- Personal Protection
- Distinguished Alumni
- Faux Walls
- Cinco de Mayo
- Tin Man
- CNA Class
- Student of the Year
- Student of the Year
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: MYRNA WHITEHEAD
October 24, 2012 806-716-2212
SPC FOUNDING PRESIDENT HONORED
POSTHUMOUSLY BY BLINN COLLEGE ALUMNI
BRENHAM – Dr. Thomas Morris Spencer, Sr., the founding president of South Plains College, will be inducted posthumously into Blinn College’s Hall of Honor Oct. 27 during the college’s homecoming festivities.
Spencer served as president of Blinn College from 1947-57 before coming to Levelland to establish South Plains College. Spencer served as president of SPC from 1957-61. He left the college to found San Jacinto College, serving the college system in Pasadena from 1961-83.
“Dr. Spencer had a great vision of what a junior college should be,” said Earl Gerstenberger who was hired by Spencer to start the college’s agriculture program. “That vision, especially with the faculty, gave the college a good foundation to start on. He was well respected not only in Levelland, but statewide as well.”
Dr. Spencer is widely recognized as the father of the community college movement in Texas. He served 25 years as president of the Texas Public Junior College Association (TPJCA) and was president of the Association of Texas College and Universities.
“Dr. Spencer had a lot influence across the state and with the legislature,” said Gerstenberger. “People referred to him as Mr. Junior College.”
Gerstenberger who was recruited by Spencer to come to SPC from Blinn College in 1958 served 35 years at SPC and retired as vice president for student and administrative affairs in 1993. He and his wife, June, who worked at SPC for 22 years, will be attending the Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Blinn College this weekend at the invitation of the Spencer family. Both are alumni of the community college.
At South Plains College, Spencer oversaw the construction of the college’s original five buildings, hired the college’s original faculty and developed the educational program with the help of Nathan Tubb, college registrar; Clyde Prestwood, administrative dean; and Bob Burks, evening college director. The college opened September 15, 1958 and enrolled 536 students.
Sycily Lattimore remembers Spencer as “a big man with big ideas that he put to work.” Spencer hired Lattimore in 1959 to teach business at SPC. “Tom and Rachel Spencer brought a family aspect to the college that carried over after they left and is still a part of the college today. The wives and spouses of faculty members were just as involved in the college as all of us were during those early years,” Lattimore said. Lattimore taught 20 years of the college before retiring in 1979.
Spencer graduated from Denton High School at age 16 and received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. He was the first person to receive a Doctor of Education degree at the University of Houston in 1947. His dissertation on state systems of junior college education revealed a path for meeting the needs of countless people who were not served by public education at that time.
Both Sam Houston State and the University of Houston have named him a distinguished alumnus. Posthumously, Spencer received the Mirabeau B. Lamar Award for Leadership in Learning from the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities and his portrait hangs in the international headquarters of Phi Theta Kappa for his leadership in promoting the junior college honor society.
“As SPC celebrates its 55th year of operation, it is fitting to reflect and remember those individuals who pioneered the college and helped make it the great institution it is,” said Dr. Kelvin Sharp, president of SPC. “Dr. Spencer’s legacy here, at Blinn College and across the state of Texas deserves special recognition and we congratulate the Spencer family for this honor.”
Dr. Spencer and his late wife Rachel Bradham Spencer are both buried in the Levelland City Cemetery and are survived by their children Dr. Betty Spencer Von-Maszewski, Dr. Thomas M. Spencer, Jr., Ann Spencer Bragg and Jo Spencer Reid, seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Tom Spencer, Jr., received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from SPC in 1987.