The Spirit of Apacheland

Feb 14, 2017 by

Belles-in-car-originalOn September 17,1926, TJC officially opened its doors  in Tyler High School, with 93 students and nine faculty members. Nine students were in the first graduating class.

TJC gave residents of the Tyler area access to quality higher education, offering limited courses in traditional liberal arts and pragmatic courses in public school music and home economics.

Early on, the school established student activities, clubs and traditions that have become hallmarks of TJC spirit and pride.

In its first year, the school formed the drama club, Las Mascaras, the oldest continuous student organization, and approved campus activities, including football, men’s and women’s basketball and an outdoor recreation club.

In 1927, the College published its first campus newsletter, the Apache Pow Wow, and in 1930 chartered the Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, one of the oldest national honor society chapters in the nation.

In the 1930s, as the country struggled through the Great Depression, TJC enrolled only 200 students. However, the prosperity of the 1940s signaled major changes. In 1945, Tyler voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to create a junior college district and issued $500,000 in bonds for the College to have a campus of its own. The expansion included additional full-time faculty members and would lead to new facilities, including the iconic building on Fifth Street, eventually known as Jenkins Hall. Its growth came at an appropriate time for local residents and for many veterans who returned to Tyler to seek new opportunities, realizing that those opportunities were linked to higher education.

Comedian Bob Hope and Apache Belle Jane King go  nose-to-nose during a rehearsal at Texas Stadium in 1972. Photo courtesy of Jane King

Comedian Bob Hope and Apache Belle Jane King go
nose-to-nose during a rehearsal at Texas Stadium in 1972.
Photo courtesy of Jane King

Activities and groups that define the College today took shape. In 1946, the TJC choir, originally called the Singing Apaches, began. A year later, both the Apache Belles and Apache Band were formed. The Rim March of the Belles and Band at home football games in Rose Stadium and the Drum Beat – initially a 24-hour vigil that eventually became a constant beat from Monday morning of Homecoming Week until kickoff of Saturday’s football game – have been revered traditions since 1948.

Since its “rebirth” in the 1940s, TJC has continued to expand. The Tyler Junior College District is now composed of six independent school districts, including Chapel Hill, Grand Saline, Lindale, Tyler, Van and Winona.

Today, after 90 years, Tyler Junior College offers more courses in any single major division than were offered in the entire curriculum in 1926.

Just as the courses have diversified, so has the TJC student body. The College now has an enrollment of approximately 11,500 students each fall semester and provides continuing education to some 8,000 individuals each year.

And the spirit of Apacheland lives on.


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