Building of a College through the Eyes of a Secretary By Mavis Brumbelow
(Note: This article was first published in Western Texas College’s Tenth Anniversary Special tabloid in the Fall of 1979.)
Never one to be intimidated by the unfamiliar, Mavis Brumbelow demonstrated both courage and confidence when she accepted a job offer in late 1969: courage to take a job with a brand-new college and confidence that that brand-new college was going to thrive. She was the first person to be hired by the Board of Trustees of the newly organized Western Texas College, and on December 1, 1969, she began her duties as administrative assistant. Brumbelow was the College’s only employee until the late Dr. Robert L. Clinton assumed his duties as the first president on April 1, 1970.
During her twenty-seven years with the college, she served as administrative assistant to three presidents: Dr. Clinton, Dr. Don Newberry, and Dr. Harry L. Krenek, but her wealth of knowledge and capable assistance were available to everyone on campus. Brumbelow retired on May 3, 1997.
Western Texas College recognized Brumbelow by placing a marker in recognition of her service on the Walk of Honor that lines the south campus walkway.
I have never thought too much about being a participant in a history-making event until a friend remarked to me the “in the beginning, there was Mavis.” Of course, there was a note of joviality in the remark, but nevertheless there is, to some degree, a bit of truth in the statement. Let me explain.
On Nov. 22, 1969, some five months after my family and I moved to Snyder from Waco, the citizens of Scurry County went to the polls to cast their votes to determine whether a junior college would be established in this area. Being a newcomer to Snyder, I was not qualified to vote; however, I followed the news with great interest and, along with many hundreds of citizens, was overjoyed at the election returns of a walloping ten to one victory for the “yeas”. At last Scurry County would have its long-awaited junior college.
I did not realize at that time what lay in store for me or the very small role I would play in the unfolding of this particular chapter in Scurry County history. For approximately 18 years prior to moving to Snyder I had worked as a “civil servant” under the employ of the United States Air Force (Air Training Command, Flying Training Air Force, Tactical Air Command and Headquarters, Twelfth Air Force). Seeking outside employment since moving to Snyder had just been a fleeting thought for several reasons, one being the scarcity of job openings, and the other being that I had never been employed by civilians – only military. However, fate, or whatever you wish to call it, sometimes takes a hand in determining a person’s decisions and ultimate actions.
Shortly after the election an article on the front page of the Snyder Daily News caught my attention. The new junior college was soliciting part-time secretarial help. I began to give serious consideration to applying for the job. However, I felt that, being relatively new to Snyder, my chances were practically nil at being employed in such a capacity, even temporarily. Not being very brave or adventurous, it took a great deal of courage to pick up the phone and call city hall and ask for an interview. As well as I can remember, I talked to Mr. George Patterson; he suggested that I come in for an interview with Mr. M.L. Broman. An appointment was scheduled for the next day.
I felt a sense of apprehension as I began to put my thoughts down on paper and list my qualifications and experiences in the business world. I knew I had done a good job while employed by the Air Force, but my work, for the most part, had been specialized rather than secretarial. I convinced myself, however, that if I could handle the entire awards and decorations program for the Twelfth Air Force, surely I could perform satisfactorily as a secretary. So the next day with my “TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN” letter in my purse, off I went to meet with Mr. Patterson and Mr. Broman.
Sitting across the desk from Mr. Patterson, with Mr. Broman on my right, I waited and watched to get an indication of their impression of me and my application. As to my application, I had attached an outstanding performance award recommendation from the Air Force as evidence of my job proficiency. Suddenly, I wished I hadn’t, for I didn’t know how a person unfamiliar with Air Force procedures would take to such a display of verbosity. Mr. Patterson sat quietly perusing “lo those many pages” and then handed the package to Mr. Broman. After a short discussion and a few questions, they advised me that the job was mine, but they were very explicit in pointing out that the job was strictly temporary, only two or three months at the most. (However, I thought to myself that, possibly if I worked hard and proved capable, maybe, just maybe, there would be a chance for full-time employment, at least in some capacity.) I was told to report for work on Monday morning, Dec. 8.
During the initial interview, Mr. Broman pointed out that one of my responsibilities would be taking minutes at board meetings. This was all right, because I had been through the “trial by fire” while under government employment. However, I was dubious, as my shorthand had become rusty from lack of use, but I felt that with practice I could once again become proficient. So, back to the textbooks and pen and paper – all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday into the wee morning hours.
At last, Monday came. I had been told that the office would be located temporarily in the basement of Snyder Savings and Loan. So, I proceeded to my new temporary job. Alas, the building was locked! I had visions of Mr. Broman waiting at another location, pacing the floor, wondering where his new secretary could be. Not knowing what else to do, I waited in the car, taking advantage of every minute to continue the “condensed shorthand cramming course”. I knew I was to take minutes at a board of trustee meeting that night. At last, Mr. Broman arrived (a full one-half minute after eight). I felt as if I had already put in a full day’s work.
