The past and future of TCC Northwest stood shoulder-to-shoulder on May 5 at a ceremony dedicating two new buildings, but even as the celebrants looked to the future, they also looked back, gratefully, to a rich past.
The formal ribbon-cutting took place before an overflow audience in NW05, one of two new buildings along with NW01. Both are just a few steps away from the original campus buildings, still swaddled with scaffolding after damage from a windstorm in 2016 and destined for demolition over the next few months.
Campus President Zarina Blankenbaker took the lemons-to-lemonade view, noting that, had it not been for that windstorm, the present redevelopment program might never have happened. She cited an ancillary benefit to the campus family, saying it has “grown more flexible, more inventive, more willing to endure the present to reap the benefits of the future.”
The day had a special meeting for some. TCC Board President Teresa Ayala had been a Northwest student, as had Tarrant County Commissioner Manny Ramirez, one of the day’s speakers. Judith Carrier, the first vice president for student services, was on hand, as well as many present and former faculty and staff who had walked the halls for decades.
But perhaps the most special memories were those of TCC Trustee Gwendolyn Morrison who, as a 26-year-old making her first race for a position on the board, was present for that first campus dedication in 1976.
Chancellor Elva LeBlanc, also an important part of the Northwest legacy, having served as the second president had been on campus during the storm, shepherding people to safer locations. “It was a lot of fun,” she deadpanned. “You should have been there.”
But, turning serious, she praised the present faculty and staff for their “resilience, agility, and commitment to serving our students and community.”
The redeveloping project theme is “Building Futures,” and Ayala noted that TCC has been doing that even before the first campus opened in 1967. “The first Board of Trustees made it clear that all the funds they approved and all the policies they enacted were to provide the optimum place in which students would learn, thrive and take their places in our community,” she said. “We are here today because of the vision and efforts of the many men and women who have served on the board over the last 57 years. And I can assure you that the present board retains that vision.”
Northwest’s present journey from vision to reality has been a slow and methodical one of necessity since the older buildings and the new structures are basically sharing the same footprint. Faculty, staff and students have frequently had uncomfortable front-row seats but, as Blankenbaker said, have taken the nuisances in stride.
Indeed, they have been right there with the construction crews daily, taking note of each step forward. “We’ve had the opportunity to experience this from start to finish, brick by brick and nail by nail,” said Sammy Jepsen, Student Association president. “From the ground up we have created this symbol. These buildings signal a new, brighter future.”
But that future’s not here yet. While NW01 and NW05 are coming online, NW03 and NW04 still exist only on the drawing board, awaiting construction only after the original 1976 buildings are gone. “We’re not finished,” Blankenbaker said, “but we’ve rounded second and are heading for third and home.” The campus hopes to cross home plate in early 2026.
Toward the end of the ceremony, the concept of a stormy night in 2016 making way for a brighter future was captured eloquently when student Emmanuel Colon sang “Beautiful City” from the musical Godspell:
“Out of the ruins and rubble
Out of the smoke
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can, yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Brick by brick Heart by heart”
Ribbon-Cutting Photo Album: