This fall, our University Archives has created “Fall into Diversity: My Story,” an exhibit showcasing individuals involved with Texas Tech University whose stories were chronicled among our many, many oral histories. In their words:
“Everyone has a story to share, a perspective that helps better round out the history of a person, place or thing. For 60 years, the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library has conducted oral history interviews as a way of preserving people’s memories and views on a vast variety of subjects. ‘Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies,’ states the Oral History Association. As of 2016, the Southwest Collection has conducted over 6,500 interviews, recorded through a number of methods as technology has evolved. Many of these interviews feature Texas Tech-related faculty and alumni. This exhibit showcases a small sampling of the diverse interviews done over the past two decades.”
Stella Ruth Courtney Crockett (pictured above) was born on October 4, 1943, in Lubbock, Texas, and attended Dunbar High School. In the summer of 1961, after learning that Texas Tech would integrate, she was among a very small group of African Americans who decided to attend. Despite being accepted into the Texas Tech marching band, Stella found it a difficult task to be among the first to break a long-held barrier. For example, she enrolled in another section of a class because the first instructor used disparaging language toward her. Support from her family, church, and community helped her stay on course and she pointed to her mother’s encouraging words of “sticking it out” as a motivator. “It’s my right to be here. I deserve an education and I’m going to get it,” she recalled in her March 3, 2010, interview.
From the 2nd grade, Stella wanted to be a teacher. In May of 1965 she earned her bachelor’s degree and thus became the first African American to attend Lubbock schools from K-12, attend all undergraduate years at Texas Tech, and successfully graduate. Stella retired in June 2009 after 43 years of teaching.
Anita Carmona Harrison was born on February 17, 1944, in Lubbock. Following a tour of the Texas Technological College campus with her second grade teacher, Mrs. Billie Everton, Anita decided she wanted to attend and started a piggy bank fund. In the fall of 1963 she enrolled at Texas Tech. Of her college years she fondly recalls “meeting people from diverse backgrounds,” hanging out with friends in the SUB, and being taught once again by Dr. Everton, who had become a professor at Texas Tech.
In 1967 she graduated with a bachelor’s degree, went on to teach bilingual kindergarten classes and, in 1969, helped develop Lubbock ISD’s first Curriculum Guide for Bilingual Kindergarten. She continued to teach elementary school while raising two daughters and, in 1999, she retired from LISD after almost 30 years from public teaching.
Anita is recognized as the first Lubbock-born Latina to attend Lubbock schools from K-12, attend all undergraduate years at Texas Tech, and successfully graduate. She grew up in a very tight-knit family and has proudly shared stories of her childhood, family, and community in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and Latino Lubbock magazine. Her oral history interview was conducted on December 8, 2009.
Bernard A. Harris, Jr., was born on June 26, 1956. From ages 7 to 15 he lived with his mother on a Navajo Indian Reservation where she worked as a teacher. “She told me I could do anything,” he recalled in a 1995 University Daily interview, and it was under her positive influence that he dreamed he could reach the stars. “I knew I wanted to be an astronaut when I first saw human beings land on the moon.”
Bernard received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in 1978 and his medical degree from Texas Tech School of Medicine in 1982. His residency at the Mayo Clinic was completed in 1985, after which he worked with NASA where he completed a research fellowship in 1987 and training as a flight surgeon in 1988. On February 3, 1995, Bernard also became the first African American to walk in space.
After his stint as a scientist and flight surgeon with NASA, he went on to serve as a professor of medicine at several Texas universities, and on the Board of Regents at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. In his December 15, 1998, oral history interview Bernard expressed that he wanted to be known as a visionary or a dreamer.
Gary Stewart Elbow was born on November 15, 1938. He received his bachelor’s degree from Oregon State College in 1960 and his master’s degree from the University of Oregon. He came to Texas Tech in 1970 as an assistant geosciences professor and later earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburg in 1972.
In his many administrative and teaching roles over the course of 45 years at Texas Tech, Gary observed firsthand the changes the university underwent, most notably the battle over tenure and academic freedom when Texas Tech was censured by AAUP. He also saw the founding of an Honors College, where Gary continues to teach. He has held every position in the Faculty Senate and has worked for many years as a Marshall at graduation ceremonies.
In his June, 20, 2010, oral history interview, Gary reminisced about the university’s changing role under former President Grover Murray in the 1960s and 70s. “So this was an exciting place. Things were really hopping, and the idea at the time was that we were going to become more than just a regional university.” Without a doubt, Gary is one of the individuals who contributed to Texas Tech becoming a Tier One institution.
James C. Watkins was born on May 28, 1951. In a November 20, 2009, interview he shared how his grandmother and mother encouraged his artistic development by allowing him to use old calendars as drawing pads, and supported him taking “Draw Me” art correspondence courses. James continued his education by receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and his M.F.A. from Indiana University. He taught at Indiana University and Hampton University before coming to Texas Tech in 1983 as an assistant professor of architecture.
For over 30 years he has specialized in ceramics, particularly in the use of raku. He is a co-author of two books, Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques and Architectural Delineation, Presentation Techniques and Projects, and is the subject of a third book, A Meditation of Fire: The Art of James C. Watkins. In 2005 he became a Fulbright Scholar, and his contributions to the field of art were recognized at Texas Tech in 2006 with his promotion to the esteemed rank of Horn Professor. Examples of his work reside in the White House Collection of American Crafts, the Shigaraki Institute of Ceramic Studies in Japan, the Texas Tech University Public Art Collection, and have also been part of two different Smithsonian exhibits.
Lauro Fred Cavazos was born on January 4, 1927, on the King Ranch. He earned his B.A. and M.A. at Texas Tech University and a Ph.D. from Iowa State University. Lauro taught at the Medical College of Virginia and at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, where he was also Dean from 1975 to 1980, before returning to Texas Tech in 1980 to become its tenth president. He is the first Hispanic and first graduate of the university to hold the title of president.
A recognized expert in both the field of medicine and the field of education, Lauro’s accolades were numerous. Most prominently, on September 20, 1988, he was unanimously confirmed as Secretary of Education, making him the first Hispanic to serve in the U.S. Cabinet. He continued in that position until December of 1990. The TTU Board of Regents bestowed an honorary degree upon him in 2016.
Cavazos grew up attending segregated schools and was the child of a ranch foreman. In his January 25, 1991, interview Lauro discussed why it was important for Mexican American families to teach their children English and prepare them for school.
Those interested in the exhibit, “Fall into Diversity: My Story” are welcome to visit it from fall until spring at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library’s Coronelli Rotunda.