By ROBYN H. JIMENEZ
The Dallas Examiner
“Somebody said that it couldn’t be done.
But Jarvis, with a chuckle replied,
Maybe it couldn’t, but she would be one
who wouldn’t say so ‘til she tried.”
Deborah Mitchel, a member of the Jarvis Christian College Board of Trustees and 1986 alumni, began reading a poem during Jarvis Christian College’s 110 anniversary celebration.
She continued reading about the hard work and dedication of the school, though it was surrounded by doubters who scoffed at their attempts, then concluded the poem.
“With the lift of her chin and a bit of a grin,
without any doubting or quit it,
She started to sing, You can be none but great…
as she tacked the thing that couldn’t be done and she did it.”
She went on to tell the college’s graduating class that there will be thousands of people that will tell them they can’t achieve their goals, but if they buckle down and tackle them, they can do it.
The ceremony, held in the college’s chapel May 6, was also part of a planned announcement that Jarvis had become accredited as a university and would be changing the name to Jarvis Christian University. It was also shown live online.
Jarvis is a private Christian-based HBCU in Hawkins, founded in 1912. The four-year continuing education institution is accredited and offers associate and baccalaureate degrees in arts, business, science, social work and teaching. Through the years, the college has had a troubled past. It struggled financially for many years.
The campus’ older dormitories were reported to have poor plumbing and lacked adequate heating and air conditioning, according to some alumni. It’s newer living facilities had some plumbing and structural issues as well, according to former students and one parent who also had concerns about security and safety.
Through years of struggle, the college pushed to make improvements and growth, and has experienced many achievements. Moreover, it was in debt for at least $22 million from the building of its new dormitories, according to its leadership.
In 2017, it announced that it would open a satellite campus in Dallas at the Redbird Center Mall. The opening of the new location was announced Oct. 14, 2019.
“This is a very exciting time at Jarvis Christian College, where the rich heritage of the past is evident but where innovation and growth are inevitable,” said Dr. Lester C. Newman, JCC president, during the opening. “As a historically Black, liberal arts college, Jarvis is a family-oriented community, dedicated to developing innovative, servant leaders in various fields of study, and equipping them with the skills to make a tangible difference in their lives and in the lives of others, whether locally, nationally or globally.”
The Dallas location offered degree completion programs in areas of criminal justice, business administration and religion, as well as eight-week certification classes in medical billing, coding specialist, medical assisting and Microsoft Office in both online and classroom settings.
In January 2020, JCC senior Honour Adewumi made Jarvis history after writing two original peer-reviewed articles on breast cancer research that were published in The iMedPub Journal and The Journal of Bioresearch Communications.
In November 2021, the college partnered with Workforce Solutions East Texas to provide job training and employment assistance to the community – a service that’s not available throughout Wood County.
Lauryn Johnson, parliamentarian of the Student Government Association, biology major and a member of the 2022 graduating class, expressed the delight of the new name on behalf of the student organization.
“This year has been one with accomplishments and excitement as we continue to celebrate the 110 years of educating the head, heart and hand. We look forward to hearing the exciting news in today’s program as we look back on our history and look forward to an even brighter future. This event is significant because it shows us to always aim high. We should never be comfortable in one place. We should always strive for greatness. Thank you, Jarvis, for being that example for us,” stated Aaronese Wilcox, president of the SGA, biology major and a member of the 2022 graduating class.
The ceremony was filled with accolades from Christophe Trahan, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission; Dr. Benson Kariuki, dean of professional studies; Gwendolyn Winters, assistant vice president of the Office of Institutional Advancement and Development; Dr. Pruitt, vice president of Academic Affairs; messages from community leaders and many music performances by the JCC choir and band.
Before the actual unveiling, Newman took time to thank the various departments that took part in the work to make the new accreditation possible.
“It’s one thing to have a vision, but it takes a team to fulfill it …” he stated. “No one person can do it by him or herself.
“You know we had a thought about moving Jarvis to the next level. We put it on the table, but it took others to give life to it.”
He thanked the college’s business and criminal justice departments, as well as his cabinet members, for their work and commitment to the process. Though he highlighted the efforts of Cleopatra Allen, the Academic Affairs and Student Success administrator.
“Because somebody has to put this together …” Newman said. “Once the faculty put it together, then it had to meet our crediting standard. And Ms. Allen is that person responsible for doing the perspectives that got this through the process. Thank you, Ms. Allen.”
He talked briefly about the college’s progress, which began as Jarvis Christian Institute that only offered courses at the elementary level for Black children when it first opened. In 1904, it began offering high school courses – the only school in the area to do so at that time. It added college course in 1916, before offering junior college in 1927 and becoming incorporated as a college the next year. It began offering a senior college curriculum in 1937.
Jarvis became an affiliate of Texas Christin University in 1964, but the affiliation was terminated 12 years later. In 1966, it became a part of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which provide accreditation for degree-granting higher education institutions.
“But did you ever think that we would move to another level? God is good,” Newman’s statement was met with applause and cheers. “And we’re not over yet. We have more work to do, because we’re going to have more graduate programs coming forward, because we have that need in this community, we have the faculty and the staff that can do it, and we have a great board who’s very supportive.
“There’s a word that I want to throw out today that I want you to remember, because this is how I want us to define Jarvis Christian University, we are the ‘Communiversity.’ You got it? Communiversity …”
He explained that Jarvis was the university of its community, offering training opportunities in workforce development for community members, as well as associate degrees, undergraduate degrees and – as of May 7 – will begin offering graduate degrees.
Torry Edwards, chairman of the JCU Board of Trustees, introduced Terrell Councilman Grady Simpson. He said Simpson contacted him after learning that Jarvis’ university status to tell him that he would be the first in line to register for class and become part of the university’s first graduating class.
Edwards went on to discuss approval of close to $1 million toward campus improvements and growth. Furthermore, the college worked with the U.S. Department of Education to have the $22 million federal loan forgiven. Now, the university is working on a $25 million project to usher in growth to accommodate the needs of future students. He also stated the university would need additional partnerships to meet its expansion efforts.
“The last thing that I would like to mention, is that the Lord has His hand on this institution right now, right now,” he said. “And so, continue to pray as a greater community for great things to come for this institution of Jarvis Christian University.”
After announcing the change in signage at campus entry points, the university leadership held the official unveiling of the revised placards and logo. The ceremony ended as it began, with a prayer.
The next day, the university held its last graduation ceremony for Jarvis Christian College students.
The university is now set to begin offering master’s degrees in the spring of 2023.