Hill College

History of Hill College

The Beginning

They say it’s a visionary who plants a tree when he knows he won’t live long enough to sit in its shade. The same could be said of the farsighted leaders of Hill County in the 1920s who wanted to invest in higher education. They had an uphill battle with aginers who were quite vocal. The plan was impractical, they said, fearing the college would go bust and all their hard-earned dollars would be wasted.

John G. Read

John G. Read

In all fairness, these folks were just being practical. They weren’t an entire generation removed from the pioneers who first carved homesteads out of the rolling hills of North Texas. They were hard-working sodbusters … cotton farmers and ranchers, most of them, who weren’t highly educated. Pressing issues for them were more on the survival level: Weather, fire, disease, water, crop prices … College just wasn’t a top priority.

Notwithstanding, Hillsboro became an early adopter in the statewide junior college movement. Hillsboro Junior College would be one of the first public junior colleges in Texas when it was established in 1923. Its humble first session began with six faculty members and 52 students. In all, 87 students were officially enrolled that first year for at least one term. They enjoyed an impressive new building and overwhelming community support. By 1927, Hill Junior College’s facilities were considered state of the art, and its campus was highly desired for conferences.

What changed the voters’ minds? Taxpayers were brought to see how a junior college could strengthen their community and help their children achieve a better life. Advocates realized that many taxpayers were envisioning an expensive, multi-structure college. So, they toned down the rhetoric, pitching instead the idea of simply extending high school two more years. That idea seemed much more practical and affordable to many voters.

One champion was J.C. Butts, editor of the Hillsboro Evening Mirror. Although he also printed opposing views, his editorials strongly endorsed the initiative of John G. Read, president of the Board of Education for the Hillsboro Independent School District, and A.M. Frazier, an active member of the board. From as early as 1919, Read contemplated and even discussed the possibility of a junior college in Hill County. Soon he and others were presenting the idea to the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the ladies’ study clubs and the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored open public forums on the topic.

Finally, a bond issue of $25,000 was proposed and City Council called an election for April 5, 1921.

The day before the election, the Hillsboro Mirror used its front page for a lengthy argument in favor of the college, written by A.W. Young. He argued that the junior college would be of tremendous benefit to local young men and women by giving them better preparation for life and that it would have great cultural value to the community. He also made an economic argument: “the addition of two grades to our High School would be a splendid investment financially. It would bring to us as permanent citizens many families who are seeking a location in some small city with first class educational advantages.” The bond passed 295 to 225. Construction was delayed due to slow sale of the bonds, but they did eventually sell.

Hillsboro's Central High School, which burned in 1922

Hillsboro’s Central High School, which burned in 1922

What happened next was totally unexpected, though. The high school burned down April 6, 1922. The townsfolk were in shock that just when they were about to take such a big step forward, they were thrown for such a huge loss. High school classes had to be worked into the schedule at the elementary school, and the daunting task of rebuilding was begun.

As is often the case, opportunity arose from the ashes of catastrophe. The city had to pass another building bond, this one for $80,000; but now they and the HISD could pool resources to build the ideal structure for their joint high school/junior college. And upon that foundation they applied further vision, which became exemplary throughout the United States. By 1927, they had adopted a system of five elementary grades, then four and four, which was unique and recognized throughout the nation.

That grand building served as many as 500 students in its prime, and continued to serve the community until 1999 when, due to the need for cost-prohibitive repairs, it was vacated in favor of modern school buildings. But it remains an awe-inspiring edifice in the 300 block of E. Walnut for all to see and gain inspiration.

An historic landmark on Walnut St.

An historic landmark on Walnut St.

The first year, tuition was $100 … for the entire year. That generated enough revenue to maintain and operate the college.

Sources:

Faulk, Odie B. “Hill College: An Illustrated History” Hill College Press 1996

The Evening Mirror, Hillsboro, TX, various issues 1922-23

Helm, Willie, “History of the College,” The Guiador 1928, a Hillsboro Junior College student publication.

Thompson, J.R., “The Story of the Public Schools of Hill County and a Review of the Texas System,” 2nd Ed., J.R. Thompson 1936

Little, Fay M., “History of Hillsboro Junior College,” Master of Arts Thesis, Baylor University, 1964

The Early Years

The early years of Hillsboro Junior College in the 1920s, 30s and 40s were great ones: the first municipal junior college in Texas, an innovative public education system which combined high school and junior college, a campus that was sought out for conferences, and a state champion football team. These were among its many notable achievements. HJC’s most illustrious ex-student from the period was Bob Bullock, 1947-48, who went on to lead the state of Texas as a member of the House of Representatives and ultimately the 38th lieutenant governor of Texas.

