Research by Lee alum leads to historical marker at Double Bayou Dance Hall

American Studies thesis sets foundation for state recognition of hall known for Texas blues

Photo of the historical marker. Caleb Moore and John Britt stand on either side.
Lee College alumnus Caleb Moore (left) joins retired instructor John Britt at the Double Bayou Dance Hall on Saturday, June 24, 2017, to celebrate the dedication of the official Texas State Historical Marker recognizing the hall’s significance to surrounding communities. Moore completed a thesis for Britt’s American Studies course that focused on the dance hall and led to the marker being erected at the site in Chambers County.

ANAHUAC, TX — Before he began researching the Double Bayou Dance Hall in Chambers County to complete his thesis for the American Studies course offered through the Lee College Honors Program, alumnus Caleb Moore had never heard of the little one-room gathering spot on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” where blues legends like T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner stopped to perform on their way to Houston.

Now, many of the facts that Moore uncovered for his research paper grace a Texas Historical Marker recognizing the dance hall’s significance to the predominately African-American community of Double Bayou and those who flocked to it for generations, eager to end a hard day’s work by dancing to the rich sounds of Texas blues filling the rafters and spilling into the surrounding woods.

Established in the late 1920s and constructed of wood, hog wire, and cedar logs under a tin roof, the original dance hall structure was destroyed by a storm in 1941 and rebuilt nearby just after World War II. For Moore, an honored guest at the historical marker dedication ceremony hosted in late June by the Chambers County Historical Commission, it felt good knowing he played a role in ensuring the story of the Double Bayou Dance Hall will endure even if the building itself does not.

“If people don’t write the history down, it disappears,” said Moore, who graduated from Lee College in May 2013. “Now the dance hall has something that will stay, something that’s set in stone. People can look at the marker to remember and learn about their heritage.”

The American Studies class combines American literature and history, using an interdisciplinary approach to help students examine American culture and gain an understanding of how literature reflects historical events. Retired instructor John Britt started the course and was team-teaching with faculty member Kathleen Sydnor when Moore settled on the Double Bayou Dance Hall as the focus of his final capstone project, which requires students to complete a research paper about an event of literary or historical significance.

“Lee College is one of only a few community colleges in the country with an American Studies program,” said Britt, a past executive committee member of the Chambers County Historical Commission and an award-winning author and historian. “I suggested the topic and (Moore) ran with it. He dove right into the research.”

At the dedication ceremony, descendants of the dance hall’s owners and members of the community listened to live music and reminisced on good times over old photos, mementos and plates of barbecue. Moore was surprised to see his own aunt in one of the shots in the photo archive, reminding him of the lesson he learned while working on the thesis that ultimately brought the historical marker to Double Bayou.

“You can think something doesn’t have anything to do with you, but everything in this world has a connection to you,” he said. “You just have to take the time to learn history, talk to people and explore the world around you.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

 

Texas Nonprofit Theatres honors Lee for hosting youth conference

Dr. Dennis brown accepts the plaque on behalf of Lee.
Lee College received an award plaque this month from Texas Nonprofit Theatres for hosting the organization’s 22nd annual Youth Conference, which brought 400 young people from across the state to campus for a week of performances and workshops. Pictured, from left: Walter Stricklin, Performing Arts Center director; Dr. Veronique Tran, Vice President of Instruction; Dr. Onimi Wilcox, Dean of Academic Studies; Ryan Martin, production specialist; Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown; Kim Martin, technical theater instructor; and Mark Hall, vice chairman of the Board of Regents.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College earned recognition this month from Texas Nonprofit Theatres (TNT) for hosting its 22nd annual Youth Conference. The gathering brought 400 young thespians and their directors and chaperones from across the state to campus for a summer camp-style week of performances and workshops.

Kim Martin, technical theater instructor and an officer on the TNT Board of Governors, presented the honorary plaque from the organization at the June meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. The 2017 TNT Youth Conference, held from June 6-11 at the Performing Arts Center and various buildings around campus, marked the second consecutive year that Lee College has been selected to host the event.

“The TNT executive committee and officers wanted to give deep gratitude to Lee College for the wonderful job of providing amazing facilities, extraordinary service and unwavering support as hosts,” Martin said. “They can’t stop telling me how wonderful this place is. I’m proud of that and proud to be with Lee College, and I want you to know people from around the state recognize that, too.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Spring 2017 grad conquers 20-year cycle of destruction

Adrian Touchstone joined Honors Program and maintained 4.0 GPA during college career

BAYTOWN, TX — Before he was a Lee College Hall of Fame inductee and Honors Program student with a 4.0 GPA and mission to make a difference, Spring 2017 graduate Adrian Touchstone was stuck in a pattern of drugs, crime and incarceration.

