In 1946, Navarro Junior College opened its doors at the buildings of Air Activities of Texas, located south of Corsicana, with ten faculty members, one librarian, and three administrators to 238 registered students.
At their first meeting, the newly elected Board of Trustees of Navarro Junior College voted Ray L. Waller as Navarro Junior College’s first president based on his experience and credentials. A native of Louisiana, Waller graduated from high school in Winnsboro, Texas. He held a B.A. from Texas Tech University and M.A. at Southern Methodist University. Waller taught and coached at several schools in Texas, and he had for a time served as superintendent of schools at Rice, a small community north of Corsicana. At the time he was named president of Navarro Junior College, Waller was superintendent of schools in Dawson in western Navarro County. He had been among the most ardent supporters for the creation of a junior college in Corsicana. A monumental task lay before President Waller as he prepared to put everything in place by September, when classes were scheduled to begin.
It was soon apparent that the facilities were inadequate, and in 1948, the College Board of Trustees purchased a new 47 acre campus acres about three miles west of Corsicana. In 1949, the people of the county approved a college bond issue for $540,000, together with a tax rate of 48 cents for both bonds and maintenance. The buildings from the Air Activities were moved to the new campus and reconstructed around a magnificent Administration Building. Each year the college has grown, and in 1956, 10 years after beginning, enrollment was 526 students with 26 faculty members and three administrators.
On Feb. 11, 1956, the city was shocked to learn that Mr. Ray Waller had suddenly passed away with a heart attack. He was still in his prime years and it was greatly regretted that he could not continue to enjoy the reward of his labors. The Board elected Dr. Ben. W. Jones to succeed Mr. Waller.
The Board of Trustees selected Dr. Ben W. Jones as Navarro’s second president. A native of Georgia, Jones held a B.A. from Georgia Southern University and M.A. from George Peabody College. Following a tour of duty in the Army during World War II, Jones enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, completing his doctorate in 1948. His professional experience included public school teaching and administration in Arkansas. In addition, he had been Assistant Director of extension courses at the University of Mississippi. In 1952, he was named President of Northeast Mississippi Junior College in Booneville, a position he held when he accepted presidency of Navarro College.
At the time of Dr. Jones’ tenure, the campus consisted of six permanent buildings and an enrollment of slightly over 500 students. Besides changes in the makeup of the student body and the additional extracurricular activities, the physical appearance of the campus was also undergoing significant change. Increasing enrollments required expanding the facilities. In fall semester of 1959, enrollment totaled 579 students and that number increased by 100 the following year. By 1965, enrollment had grown to 1,184, and the campus included an administration-library-auditorium building, a hall of science, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, four dormitories, and a shop building. The following year two additional dormitories, a new technical-vocational building, a library, and a women’s physical education facility were constructed. A student union building was added in 1970.
Dr. Jones’ administration was marked by several significant advancements in the development of the college. He led the institution through a peaceful desegregation process and assimilated large numbers of international students into the student body. The college had grown numerically as far as student enrollment and had expanded the size of the campus. Several buildings currently in use on campus were constructed during the Jones’ tenure, including the Gooch One-Stop Center, Gibson Hall, Drane Hall, Bain Technical Arts Center, Jones Residence Hall, and Eady Residence Hall. Enrollment at Navarro had doubled during its first decade of existence from 238 students on opening day in 1946 to 500 students in 1956 when Dr. Jones began his administration. Increases continued for the next several years, peaking in 1969 when enrollment reached 1,200 students.
Navarro Junior College had enjoyed both growth and progress under Dr. Jones’ leadership. However, in November 20, 1973, Dr. Jones resigned as President of NJC. With Dr. Jones’ resignation came an end to the second major stage of Navarro’s development.
The Board of Trustees named Dr. Kenneth P. Walker as Navarro’s third president, and he assumed that position on March 1, 1974. A native of Greenville, Texas, Walker received a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a M.A. from East Texas State University. In addition, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Walker served in the United States Air Force from 1955 to 1958 before he began his professional career as a political science instructor at Odessa College, after which he served as a dean, vice president, and vice chancellor at various institutions.
The Walker Administration marked a change in direction for the college. The first indication of the new direction came with the changing of the institution’s name from Navarro Junior College to simply Navarro College. One rather unique concept that Dr. Walker explored was the possibility of expanding Navarro into a 4-year community college. Plans called for adding the upper division but financed with local funds rather than state funding. Consequently, bad timing and poor economic conditions had an impact on the proposal. It never gained significant support from state officials who were investigating the possibility of closing colleges and universities.