After opening the door to the Snyder Savings and Loan building and proceeding down two flights of stairs, we arrived at the office of the Scurry County Junior College District, an office (and I use that word with reservations) consisting of one borrowed desk, a borrowed typing chair and a borrowed typewriter. No supplies, “no nothing”, that was it! The junior college office was now open for business, but what kind of business, I had no idea. It was here that I began my series of “firsts” for what is now known as Western Texas College, and in the months ahead I continued to accumulate a list of “firsts” such as the first letter, first phone, first architectural applications, first applications from individuals interested in the presidency, and letters from local citizens, quoting prices for possible land sites on which to construct the college.
My first 8-to-5 day ended and I proceeded to my first board meeting. I don’t believe Daniel could have been more apprehensive than I as I walked into the room at the Snyder Public School administration building where the board was to meet. Seated around a table were seven distinguished-looking men with not one familiar face or name, except for Mr. Patterson and Mr. Broman, whom I had just recently met. I was introduced to the group, a group of men I subsequently learned to know and hold in high regard, namely Dr. Robert H. Hargrove, vice-president; William H. Wilson, W.A. Jones, R.C. Patton and Edwin Parks – and later Bentley Baize, who filled the spot left vacant upon the resignation of Mr. Broman.
The meeting opened with a prayer, which was led by Mr. Patton. I was touched by his sincerity and told my husband later that night that surely such a group of men could not help but accomplish the gigantic task they had set out to achieve. This particular meeting remains a highlight in my memory, primarily because it was so different from what I had experienced in Air Force staff meeting – truly a modern equivalent to the proverbial “lion’s den”. These meetings, which were held in a sound-proof, windowless room, were made up of two or three generals, and 20 to 25 colonels. The walls were covered with maps, charts, photographs and other information peculiar to Air Force activities, especially as pertained to Tactical Air Command and its mission. Among this ostentatious gathering of high –ranking officers would be one lone secretary – me! Many times, as I sat in that room taking notes, I toyed with the idea of playing faint just to be excused, but I never had the nerve. (At times it might not have been “play-like”. It would have been the real thing.) Actually, when you come right down to is, I was afraid to faint and afraid not to. Now, when I compare the two meetings, I can readily see why I was so impressed with the group of men who comprised the first college board of trustees.
It seems I was busy from the first day. Quite a few people have asked, “What was there to do?” But unless a person is involved, he cannot possibly know what goes into starting a junior college from “scratch.” Actually, I know very little on this subject; the board has the answer, and even to this day, nearly three years later, I stand in amazement at what this group has accomplished.
Interviews were soon conducted to find our college’s first president. I knew none of those who had applied for the position. Even Robert L. Clinton was a stranger to me. He was employed on Dec. 20, 1969, and was to begin work full-time in April, 1970. After the news was made public, I heard many good things about Bob Clinton, a man for whom I hold such high regard, not only as a gentleman, but as an able administrator.
The next step was to find an architect. Many, many late hours were spent in conducting interviews and viewing slide presentations. At last, Parker-Croston Associates, a firm from Fort Worth, was chosen. They then began an intensive investigation of all the proposed land sites. They selected the site on which the college now stands. It was donated by Mrs. Jonisue Stiff. Later, the college was named Western Texas College.
Work, work, work! I had now been employed full-time as secretary to Dr. Clinton, leaving my temporary status behind. Maybe Mr. Broman said a few good words in my behalf. At any rate, I tried hard and am still trying.
April 1970 was a big month. More permanent “temporary” quarters had been located, namely office space in the Standard Building at 37th Street and Avenue S (Now known as College Avenue). Our inventory had increased considerably. We had acquired another borrowed desk, filing cabinet, table, Xerox machine and additional office supplies. It was at this point that WTC experienced another first. GREAT DAY!!! MOVING DAY!!! Our “treasures” were packed carefully in boxed and placed in the trunk of my car and in the back seat. Furniture and other miscellaneous accumulations would have to be moved some other way, but how was the $64 question. Would you believe the move was made in a city dump truck? I could not help laughing to myself as we formed a procession and drove slowly and cautiously from the SS&L building to our new home, where we would spend many busy months until the campus was ready, hopefully, in August, 1971.
In April Dr. Clinton arrived. I thought I had been busy before, but I was living under a delusion. Dr. Clinton is a bundle of unboundless energy and enthusiasm. His enthusiasm and zeal are contagious. Under his leadership seemingly insurmountable obstacles were overcome and made to seem routine. I can truthfully say that working for President Clinton has been one of the highlights of my business career.
Each day brought new challenges, new responsibilities, new decisions. The days were not long enough to take care of the hundreds of details, all vitally essential to the successful accomplishment of the goal ahead: the establishment of a new junior college, a goal seemingly just out of reach over the horizon. The need for additional personnel was becoming increasingly more evident. Selection of a dean and business manager was next on the agenda.