It was during yet another stint behind bars that Touchstone finally realized that breaking the destructive cycle and starting down the path to higher education and a more purposeful life would require two major changes to his self-awareness and perspective. First, he had to take full responsibility for himself, his thoughts and his actions instead of blaming other people or difficult circumstances. Second, he had to embrace selflessness instead of the selfishness that had long defined him.

Adrian Touchstone receives his degree from Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College president
Adrian Touchstone, left, receives his Associate of Arts degree in alcohol and drug abuse counseling from Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown at the 2017 Spring Commencement ceremony held in May. Touchstone broke a 20-year cycle of drug abuse and incarceration to graduate from Lee College, where he served as a student ambassador and earned acceptance into the Honors Program.

“From the time I was 20 until now, I was trying to figure out how to do the wrong thing, the right way,” said Touchstone, 43, who received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling at the 2017 Lee College Spring Commencement. He credits his family and loved ones for being supportive despite the odds he faced.

“Taking responsibility gives you power,” Touchstone said. “I started wanting to bring something to life instead of taking out of it. My way of thinking changed to doing the right thing, the right way. I’m taking my stumbling blocks and making them stepping stones.”

Studying to become an addiction counselor fit his new plan perfectly; he could go out into the community and help others conquer the demon of drug abuse that he had one faced. After enrolling at Lee College and starting the program with success, Touchstone earned acceptance into the Honors Program and realized that being two decades older than many of his peers was a strength and not the weakness he had first feared. Voicing his thoughts and listening to his classmates’ views in “The Human Condition,” a unique seminar-style Honors course that emphasizes critical thinking and discussion, showed him how his past experiences could be used to share knowledge with and learn from others. He began to see society and himself through different lenses and felt his mind grow in unexpected directions.

Forging strong, personal connections with motivated and knowledgeable instructors and earning scholarships from the Lee College Foundation made Touchstone eager to give back to the institution. He became a Student Ambassador, completing 90 hours of service in each semester of his first year, and was active in the Drug-Free Campus Committee, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act Advisory Committee and other organizations that emphasize serving and uplifting others.

With his Lee College journey coming to an end, Touchstone is more committed than ever to recreating a meaningful life. He hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree at University of Houston Clear Lake, then a master’s, and plans to do his part to positively impact others and make the world a better place. Being recognized by Lee College for his hard work inside and outside the classroom reminds him that making responsibility and selflessness a part of his mindset has been more than worth the effort; in fact, it has literally made the difference between life and death.

“When I started I had no idea where I would be at this point in my life. God was working,” Touchstone said. “I try to be better person every day so I can give God something to work with when He calls me. I want to give people hope and encouragement because there is always something new over the horizon. It’s never too late to start a new journey in life. Lee College is an opportunity to start a new path, follow a new dream and have a new ending. I’ve found myself in many different ways and places every day.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee College a finalist for three national AACC Awards of Excellence

A large group of people stands before the Board of Regents holding awards.
Lee College was presented with three awards from the American Association of Community Colleges as a finalist for national Awards of Excellence in three separate categories: Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. The awards were displayed to the community at the May meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. Pictured, from left: Connie Tilton, Woody Paul and Brian Nagel of ExxonMobil; Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown; Interim Vice President of Instruction DeDe Griffith; former Board of Regents Chairman Ronn Haddox; Grant Director Victoria Marron; Interim Dean of Academic Studies David Jaroszewski; Executive Vice Pres. Dr. Christina Ponce; Director of Workforce Development Marsha Tuha; 2017 graduate Jazmine Rodriguez; and Dean of Applied Sciences Layton Childress.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College has been honored as a finalist for the 2017 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence for Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. It is the second consecutive year that Lee College has earned national recognition as an AACC Awards of Excellence finalist in three of five total categories — a rare feat among the nearly 1,200 community colleges that are members of the association and eligible for the awards each year.

The AACC presented Lee College with the three finalist award trophies in April at its annual convention in New Orleans. The awards were displayed to the community this month at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents.

