Golden Girl: ‘Queen of Alumni’ Betty Briggs announces spring retirement

Dec 14, 2012 by

For the past 15 years, Betty Briggs has led one of most active alumni associations among the nation’s two-year colleges. She’s been the face of alumni activities at TJC and has been at the center of the growth of the TJC Alumni Association.

So, it seemed only appropriate that when she announced her pending retirement during the alumni awards luncheon in October, she was bestowed with a crown.

After all, Betty has been the Queen of Alumni since she joined the office in 1994. The first at TJC to hold a full-time alumni support position, Betty has been the mainstay of the many alumni events held at TJC and across the country.

She’s been at the helm as the College worked to improve its database of former students and encouraged alumni to establish chapters where they live. The College now has alumni chapters in Tyler, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles and New York City.

Under Betty’s direction, membership in the TJC Alumni Association has grown to more than 1,800 and dues have helped establish one Presidential scholarship, two Legacy scholarships, two Dean’s scholarships, one endowed and two Top Ten scholarships.

Pictured at a TJC Apaches football game in Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, from left, are: Dr. James A. Smith, Betty Briggs, Vice Admiral (Ret.) Howard Greer, Emma Lou Prater and Kenneth Prater.

Pictured at a TJC Apaches football game in Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, from left, are: Dr. James A. Smith, Betty Briggs, Vice Admiral (Ret.) Howard Greer, Emma Lou Prater and Kenneth Prater.

“With the assistance of a hard-working alumni board and our alumni office coordinator Nicole Durham, we have built a strong, supportive and engaged alumni association and an accurate database,” Briggs said. “In 1997 there were approximately 300 ‘paid’ members of the alumni association. There was not a dedicated focus on the alumni or building a strong association. I attribute then-TJC President Dr. William Crowe with having the foresight to hire the first full-time alumni director who was given the opportunity to totally focus on former students, building the alumni database, alumni office, membership and assisting the dedicated alumni association board of directors in achieving its goals.”

Alumni activities are carried out with the help of up to 13 STARs (Students To Alumni Representatives), students who receive semester stipends. Former students may join, update contact information or make connection with classmates and other resources online at www.tjc.edu/alumni.

When it comes to alumni connections, TJC is – as it is in so many other ways – the envy of other two-year colleges. In fact, the Tyler Junior College Alumni Association was recognized in 2011 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) as the best low-cost alumni program among two-year and four-year institutions of higher education.

Dr. Kim Russell, TJC vice president for advancement and external affairs, said, “TJC was ahead of its national counterparts when it began to focus on initiatives for former students. Community colleges nationwide are just realizing the importance of alumni relations, and, due to Betty’s dedication, our program is now positioned as a leader.”

Many TJC alumni have stronger feelings for the College than they do for their four-year colleges or universities. No wonder Briggs proclaims that she has “the best job” and works for the “nation’s best college.”

“The affinity groups have a lot to do with it,” she said. “Our college is the whole package, just like our three promises: a quality education, a vibrant student life and community service.”

Former students of Tyler Junior College recognize that special connection, which has resulted in significant growth for the association, including special “Gold” groups that support specific areas of study or extracurricular programs.
Briggs moved to Tyler in 1981 after her husband’s position was transferred. One visit to Tyler was convincing enough to choose Tyler over other options across the country.

She was encouraged to take classes for pleasure at TJC and had her sights set on tennis and art. When those didn’t work with her schedule, she enrolled in history and English. “It didn’t take long and I was hooked. I enjoyed learning and my professors were so encouraging,” she said.

She would attend classes after taking her kids to school and study after they’d gone to bed. Before long, Briggs had enough hours to graduate and faculty encouraged her to continue her studies at The University of Texas at Tyler. Longtime TJC professor and administrator Eddie Fowler helped her find a scholarship and she completed not only her bachelor’s degree but a master’s from UT Tyler.

“The UT Tyler Alumni Association awarded me Student of the Year and gave me a three-year free alumni membership and asked me to serve on their alumni board.” She served on the board; and when a similar position became available at TJC, she jumped at the opportunity.

“Betty has done an excellent job because she likes people, she gets along with everyone, she’s devoted and she loves what she’s doing,” said Emma Lou Prater, the 2012 Special Recognition Award honoree and former TJC activities director.
Prater’s confidence in Betty is echoed by Nancy Lunceford, who was instrumental in her selection as TJC director of alumni relations.

“One of the best things I have ever done was to serve on a committee interviewing candidates for the position of alumni director,” Lunceford said. “It was all over for the other applicants, once we talked to Betty Briggs. She was the one we needed, and what a job she has done!”

Betty will retire from TJC in March to spend more time traveling and spending time with friends and family, especially her granddaughters; Kelsey, 16; Rylee, 9, Kyleigh, 13; and Reagan, 9.

She’ll miss the fellowship with other TJC alumni, but says she plans to return to alumni events and enjoy them from the participant perspective.

“As we all know, TJC is not your average junior college,” she said. “It is actually like no other two-year college in the nation. So many alumni say, when they think of their college days, they think of TJC. I am certainly one of them. I would not have my three degrees if not for TJC, nor would I have the best job in the world.”


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Alumni, Fall 2012

About the author

Fred Peters is the Director of Public Affairs at Tyler Junior College. He can be reached at 903-510-2627 or at fpet@tjc.edu