In August, 1970, Dr. Ben Brock joined WTC as dean. Mr. Rex Hopkins was employed as the business manager. In my opinion, no more qualified person could have been selected to fill the dean’s position. Dr. Brock and Dr. Clinton make an outstanding team, one which is hard to equal, much less surpass. Working for Dr. Brock is another highlight in my life and I consider myself fortunate to be associated with these men. Mr. Hopkins had had previous experience as a college business manager and faculty member. In his quiet, unpretentious manner, he began little by little, to get the business office into workable order. From a one-man operation, the business office now consists of six people.
In September, 1970, Mitzy Grey and Sherry Ragland, high school seniors participating in the Snyder Public School’s distributive education program, were employed to assist with the ever-increasing clerical workload. One worked mornings, the other afternoons. They have since time graduated from high school, attended WTC as students, married and are now full-time employees.
In November, 1970, ground was broken at the college site. During my short stay in Snyder, there had not been a colder more disagreeable day. The weather took no pity on the group which assembled on that gusty hill one mile south of Cogdell center on Round Top Road. In spite of the cold, a large number of proud and devoted citizens gathered around the dignitaries shivering with cold on the speaker’s platform. Rep. George Mahon, a congressman from the 27th district, was the guest speaker; his wife was present, also Mrs. Jonisue Stiff, along with local dignitaries, administration, the Board of Trustees and news media from the surrounding area. Cameras clicked, recordings were made and, as usual at public gatherings of this sort, the public address system was most uncooperative. It would shriek and whistle; the volume would be low then high, and the wind would catch the sound and carry echoes throughout the countryside. (I say countryside because where we were standing was nothing but a mesquite/yucca patch.) Shivering with cold and teeth chattering, we listened to Mr. Mahon. I was impressed, but could not help but feel a sense of relief when the last “amen” was said. I kept thinking about how it would feel to be warm again. Foolishly, I had not dressed warmly enough for the occasion, for I had not realized just how cold a West Texas wind could be, vicious and impartial as to the recipient of its wrath. We were cold; maybe a more appropriate word would be “frozen”. But come wind, hail, sleet or snow, we had our groundbreaking and amid the flurry of reporters, citizens, and dignitaries, history was made. Ground was finally broken for Western Texas College and at last construction would begin.
The results of many months and years of labor were soon to unfold before our very eyes. Round Top Road (Previously used, I presume, as a farm-to-market road) became alive with the movement of cars and trucks, all loaded with building supplies – all headed for the college site.
You have heard the saying, “Now in the meantime, back at the store” – well, paperwork and administrative matters were being carried out from behind to scenes, so to speak. Applications for faculty employment began to arrive, literally by the hundreds. Also, applications began to arrive in nearly as large a number from individuals seeking secretarial employment.
In January, 1971, Gene Robertson began his duties as director of occupational-technical training; Mrs. Juanda Howell was employed to assist Mr. Hopkins in the business office and Mrs. Bootie Williams was employed to work for Mr. Robertson. Then came Jerry Baird as counselor, Dr. Duane Hood as registrar, Norma Greenlee as his secretary and others too numerous to mention. The rapid increase in personnel is indicative of the vast amount of paperwork and administrative details involved. Actually, I am amazed at what has been accomplished in such a relatively short time. The credit goes, primarily, to the board, Dr. Clinton, Dr. Brock, and Mr. Hopkins. The rest of us followed in their footsteps. This group of men spent literally untold hundreds of hours in this “labor of love” – the creation of Western Texas College.
As time passed, the faculty was employed. September, 1971 arrived but the campus was not yet ready for occupancy. Therefore, suitable classroom space was located in several church buildings, and a vacant public school building. Homes for out-of-town students were also located. Finally, the great day arrived and students were enrolled – 649, in fact. At last an educational institution was begun in Snyder for the benefit of the citizens of Scurry County and the surrounding area.
Since that day, many events of interest could be listed, which would take many pages of narration; however, I must mention Dedication Day, April 18th, 1972, and the completion of the first phase of WTC’s building program.
Again and appropriately so, George Mahon was the featured speaker. The weather was more considerate on this day. Clouds, rain, and wind which had plagued the area for several days prior to dedication faded away, leaving a clear, blue sky with sunshine filtering down on the audience assembled around the Sentell Memorial Stage in the central courtyard of the campus. During the ceremony, as the Lord’s Prayer was played on the Sears carillon system, I could not help shedding tears of joy, relief, and fatigue. Too, I felt a sense of great pride in having a small part in the culmination of this dream. I was proud, too, for the men who had given so much of themselves during the past two and one-half years, working and looking forward to this day. Their dream had become a reality.
The dream has not ended – it continues. Great things are in store for Western Texas College and for the people who make up its very being: trustees, administration, faculty, staff, and students.
Indeed, what has happened is now history past, but history is still in the making. Dreams do come true.