The AACC Advancing Diversity Award recognizes the college that has contributed significantly and over a sustained period of time to advancing diversity in community college leadership, the community and within higher education as a whole. Lee College was honored for the success of the Puente Project, an academic mentoring program that aims to increase the number of educationally under-served students who transfer to and enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn college degrees and return to their communities as leaders and role models for new generations. Puente students — many of whom are low-income or the first generation in their families to attend college — have presented research at academic conferences, taken leadership roles on campus, advocated for social justice and volunteered their time and talents to serve and uplift the local community. More than a dozen Puente graduates have gone on to pursue bachelor’s degrees at universities around the state since Lee College became the fourth community college district in Texas to host the program.

Treva Brown-Askey, chairwoman of the Developmental Education Division, was the college’s nominee to receive the AACC Faculty Innovation Award, which recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated leadership in the development and implementation of a campus program that has had positive impact on the learning experience for students. The outcome of the program must result in the improvement of student completion numbers within a course or degree field, and nominees for the award are expected to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to student access and success. Brown-Askey was also nominated and named a finalist for the Faculty Innovation Award in 2016, due in large part to her efforts to make educational opportunities more equitable for all students and create opportunities for students to learn and be successful both inside and outside of the classroom. Additionally, she has led and coordinated the “College Bound School” partnership with Drew Elementary School in the Crosby Independent School District, which is part of the ongoing Cradle to Career Network effort to create a college-going culture for local youth by engaging all members of the community in providing wraparound support as students transition into college.

The AACC Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award honors local, regional and national collaboration between a college and corporate partner that has achieved demonstrable, multi-year success in advancing the mission of the institution; the economic prosperity of a community, region or the nation; and the learning excellence of students. Lee College highlighted its longstanding partnership with ExxonMobil, which has provided resources to support the education and workforce needs of Lee College students and the community for 82 years. In just the last 5 years, ExxonMobil has enhanced its support by sponsoring the Lee College EnergyVenture camp for middle-school students exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; continuing to provide 3-to-1 matching gifts from its foundation for donations made to colleges and universities by employees and retirees; providing annual gifts of $125,000 to help meet the needs of the college’s petrochemical and technical studies programs; supporting capstone internships for students; and providing $1.8 million for the Community College Petrochemical Initiative. ExxonMobil staff members also come to classes to share their insights and experiences with students, participate in panel discussions and serve on college committees.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee recognizes top students for academic and extracurricular achievements

Honors Day
Lauralyn Dickerson (left) smiles as she accepts the Safety Management Award from Dr. Charles Thomas, chairman of the Process Technology Division, at the 2017 Lee College Presidential Honors Day held Tuesday, April 11, 2017. The annual event recognizes the top students in every Academic Studies and Applied Sciences discipline at the college.

BAYTOWN, TX — As Lee College prepares for the end of the semester and the 2017 Spring Commencement Ceremony, dozens of the best and brightest students received awards and recognition for achieving excellence this year in academic programs and extracurricular activities.

At the annual Presidential Honors Day in the Performing Arts Center, top students in every Academic Studies and Applied Sciences discipline were called on stage one by one to receive plaques and certificates. Faculty members selected many of the honorees for their outstanding grades and performance in the classroom or laboratory, mastery of key course concepts and skills and display of intellectual curiosity and growth. Others were chosen for having a strong work ethic and enthusiasm for subject matter, helping and encouraging their classmates and being persistent in overcoming obstacles to reach success.

“Lee College has positively impacted our lives and the least we can do is represent it well. You all have met that mark,” said Kyle Diamond, a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee and president of the Student Government Association for the 2016-17 school year. “Your excellence in service and academics guarantees that Lee College will maintain its spot as a point of pride in this community.”

The first-ever Presidential Recognition Luncheon in the Rundell Hall Conference Center complemented the traditional Honors Day ceremony, celebrating students for high achievement in co-curricular and extracurricular activities – from presenting original research at academic conferences, to performing in a national theatre festival and playing well on the basketball and volleyball courts. Students received medallions and certificates for winning campus, district, regional, state and national awards and scholarships through participation in the Honors Program, Webb Historical Society, Mendoza Debate Society, Model United Nations, Visual and Performing Arts, Athletics and Service Learning.

Honors Luncheon
New inductees into the Lee College Hall of Fame were honored at the first-ever Presidential Recognition Luncheon, held Thursday, April 20, 2017, to celebrate student success in co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Pictured (l-r): Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown; Hall of Fame inductees Justin Mathews, Adrian Touchstone and Brenna Sallee; and Vice Pres. of Student Affairs Dr. Donnetta Suchon. Not pictured: Hall of Fame inductees JaVonte Cooper and Cynthia Rose Pizana.

