Dallas bids farewell to a 'gentle giant,' Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr.

Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr  e
Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr

Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr., former chancellor of Dallas County Community College, local minister and educator died July 1 at his home. He was 85.

Between 2007 and 2014, he served as the DCCCD chancellor. He was the first African American to be appointed as the district’s chancellor.

During his time as chancellor, he oversaw a $450 million bond election, which resulted in the construction of 29 buildings including five new community education campuses.

“Dr. Lassiter served many students and employees at DCCCD for over 25 years. His leadership is a testament to his commitment to a higher education for all,” said DCCCD Board Chairwoman Diana Flores. “He often spoke with a quiet eloquence. We are saddened to learn of his passing, and the DCCCD board offers condolences to his family.”

Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Lassiter received a bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State University, a master’s degree from Indiana University, and a doctorate in education from Auburn University.

For decades, Lassiter served as an educator at colleges like Tuskegee University and Morgan State University, before moving in 1983 to Dallas and becoming the president at Bishop College, now Paul Quinn College.

He went on to serve as president of El Centro College for 20 years.

Dr. Jose Adames, president of El Centro College, said he was deeply saddened by the news of Lassiter’s death.

“Early on in my presidency, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Lassiter. He appeared to be a kind and wise soul who graciously shared with me some of his wealth of experience. I will forever be grateful,” he said.

Trustee Charletta Compton recalled Lassiter as a “dedicated leader who championed worthy causes.”

“I first met Dr. Lassiter when I worked at the Dallas Black Chamber where he chaired the Education Committee,” Compton said. “He did an outstanding job as president of El Centro College, and worked well with the board when he was chancellor. I am sorry to hear that he has passed, but I know that he led a full and active life. My prayers go out to his family.”

Lassiter was the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

In 2002, he was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as a member of the National Advisory Council to the National Endowment for the Humanities. He previously served as a commissioner for the United States Commission of Minority Business Development and as a member of the Texas Council for the Humanities.

In 2006, BKM Total Office of Texas, a Dallas-based furnishing company, established the Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr. BKM scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to students attending any of the seven DCCCD colleges who are majoring in entrepreneurship studies and other disciplines.

In 2013, the early college high school at El Centro College, a Dallas ISD program, was renamed in his honor as The Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School.

Calling him “the Campus Gentle Giant,” Laura Allen offered condolences and prayers of comfort on a legacy website.

“He was always approachable by the students. He shared a wealth of wisdom and encouraged students and myself to ‘always do your best work.’ It was such an honor to have met him,” she expressed.

Lassiter retired in 2014 but continued to serve as a graduate school faculty member at Dallas Baptist University. An ordained minister, he taught at Concord Baptist Church and was an interim pastor at St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

In 2016, he received the national Leadership Award from the American Association of Community Colleges.

A lifelong learner, Lassiter was the author of several books.

“We all live in the spirit of hope and service that was the trademark of Dr. Lassiter’s life. He lived by example. He was larger than life, yet he lived with humility. He taught us how to serve our students with passion and focus,” said Dr. Joe May, DCCCD chancellor. “We will carry on his legacy of teaching, leading and ensuring that higher education is accessible to all.”

He is survived by his wife, Demetria Lassiter, two adult children and two grandchildren. His first wife, Bessie Lassiter, died in 2014.

His funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Concord Church, located at 6808 Pastor Bailey Drive.

“It was an inspiration to know Dr. Lassiter,” Trustee Wesley Jameson. “His legacy of insightful analysis and intuitive perceptions that he shared with others are a testament to his life’s work. He was a gifted orator who motivated thousands of individuals studying leadership skills. Not only will be he missed for his leadership qualities, but also for his ethics and kindness.”

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