Bullock3BWBob Bullock

Two graduates from the late 1940’s recently reflected on their experience at Hillsboro Junior College. Dr. Ray Dean Carroll, who played on the 1947 state championship football team and Sarah Harvey Wilkinson, the 1948 valedictorian and yearbook editor, both credited HJC for their success.

Harvey-Correct“We were young,” Hillsboro native Wilkinson said. “Most of us girls had skipped a grade because the state went to a 12-year system. So, we were 16-years-old and we got thrown in with boys coming back from the war.”

“We were apples ready for the picking,” she quipped, adding that they had a lot of fun but also worked hard.

“It was a small school, so we were a very close group. The instruction was excellent,” said Wilkinson, who went on to graduate from Baylor University.

Carroll came to HJC from Italy, Tex. He had just returned from the Navy when he was recruited to play football for the college.Carroll

“We showed up but the coach said they had a low budget and didn’t have enough uniforms,” Carroll said. But, within a day or so enough players had dropped off the team for Carroll and his friends to suit up and play.

He was frank about the ups and downs of the team: 1947 was a bad year because they played some big teams. A more realistic schedule in 1948 allowed them to win the state junior college championship and go to the Junior Sugar Bowl in Louisiana. But there they took a beating, Carroll said.

“… not just on the scoreboard … We got pretty beaten up physically. I got a broken nose out of it,” he said, remarking on how much helmets have improved the safety of the game.

Carroll credited excellent academics at HJC for his success at Texas A&M’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“We were all born poor, country kids. Hillsboro Junior College gave us our start,” he said. “We thought we were living high on the hog.”

Those were glory days at HJC. Little did the students know that the college was having financial problems and would close within two years of their departure.

The opening of Hillsboro Junior College in 1923 had not been smooth sailing. Opponents feared the worst. In fact, the high school and college were combined into one building, so that if the college failed, Hillsboro would still have a nice high school. But, once the college did open on September 10, 1923, the opposition faded away. Hillsboro Junior College truly became the focal point of the community and a model for higher education.

The faculty for the first year was made up of six members and the total enrollment including the summer school was 129. All operating costs were covered with a $100-per-year tuition, various scholarships were established, and the work was fully accredited by the State Department of Education. The year ended with the awarding of diplomas to three college graduates.

The reason three students graduated from the two-year college after only one year was because of the accreditation process. Before giving its official recognition, the State Department of Education required a library of at least 2000 volumes and also required the college to offer a full two years of instruction in the first year. To do that, Hill Junior College had to actually have second-year students enrolled. Four qualified students, all women, were found who were willing to take the time and expense to enable the junior college to meet that requirement.

Hillsboro Jr. College 2nd President W.F. DoughtyHillsboro Junior College’s second president, W.F. Doughty

            The college maintained steady growth during the 30s and met all of its financial obligations, even during the Great Depression. By 1933, it reached a peak enrollment of 212 students in the regular term and 110 in the summer. The popular college football team was a casualty that year, being discontinued for financial reasons. However, it was reinstated in 1935. Football wasn’t the only extracurricular activity to go and come. The Choral Club, established in 1923, was discontinued in 1928. But by 1934, it was back. Likewise, the Orchestra stopped out in 1931, then the College Ensemble was organized in 1937.

HillCollege19280002

Home economics was added to the curriculum in 1934, and teacher education came online in 1935. Pre-professional courses in medicine, law, engineering and business administration were listed for the first time in the 1929-1930 catalog. By the fall of 1940 the college received a government contract for a Civil Pilot Training program. And so enrollment grew. By the 1939-40 academic year, 335 students were enrolled in the long term and 75 in the summer.  And by 1940-41, a total of 82 students graduated in that year.

Technical courses were first introduced in 1945, along with the GI Bill, to provide vocational training for returning soldiers. The very first was cabinet making, but soon after came automotive, welding, aeronautics (ground school), and others. In fact, the junior college soon became known as Hill College and Vocational Institute.

El Guiador

Student housing was also made available for the first time in the 40’s, for athletes and married students, with portable military surplus buildings, called Quonset Huts. However, most students lived in Hillsboro or area hometowns, and commuted.