Despite the failed proposal, Dr. Walker’s leadership earned recognition and honors for himself and for the college. In 1977, the Association of Community College Trustees presented Walker with the Marie Y. Martin Professional Educator Award as the most outstanding community college president in the United States. The following year, the Corsicana Chamber of Commerce named him the recipient of the K. Wolens Distinguished Service Award. In 1982, Dr. Walker received the Michael Bennett Distinguished President’s Award for outstanding service to Phi Theta Kappa. In addition, he was named to the national PTK Board of Directors.
The Walker Administration had been responsible for many changes at Navarro College. The mission of the college had been modified to provide expanded education opportunities to more students in the college service area. Enrollment had increased significantly, and the renovation of existing buildings and the construction of new ones produced a strikingly attractive campus. Dr. Walker introduced some innovative ideas, not only for the operation of Navarro but for community college education in general.
After serving as Navarro College President for 14 years, he resigned in 1988 to accept the presidency of Oklahoma City Community College.
In 1989, Dr. Gerald E. Burson became the fourth president of Navarro College. He was also the first Navarro College President to be formally inaugurated in a ceremony as a chief executive of the college.
Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, Dr. Burson graduated from Wentworth Military Academy with a private pilot’s license. He received his B.A. in Speech and Theater; M.S. in Secondary Education and Ed.D. in Higher Education and Administration from Oklahoma State University. Before joining the faculty at Northern Oklahoma College, he was a B-47 pilot with the Strategic Air Command. Following 27 years at Northern Oklahoma College, he accepted the presidency at Navarro College.
At the beginning of his tenure at Navarro, Dr. Burson was faced with the student body changing in its makeup as well as increases in numbers. Fall enrollment for 1989 was slightly above 2,600 students and three years later, enrollment surpassed 3,200 students. Additional and expanded facilities were needed to alleviate the crowded conditions. The Board of Trustees approved a proposal to renovate and expand the East Wing of the Albritton Administration Building to provide additional classrooms and office space.
During Dr. Burson’s administration, he focused on vocational and technical training programs. One of those programs was the John Deere Ag Tech. The John Deere Corporation supplied state-of-the-art equipment which allowed students to have a “hands-on” experience in the classroom. His vision also included establishing a permanent campus in Waxahachie, and the construction of the Cook Education Center, which houses a planetarium and the Pearce Museum. In 1996 Dr. Burson was named recipient of the Marie Y. Martin Chief Executive Officer Award representing the Western region of the American Association of Community College. Other honors and awards include serving as president of the Texas Junior College Presidents Association, chairman of the 21 member North Texas Community College Consortia, and a member of the Southern Association Accreditation Corps. He retired in 1998.
Dr. Richard M. Sanchez announced his plans for retirement on August 31, 2013 after successfully serving 15 years as Navarro College’s fifth District President.
Dr. Sanchez earned an Ed.D from Western Michigan University, an M.A. from California Polytechinic University, and a B.A. from Northern Arizona University.
Dr. Sanchez began his career in college administration at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California in 1972. He held various administrative positions at Santa Barbara Community College, and College of the Sequoias. Prior to coming to Navarro, he served as President of Grossmont College located in El Cajon, California, from 1990 – 1998.
Under his leadership, Navarro College has experienced dramatic growth, increasing enrollment by 167 percent. In 2007, the Navarro College was named the fastest-growing public two-year college in the nation by Community College Week. Additionally, Dr. Sanchez was instrumental in improving and expanding off-campus educational facilities in Mexia and establishing a new campus at Midlothian. He also led efforts to more than double the size of the existing off-campus center in Waxahachie. Under his directive, the college boasts more than $22 million in renovations, including the construction of seven residence halls, a dining hall, clock tower, and a 25,000 square-foot library named in his honor. A milestone came in the spring of 2011 when college enrollment soared to more than 10,000 students. Among his community activities, Dr. Sanchez has served as the President of the Navarro County Chamber of Commerce, fundraising chairman of the United Way, and a member of the mayor’s strategic planning taskforce.
Upon his retirement Dr. Sanchez completed a career that spanned fifty years, including 22 years serving as a community college chief executive officer.
The Board of Trustees named Dr. Barbara Kavalier as Navarro’s sixth president at the start of 2013-2014 academic year. She came on board with 30 years of experience working in higher education administration. Dr. Kavalier earned her doctorate in Educational Administration from The University of Texas at Austin and also has a master’s in Business and Human Relations from Amberton University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Texas Christian University, and an Associate Degree from Mountain View College.
In 2016, Dr. Kavalier resigned to accept a president position at St. Charles Community College in Missouri.