People across Texas are remembering a woman who rose from racial segregation in East Texas to becoming one of the state's leading educators.
Tarrant County College confirmed Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley died Thursday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. Funeral arrangements are pending.
"The Tarrant County College family is deeply saddened by the passing of our energetic leader and career educator. Chancellor Hadley was a founding faculty member of the College, beginning her career with us in 1968. She was chosen by the Board of Trustees in March 2010, to serve as the fourth Chancellor of TCC," TCC said in a statement.
Hadley was TCC's first woman and first black chancellor. In a video biography aired on KERA, public television, Hadley recounted being the first black to graduate high school in Leggett, Texas in 1959.
In 1968, she began teaching on the campus of TCC (then Tarrant County Junior College).
"I was teaching on the northeast campus and as you might guess, students were a little bit taken aback when they came into the classroom to see my black face," said Hadley on the KERA video. "I was having the time of my life because I was teaching so much more than what my subject matter was. I was teaching them about black people. I was teaching them about getting along and learning about people of different cultures. And my students were very receptive so we had a love affair going on."
TCC said the college had unprecedented enrollment increases and student successes under Hadley's leadership.
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"Erma was laser-focused on the students we serve. Every decision she made was driven by her deep desire to provide access to higher education for our community and for that education to pave a path to success in today’s workforce. We will miss her terribly and I personally have lost a dear friend," TCC said.
The current General Counsel and Vice Chancellor of Administration for Tarrant County College, Angela Robinson, will lead TCC until the TCC Board of Trustees meets.