Each year until 1992, the students of Hillsboro Junior College published a yearbook, copies of which can be found in the college library. These volumes contain many details of college life “back in the day.” The high school and college were combined in one book until 1947. The first, published in 1924, was known as The Pioneer. Then it became El Guiador, which is Spanish for guide or director, a character who was illustrated as a dashing gentleman.

Toward the end of the 1940s, Hillsboro Junior College fell on financial hard times. In 1949, a public vote to create a county college failed by 200 votes. As a last-ditch effort, the school board and other supporters in 1950 presented voters with four propositions to sustain the college: Create a junior college district, elect seven trustees, issue bonds not to exceed $390,000, and levy a tax not to exceed 20 cents per $100 property evaluation.

Although the voters overwhelmingly favored the seven trustees, they turned down the three funding propositions. So, the Board of Education for the Hillsboro Independent School District voted on July 18, 1950, to discontinue the Hillsboro Junior College on August 31, 1950.

But, as we all know, that was not the end. The story will continue next month.

Sources:

Faulk, Odie B. “Hill College: An Illustrated History” Hill College Press 1996

The Evening Mirror, Hillsboro, TX, various issues 1922-23

Helm, Willie, “History of the College,” The Guiador 1928, a Hillsboro Junior College student publication.

Thompson, J.R., “The Story of the Public Schools of Hill County and a Review of the Texas System,” 2nd Ed., J.R. Thompson 1936

Little, Fay M., “History of Hillsboro Junior College,” Master of Arts Thesis, Baylor University, 1964

A New Beginning

The story of Hill College is like the mythological Phoenix that rose from the ashes. Financial problems closed its doors in 1950, but the college re-opened in 1962 with help from friends in high places and an enthusiastic community.

It would take two years to build the college’s first three buildings, the gymnasium, dressing rooms and the academic building. So students didn’t begin on the current campus on the Hill until 1964. For the first two years, classes were held in the National Guard Armory on Highway 22.

Bill Galiga, currently vice president of the Hill College board of regents, was one of the first students when the college reopened. He had just returned from Japan, where he was stationed in the Marine Corp.

“My mother wrote me about the college starting back up. It was there when I needed it, and it didn’t cost much,” Galiga said. Actually, it ended up costing even less than he expected, because when he went to pay his bill, Galiga found that his grandfather had already paid it for him. He later transferred to Southern Methodist University and finished at UT Arlington.

His uncle, P.T. “Pug” Galiga, was a very successful football coach in Hillsboro, who later returned as superintendent of schools and was a major advocate for the junior college.

Two current employees at Hill College were also students in the armory days. Mary Ann Schneider (Mary Ann Coutret)and Dee Crosby (Delores Sessums) recall the great fellowship among the students, faculty and staff in those early days, and hold fond memories of learning in one big hall.

The classrooms were separated cubicles. And Schneider recalls that students played ping pong in the central part of the hall, which was very distracting for those in class, especially when loose balls came bouncing into the classroom. Crosby recalled how interested area universities were in Hill Junior College students. She said they often sent performing arts groups or athletic teams over to show off what they had to offer.

Angie Vail taught business as a member of the small faculty that reopened the college. She remembers the library being in what also served as the shooting range of the arsenal. Every Friday, she said, the students had to move the furniture off to the side so reservists could use the shooting range on the weekends.

She recalls the move to the Hill. “We moved ourselves,” Vail said. “Many of the kids had pickups. Unfortunately, it rained during the move and the parking lots were not paved. So, we had a wrecker standing by to pull out anyone who got stuck.”

One other memory she has is of the cafeteria, which also shared the same building. She said the cooks made great food, and pies, and everyone was always ready for lunch because the smelled the food cooking all morning.

Vail

Angie Vail

It was State Senator Crawford Martin, a graduate of the old Hillsboro Junior College, who made it possible for the city to reopen its college. Martin had attached an amendment to a bill in order to allow inactive junior colleges to start back up. Through the local newspaper, The Daily Mirror, he let the citizens know that if they acted promptly they could reopen the college without approval from the city, county or state.

The voters would have to approve a bond issue to construct a building for the college. In return, there was a promise of state funding of about $275 per student, once all this was accomplished to the satisfaction of the State Board of Education.

