellor Bill Lace in 1981. Lace remembers hearing about the work Rushing put in during his early days at TCC. 

“He built the college,” Lace said. “Just nose-to-the-grindstone work.” 

When the Board of Trustees voted to establish TCC in 1965, it planned to open a campus in just two years — a huge undertaking, Lace said. A consultant from the University of Texas at Austin suggested Rushing as the ideal candidate to manage the construction. 

“But there’s no way you’ll get him,” Lace said the consultant told the board. 

With some negotiating, Rushing was brought on shortly after. He worked through every step of construction, from hiring architects to buying toilet paper for the bathrooms. The two-year deadline was met. South Campus opened in 1967 to a class of 4,272 — the largest opening enrollment for a community college at the time.

Rushing made boundless efforts during his tenure to connect with a faculty that respected him, Lace said. Once in the 1970s, members of the NE art department requested a meeting with Rushing to discuss some concerns they had. To make himself relatable to the dressed-down artists of the 70s, Rushing arrived to the meeting in a turtleneck sweater. Everyone else arrived in suits and ties, having dressed up for Rushing. 

Rushing served 23 years as chancellor before retiring in 1988. He stayed involved with the college up until his death, keeping up with the school through phone calls with current faculty members. 

Lace remembers Rushing as a scholar and gentleman with a West Texas drawl and a razor-sharp mind. 

In a 2006 interview with The Collegian, Rushing said he considered his greatest accomplishment at TCC to have been  “surrounding myself with smart people and letting them do their jobs.”

Lace said while this is true to an extent, it sells short the hands-on role Rushing had as a leader who knew exactly what he wanted from those around him.

“He led by example,” Lace said. “He worked hard and dreamed big. He made those around him dream big.”

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