Through the years, TJC has educated many people who have ended up becoming well-known or influential. These remarkable alumni are honored by the new “Legends of TJC” series.
“Since I got here, I’ve met so many incredible people whose lives were changed forever, and we started running the Heroes & Friends series,” said TJC’s President Dr. Mike Metke. “[Legends of TJC] really came from that. People would tell me that they came to TJC and found out who they were and what they could become, met friends for life, many of them met their spouses, and then they kind of came back and [now] run Tyler and East Texas.”
To open the series, Admiral Bobby R. Inman was invited to return to TJC and attend several events on campus, including a dedication ceremony in Jenkins Hall, visiting TJC honors students and a noteworthy lecture at Wise Auditorium.
Originally from Rhonesboro, Admiral Inman would ride the bus from Mineola to attend classes at Tyler Junior College. During his time here, at the young age of 16, Inman was inducted into the Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa on April 19, 1947 and was nominated it’s International Distinguished Alumnus at the National Convention in 1984. Admiral Inman expressed much joy to be back where he first started.
“What’s amazing [is] when I was here we were located next to the high school, they were building Jenkins Hall in my last year and it was not open until after I had left,” said Admiral Inman. “When I came back in ‘84, there was a substantial amount of buildings, but it’s phenomenal what has occurred since ‘84.”
After graduating from TJC in 1948, he went to the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated in 1950, then joined the U.S. Navy. In 1972, he attended the National War College, was appointed by President Gerald R. Ford as the youngest three-star admiral in history to be vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and was later named by President Jimmy Carter as director of the National Security Agency (NSA).
“If you look at his resume… Almost all of the major events [of] national history and politics, he’s been there, even international. I don’t know if we had any graduate go as far as he has,” said Dr. Metke. “So, he’s been the youngest Admiral, [worked with] CIA, NSA, worked for four presidents. I don’t know that there’s really anybody who traveled further. The expression ‘nothing so close can take you far’, well, true. For him, TJC has taken him across the world.
Before retiring, his final assignment as an officer of the Navy was given by President Ronald Reagan, who named him deputy director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and also received his fourth star. He retired from the navy in 1982 and started his civilian occupation.
Currently a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson school of Public Affairs and holding the Lyndon B. Johnson centennial chair in National Policy at UT Austin, Admiral Inman pointed out the role TJC played in his impeccable career.
“I felt, when I got to the University of Texas [at] Austin, that I could compete on common ground with my peers who had gone to UT for their first two years,” said Admiral Inman. “I came out of TJC well-prepared to compete in a four-year institution.”
According to Dr. Metke, more of the Legends of TJC may soon return, such as NBA player Jimmy Butler, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin and Oscar-winning lyricist Will Jennings.