The five newest inductees into the Lee College Hall of Fame were recognized at both Honors Day and the Recognition Luncheon: JaVonte Cooper; Justin Mathews; Cynthia Rose Pizana; Brenna Sallee, who was named Most Representative; and Adrian Touchstone. Hall of Fame honorees are the students who best represent academic excellence, extracurricular involvement, campus leadership and dedication to community service.

“You take Lee College far beyond Baytown — throughout the region, into the state and even to the nation’s capital and New York City — and you have made this institution something very special,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown, who presented the awards to each honoree at the luncheon. “Your involvement has made a difference in your life, and the tools you’ve gathered here will serve you well today and into the future. One day, someone will follow in your footsteps and thank you for leading the way.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

VP DeDe Griffith awarded Aspen Presidential Fellowship

Griffith is one of only 40 nationwide selected for community college leadership program

DeDe Griffith
DeDe Griffith

BAYTOWN, TX — DeDe Griffith, interim Vice President of Learning at Lee College, has been awarded the prestigious Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence and will participate in a highly selective leadership program aimed at developing a new cadre of outstanding leaders capable of transforming student success at community colleges across the United States.

The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, announced today that Griffith joins the 2017-18 class of  Aspen Presidential Fellows, a diverse group of 40 extraordinary administrators from around the country who will embark on a year-long fellowship in July. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative and top community college leaders, the program focuses on a new vision of leadership and aims to guide new and aspiring community college presidents to dramatically change student outcomes in four areas: learning; completion while in community college and of bachelor’s degrees after transfer; employment and earnings after graduation; and equitable access and success for underrepresented minority and low-income students.

“As an administrator and faculty member at Lee College for the past two decades, DeDe has been instrumental in developing and implementing innovative strategies and programs that enhance student success,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “Her selection as an Aspen Presidential Fellow is a testament to the effectiveness of her student-centered philosophy and her commitment to strengthening community college education to ensure future generations of students are able to achieve their dreams.”

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 365 presidents left their posts over the last year. This staggering rate of turnover is happening at the same time that increasing numbers of students — including growing numbers of minority, low-income and first-generation college students — are flocking to community colleges to earn degrees that lead to good jobs and careers.

The 2017-18 Aspen Presidential Fellows hail from 24 states and 38 community colleges of varying sizes. Griffith was selected through a rigorous process that considered her abilities to take strategic risks, lead strong teams and cultivate partnerships and focus on results-oriented improvements in student success and access. A past recipient of the Lee  College Faculty Excellence Award and the John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award, Griffith also shared in institutional recognition through the AACC Award of Excellence of Student Success and coordinates and oversees many initiatives to provide greater access and completion support to all students. She is currently completing a Doctorate of Education in Professional Leadership in Education. For more information, visit http:///as.pn/1ky.

The Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, College Futures Foundation, ECMC Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee named finalist for three national awards honoring excellence

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College has been announced today as a national finalist for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence in three separate categories: Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. It is the second consecutive year that Lee College has been named an AACC Award of Excellence triple finalist.

Nearly 1,200 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions across the United States are members of the AACC and eligible for the Awards of Excellence each year. The winners for the 2017 awards cycle will be announced in April at the 97th annual AACC convention in New Orleans.

The AACC Advancing Diversity Award recognizes the college that has contributed significantly and over a sustained period of time to advancing diversity in community college leadership, the community and within higher education as a whole. This is the first year that Lee College has been named a finalist in the Advancing Diversity category.

Treva Brown-Askey, chairwoman of the Developmental Education Division, has been nominated to receive the AACC Faculty Innovation Award, which recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated leadership in the development and implementation of a campus program that has had positive impact on the learning experience for students. The outcome of the program must also result in the improvement of student completion numbers within a course or degree field, and nominees for the award are expected to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to student access and success. Brown-Askey was previously named a finalist in the Faculty Innovation category in 2016.

The AACC Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award honors local, regional and national collaboration between a college and corporate partner that has achieved demonstrable, multi-year success in advancing the mission of the institution; the economic prosperity of a community, region or the nation; and the learning excellence of students. Lee College was previously named a finalist in the Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership category in 2016.

Lee College was chosen as the winner of the 2015 AACC Award of Excellence for Student Success for its work to engage the entire campus and community in creating a college-going culture that ensures a successful student experience from high school through higher education. Lee College was also a national finalist for the AACC Award of Excellence in the Exemplary Board/CEO category in both 2015 and 2016.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.