Again, the newspaper played a huge role in getting this initiative off the ground, along with support from women’s and business groups. Supporters figured if 200 students enrolled per year, then with the state support and $100 tuition from each student, the tax burden to local citizens would amount to only 30 cents per person annually.

And so the resurrection began, with arguments much like those used to establish the original college in 1923: 1) It would keep young people in Hillsboro longer, 2) It would be far less expensive than going away to college, 3) It was a form of industry that would bring more money to Hillsboro, 4) It would provide college education for those who could not otherwise afford it, and 5) It was an amenity that would attract young people and families to Hillsboro.

Pug Galiga, who in 1959 was superintendent of schools in Hillsboro, wrote a persuasive editorial:

“In 1926, when times were hard and money scarce, Hillsboro Junior College afforded me the opportunity to go to school. This would have been impossible otherwise …

“In my opinion the loss of Hillsboro Junior College was the loss of one of our greatest assets. If the people of this community could afford the return of the junior college, it could mean more than any industrial development that we might get.”

This time the school systems of surrounding communities were invited to participate. This was partly because their help was needed. The population of Hill County had dropped significantly since the college was last in operation from 31,152 in 1950 to 23,650 in 1960. But also, the other communities would benefit: Records showed that in 1950 only 27 percent of Hillsboro College students were from Hillsboro. 60% came from other parts of the county, and 13% were from out of state. These numbers also supported the claim that operation of the college would bring revenue to Hillsboro.

So, the junior college district was established with six independent school districts: Abbott, Bynum, Covington, Itasca, Hillsboro and Whitney.

The Hill College emblem, or logo, from 1962 featured four squares which represented the six founding school districts.

 Scan 25

That first year, 185 students enrolled. By 1964, that number had grown to 489. And by 1965, it was 733. So, expectations were met and the stage was set for even more growth on the Hill.

The land for the current Hillsboro campus was purchased in 1962 for $26,895. It was about 74 acres on the hill overlooking the Highway 35 bypass, between Highway 22 and the Old Brandon Road. The first three structures that formed the original campus – the academic building, the gymnasium and the physical education dressing room – were built for about $348,000.

First-year curriculum included a full range of academic courses, along with shorthand, basic electronics, Spanish, agriculture and Bible history. In the second year, they added French, drama and physical education, among other courses. The curricula satisfied transfer requirements for several bachelors degree programs, as well as teaching, pre-law, pre-pharmacy, nursing and other fields. Hill Junior College also offered one and two-year terminal programs in a variety of fields, particularly business.

Intercollegiate athletics also were part of the startup program. Hill fielded teams in basketball, golf, tennis and track. It also offered an intramural program which included badminton, bowling, table tennis, touch football and volleyball.

The first graduating class of Hill Junior College was comprised of six students from five cities in the area. They were Patty Royal and Mary Alla Swinscoe of Hillsboro; George T. Boswell of Fort Worth; Bill Schroeder of West; Emma Lee Miles of Cleburne; and Glenda Mercer of Waco.

Sources:

Faulk, Odie B. “Hill College: An Illustrated History” Hill College Press 1996

The Evening Mirror, Hillsboro, TX, various issues

Little, Fay M., “History of Hillsboro Junior College,” Master of Arts Thesis, Baylor University, 1964

The College on the Hill

Once Hill College reopened in 1961, it experienced ups and downs in enrollment. By 1967, nine bus routes were running to bring students from Waco, Itasca, Cleburne,  … That year, 136 students were from Waco versus only 96 from Hillsboro. Those in the district rode free, but everyone else had to fork over $25 per month for the ride.

_telegram

Official telegrams of congratulations from Lyndon B. Johnson and Price Daniel.

            Marvin Wiekman got his books free in return for driving one of those buses. He lived in Cranfills Gap, west of Meridian, where he had attended a school system with only about 150 students, total, in grades K-12. At Hill College, some of his classes had 50 or 60 students. It was culture shock, but he loved it.

            “I thought I was pretty good in math, but I found out different,” Wiekman said, explaining that the curriculum was rigorous, but the faculty was friendly and helpful. He never completed his planned engineering degree, but he still learned skills he used for a lifetime.

marvin

Marvin Wiekman from his 1969 Rebel Yearbook

            He remembers long days at Hill College, leaving Cranfills Gap at 6 a.m. to make stops in Clifton and Meridian. He had to have everyone to class by 8 a.m. Then, he had to stay until 5 or 6 p.m. until all his riders completed their classes.  Tuesdays and Thursdays were especially long days because he had only two hours of classes,; but Wiekman would do homework, shoot pool or make friends in the cafeteria. Some nights his group would stay late to enjoy basketball games, but only if everyone on the bus agreed to stay.

