Instructor feted at San Francisco literary festival

One of the walls in Lee College instructor David Ensminger’s campus office is covered with a hodgepodge of fliers promoting punk rock band appearances and concerts — but the dozens of paper leaflets are only a tiny sampling of the nearly 5,000 pieces he has collected over the last 30 years.


“If I don’t retain it and preserve it, who will?” asked Ensminger, who teaches courses in English, humanities and folklore. “To me, it’s the art of my generation and it deserves the same kind of attention as any other.”

Drawn into the punk world before he was even a teenager, Ensminger is widely considered one of the world’s foremost experts in the genre. He has written several award-winning books and articles exploring various dimensions and impacts of punk as a cultural movement, including “Left of the Dial” and “Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation,” which documents many of the fliers in his collection. In addition, he co-edited a biography of legendary blues man Lightnin’ Hopkins that won a Certificate of Merit in September from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections.

Ensminger’s body of work was celebrated this month at the 10th annual San Francisco Lit Crawl, billed as the world’s largest literary event of its kind with some 10,000 attendees each year. His panel discussion, “Punk: The Permanent Revolution,” featured icons of the movement like three-time Grammy nominee Peter Case, Jack Grisham and Mia Simmans.

Ensminger examines punk through the lens of a folklorist, analyzing the characteristics and traits of the genre in an attempt to reveal what makes it distinct. His research has expanded understanding of the punk movement beyond the traditional images of wild-eyed young men with crazy hair and black clothes, to include recognition of the contributions of gays, women, minorities and even members of the deaf community.

After the publication and release this year of “Mavericks of Sound,” a collection of interviews with indie and roots artists, Ensminger is now working on a new book that puts the spotlight on politics and punk. The 300-page investigation will explore the conscience of the movement by focusing on how punk musicians invest their money in political and social causes, an indication of whether their anti-establishment spirit and messages of rebellion were truly authentic.

“Studying the lyrics is just a literary exercise,” said Ensminger, who instead aims to shift historical perceptions and attitudes about punk. “I can change that sense of the narrative, and to me, that’s why you put out books. That’s what’s important.”

Sporting tattoos and piercings of his own, Ensminger admits he does not fit the image of the typical college instructor. He encourages students in his classes to be similarly unafraid of bucking convention in pursuit of their dreams, and enjoys watching them grow over the course of their educational journey.

“I’m thankful to be a teacher in those moments,” Ensminger said. “As a community college graduate myself, I want the kids to know that nothing should stop them. Have ambition, work hard, seek excellence and persist.”

Martin awarded prestigious Cooke scholarship

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After running into a few obstacles while applying for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, Lee College sophomore Zachary Martin had almost given up on the possibility of being one of just 75 community college students selected nationwide.

Then Georgeann Ward, coordinator of the college Honors Program, stood up at a recent event to make a special announcement.

Martin, a graduate of Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown and co-captain of the award-winning college Debate Team, had just finished an exhibition round and was expecting to hear the judges’ decision. Instead, Ward told the 30 supporters gathered in the Bayer Conference Center that Martin had been named a 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.

The highly selective Cooke Foundation scholarship is the largest private scholarship for community college transfer students in the country. Recipients receive up to $30,000 per year to attend an accredited, four-year college or university, where they can pursue any course of study they choose. The award money may be used for tuition, living expenses, books and other required fees.

“I was completely blown away,” said Martin, an honors student and the fourth Jack Kent Cooke scholarship recipient in Lee College history. “Ever since I graduated from high school, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for college. To know that I’ll be able to be go and get my education without worrying about that is such a burden off my shoulders. It’s a blessing from God himself.”

Cooke scholarship applicants must be current students at an accredited U.S. community college or 2-year institution with sophomore status; have a cumulative college GPA of 3.5 or higher; plan to transfer to a 4-year college or university to begin studies in the coming fall; and demonstrate significant unmet financial need.

A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Martin has earned a 4.0 GPA and will graduate from Lee College in May with an associate degree in music. He is ranked the No. 1 novice debater in the country by the International Public Debate Association, and has also received statewide honors for choir, among many other accolades.

Charlotte Mueller, a music instructor at the college, said she can’t imagine a more worthy recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship than Martin. A student in her music literature and applied piano classes, Martin was a role model and natural team player who never let personal adversity get him down.

His character and deep sense of self-worth and value left an impression, she said.

“Whatever Zach does, he puts his heart and soul into it,” Mueller said. “He goes out of his way to encourage other students to do their best. While his responses and answers to questions in class were first-rate, he always turned to other students and prompted them with comments that he knew would lead them to make significant contributions to the class discussion as well.”

Though he has not yet made a final decision about where he will continue his collegiate studies, Martin said he is excited about what the future holds.

“I am very pleased and grateful that I received so much support in making sure my education at Lee College was the best it could be,” he said shortly after learning he was named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. “I thank you all so very much, because you’ve really made a difference in my life.”

Lee to offer bilingual workshop for parents

Parents who want to learn more about how to help their children attend and be prepared to succeed in college — or want to learn how to attend college themselves — are invited to a special workshop this weekend at Lee College.

The Parent College workshop will be held from 9-11:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 11, in the Cyber Café inside the Student Center (map) on campus. A continental breakfast will be served, and information will be available in both English and Spanish. Children and families are welcome to attend.

The first part of the workshop will address basic questions about college, such as the difference between associate degree and certificate programs; the actual cost of a college education and how to pay for it; and how to enroll in college without a high-school diploma.

The second part of the workshop will be interactive and feature ideas and suggestions for parents to create a college-going expectation in their homes, even with children at the elementary-school level. There will also be ample time for parents to ask questions.

“Many of our students are the first person in their family to go to college and they need that extra support,” said DeDe Griffith, director of the Gulf Coast Partners Achieving Success (GCPASS) grant and coordinator of Student Success Initiatives. “Working together, we can help them succeed and start a legacy of college success in their family.”

Funded by the GCPASS grant and sponsored by the Lee College Hispanic Education Access and Completion Committee, the Parent College workshop is the first in a four-part series. Additional workshops will be held Nov. 8, Jan. 10, and April 11.

For more information, contact Minnie Lopez at 713.562.6573 for Spanish-language support, or Griffith at 281.425.6518 for English-language support.