That sound you heard emanating from the campus around noon on Friday, May 5, was a collective exhalation of relief — mixed with elation and satisfaction — on the part of dozens of faculty, staff and students who made up the Northwest Ribbon Cutting Planning Team.
The ceremony took place before an overflow audience in NW05, one of two new buildings along with NW01, and it was a time when people looked forward with anticipation and also looked backward with nostalgia.
Indeed, Northwest’s past had played a large, though unwelcome role. It was the structural damage to the campus from a fierce windstorm in 2016, President Zarina Blankenbaker said, that made the entire campus redevelopment project possible. “It was a magnificent opportunity,” she said, “to lead the redevelopment from the ground up.”
Chancellor Elva LeBlanc, who was Northwest president at the time, knew all about that storm, having spent some anxious hours shepherding people to safe quarters. And she saluted campus leadership, saying, “It has taken a team to get to this point, and I’d like to thank the administrative leadership for their resilience, agility and commitment to serving our students and community.”
Two of the day’s speakers, Tarrant County Commissioner Manny Ramirez and TCC Board of Trustees President Teresa Ayala, spoke proudly of having attended Northwest as students. She also cited the efforts of the men and women who had served as trustees over the decades. “Our theme for the redevelopment is ‘Building Futures,'” she said. “And 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,” she said.
One of those trustees was Dr. Gwendolyn Morrison, TCC’s longest-serving board member. Morrison, at age 26, had attended the original campus dedication in 1976 as a candidate for election. “Everybody was very nice,” she recalled. “I remember meeting Michael Saenz, the president, and the Walsh family who had donated the land for the campus. It was all very exciting.
At length, when all the speeches were done and the ribbon cut, it was time for the committee members to sit down, do a few fist bumps with one another, flash some smiles of gratification and then tuck into a plateful of brisket sliders, smoked salmon bruschetta and other assorted goodies.
Their efforts had been acknowledged from the podium by President Zarina Blankenbaker, who gave “a real shout-out to the many of you on the planning team who put so much effort and so many Microsoft Teams meetings into make this day a success.”
They had needed to be flexible, like for instance when they learned four days beforehand that building NW01 would not be available for tours as previously advertised. Or when they learned on the eve of the event that one of the speakers was ill and would not be present.
There was still work to be done. A debriefing meeting was scheduled for the following Thursday so that the team could compare notes and discuss what worked and what didn’t. After all, they have to be ready for an encore in early 2026 when buildings NW02 and NW03 are dedicated.