            A decline in enrollment followed rapid growth in the 60s, attributed to creation of more junior colleges throughout Texas. So, gone were the students from Waco and other outlying areas. But despite the decline from a high of 731 students in 1965 to 452 in 1979, the college continued to grow in other ways. In fact, by 1977, administrators planned Hill College’s first dormitory. Bailey Dorm would house 60 men and 44 women in the 52-room co-educational complex.

            A sole complaint people had was that its location, directly west of the administration building, blocked the view from the Hill where townfolks would often gather to watch weather systems building up in the west. But that awesome view is still available today from other points on the Hill.

            Full accreditation in 1963 by the Junior College Division of the Texas Education Agency was one reason enrollment grew during that period. Hill also made an application for accreditation to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools then.

            In that year, they were still trying to get out of the armory, where classes were taught since the college reopened in 1961. The hot months were all but unbearable, especially for summer school when classes started early and were concluded by 10:30 a.m. to beat the heat.

            The move to the new campus was delayed many times … by a union strike; delays installing water, sewage and gas lines; and by weather. The hoped-for move-in day of February 1, 1964 came and went. But the gym was finished in time for its first basketball game on February 10 … Just barely. The last bleachers were bolted into place at 6:30 p.m., the doors opened at 6:45, and a crowd quickly filled the 600 seats … and more. The Rebels beat Fort Worth Christian College 83 to 59.

            The highlights of the 60s, 70s and 80s included construction of the Hillsboro campus, development of technical programs and expansion into Johnson County. In 1963, the faculty totaled 17, including Col. Harold B. Simpson, founder of the Texas Memorial Museum, who arrived still in his Air Force uniform. He had two master’s degrees, had taught history at the University of Maryland, and had written two books. Even after he completed his doctorate, Simpson was always addressed as “Colonel.”

            He established a Civil War Round Table Club, of which Paul Harvey, Jr., served as president. Harvey is noteworthy as the only person in the history of the college to have been a student, regent and faculty member.

            Other faculty members from the 60s included a sociologist who was said to have lived a “hippy” lifestyle in a travel trailer by Lake Whitney, and read Shakespeare from books he refused to return to the library … An accomplished Dallas-area actress who had taught at the college level in North Carolina … A music director who had taught at Trinity University with a doctorate from Southwestern Conservatory of Music … And an engineer who 30 years later was still in shock over the pay cut he took to teach at a community college. But he stayed more than 30 years.

            Dwight Lloyd, who currently serves on Hill College’s Board of Regents, attended the college in the Fall of 1973. “I was more interested in getting on with business … and hot rods,” he said in explanation of not continuing his education. But he went on to build a successful business and values the contribution Hill College made to his life and still makes to the community. “It has to be the biggest economic generator in Hill County. I think a lot of people take it for granted, but if it went away they would sure miss it.”

dwight

Dwight Lloyd in recent years as a member of the Hill College Board of Regents

            Dwight had a job and paid for college himself. “It was very affordable. And that is still true today. Hill College is a great resource for our young people.”  Dwight said he knew what he wanted to do since he was 14. So he took some business courses, then went to work and today owns a Ford dealership. His brother Larry was quite a bit more committed to the college experience. Enrolling five years later, Larry was in the band and the Confederate Rifles, sponsored by Col. Simpson.

Jazz Band

The Hill College Jazz Band in 1980 with Phil Lowe, center, and Larry Lloyd, front row, third from left with the saxophone

            He said, the activities during the year included posting uniformed honor guards at various college functions, culminating with the Audie Murphy Shoot-off, a black-powder marksmanship competition held every year during in the Spring. According to Dwight, Larry won that contest more than once.

            Band with Phil Lowe was always fun, he said. “We enjoyed giving Mr. Lowe a hard time. Many times the entire band would prank him. During his count-off before a musical number, we would all take a deep breath on “4” and just not play the first note, making him stumble from the podium, “ Larry said. A highlight of every year was playing the State Fair of Texas, which is one of many traditions that continue to this day.

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A primary source for this article was Faulk, Odie B. “Hill College: An Illustrated History” Hill College Press 1996