After three decades with Navarro College, Terry Gibson, dean of the Waxahachie campus, is leaving her role at the end of the year.
As she retires, her message to students remains the same – a college education is worth it.
“It’s so worth coming to college,” Gibson emphasized. “You know, so many people are afraid to go to college and in all the years I’ve worked here, most people can make it through at least some kind of college program.”
Fresh out of college, Gibson’s first role with the community college was at the main campus in Corsicana, working in the tutoring center. Five years later, she transferred to the Waxahachie campus, becoming its first financial aid counselor.
“Then I got up here, and really that was when I knew I was in my element when I was getting to advise students every single day and it was just so much fun,” Gibson said.
“This campus, this was the only campus building we had in the whole Ellis County and so we had about 800 students and we had a dirt parking lot,” the campus dean added. “There was nothing out there but a field with cows and things like that.”
One of the responsibilities Gibson took on when the campus began to grow at a rapid pace was managing course schedules, making them flexible to fit students’ needs.
“I started complaining about the schedule to my boss. I said, ‘This isn’t a good schedule. Students can’t get the classes they want,’ Gibson chuckled. "So, finally, I complained enough that they made me start doing the schedule.”
Over the next 25 years, Gibson took on roles including assistant dean of student services and administration and dean of academic services before rising to the role of campus dean in September 2018.
While she won’t miss the day-to-day rigors of managing the campus of over 2600 students and 70 full-time staff, she admits it hasn’t been easy saying good-bye to her hardworking and dedicated colleagues and students.
“I will miss the employees and I will miss the students,” said an emotional Gibson, sitting in her office. “We have the best staff. I just love the people that I work with. I love how they care about people. I love how everybody comes together and we have these wonderful community events. I think we offer a lot of great things for our students. We have just some amazing faculty. Students can get faculty here that rival any college in the U.S. I promise you.”
Mellie Sibley, business manager of the Ellis County campuses, has worked with Gibson for 12 years.
“I learned so much in those early years that sometimes got kind of rough and she was just really a great example, always,” Sibley said. “You can always go to her for anything and she knew the proper way to handle almost all situations.”
One of those situations happened in 2011 when a nearby chemical plant caught fire, prompting a campus evacuation. Sibley said the school was evacuated within 10 minutes as the explosion sent thick black clouds of smoke into the air. Gibson’s leadership during the chaotic event was outstanding, she recalled.
Nursing student Hannah Estes said the dean’s guidance has impacted her family from one generation to the next.
“She helped my mother-in-law get her degree. She helped my mom start out with her degree,” Estes shared. “She’s helping me now get mine. It’s kind of a generational thing, so it’s really cool. She helped me get my ADA stuff figured out and what I needed to do and how I needed to do it, and she is kind of guiding me on how to end up passing classes as a kid who is on her own, basically.”
Guy Featherston, dean of the Midlothian campus and health professions, will lead the Waxahachie campus in January.
“You’re going to see a lot of really exciting things happen here at Navarro,” Gibson revealed. “I’m really pleased with our current administration and the fact that there’s going to be a lot more focus on getting students connected to college and getting connected to jobs…”