Legacy: New nonprofit honors longtime educator, community leader

Erma C. Johnson Hadley

The late Erma C. Johnson Hadley served the Tarrant County College District for nearly 50 years, beginning as a founding faculty member in 1968 and later becoming interim chancellor and eventually acting chancellor in 2010 until her death in October 2015.

Affectionately known as “The Chancellor,” Hadley was the fourth chancellor and the first woman and first African-American to lead TCC. As an educator who sought more opportunities for students to complete their degrees and as a leader and mentor for faculty, board members and her executive team, Hadley had a vision that extended beyond higher education to the entire community.

Earlier this year, Hadley’s daughter, Ardenia Johnson Gould, created a nonprofit organization called The Chancellor’s Promise to continue her mother’s myriad career and civic endeavors.

“When my mom passed last October, I immediately knew I wanted to start an organization that would honor her legacy as an educator, a philanthropist and a civic leader,” Gould said. “I had talked to her about starting a nonprofit even before she got sick. It was one of the things that was on her bucket list, that and writing a book about growing up in the poor, rural, segregated town of Leggett [Texas]. She didn’t get around to it so I made a promise to her to continue her work, that I would start the foundation and also find the time to write that book.”

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An inaugural reception for The Chancellor’s Promise is slated for Nov. 5 at the Fort Worth Omni Hotel. Gould, who serves as chairwoman, will introduce its board leadership and program initiatives for the next year.

“Chancellor Hadley never missed an opportunity to nurture, mentor and advise young people, especially young women. She would be very pleased with this initiative,” said Louise Appleman, TTC board president.

The Chancellor’s Promise features four initiatives that Gould says capture the character of Hadley’s impact on the community: as a mentor, a businesswoman, a community leader and a cultivator of inclusion in the community.

“I thought people knew her very well as an educator but maybe didn’t know her as well for some of the other things she did,” said Gould. “So The Chancellor’s Promise is designed to honor the legacy of all those facets of my mother – the educator, the mentor, the businesswoman, the consensus builder – all of those aspects of who she was.”

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As a reflection of Hadley’s background as a business owner and business investor, the nonprofit will feature a microlending program to provide small-business loans from $5,000 to $10,000 to entrepreneurs who are underserved by traditional banks and lenders.

“She was a big champion of small women- and minority-owned businesses,” said Gould.

A business and life coach, Gould recently launched a company called Type A Method offering tools, strategies and information to help women entrepreneurs start and grow their own businesses.

“The microlending program follows the format of other microlenders we’ve seen across the country. We’re concentrating on businesses or business owners that are underserved. Women and minorities will be a big push,” Gould said. “This program fills the gap for underserved business owners and helps them get a leg up.”

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Talks are underway with local chambers of commerce and companies to partner with the microlending program, Gould said, with the first loans expected to be made in fall 2017. There also are plans for starting a small-business incubator as part of the program.

Another key component of The Chancellor’s Promise is the Innovation Grant, awarded to individuals who have an idea or project seeking funding to begin their work. Funding from the grant is expected in fall 2017.

“The Innovation Grant is designed for innovators, thought leaders and disrupters to fund their ideas, as opposed to funding businesses through microlending,” Gould said.

A third component, the State of the Community, will be an annual forum for community engagement among stakeholders to address crucial issues of the day. The goal of the State of the Community is to provide a meaningful exchange of diverse ideas for the greater good.

“My mom was known for her ability for bringing people together to talk about difficult topics,” Gould said. “She was very good about bringing people to the table, people of different backgrounds, politics, religions and points of view. She was a big consensus builder, very good at building bridges. This forum seems right for the times. We’re living in a very challenging world. We hope to promote some healing. Coming together is so vital and necessary.”

The fourth initiative of The Chancellor’s Promise is the Torchbearer Awards, an annual event to recognize established and emerging leaders in the fields of education, business, medicine, science, public policy, religion, nonprofits and the arts. Recipients of the awards will in turn pass the torch to emerging leaders in their respective field.

“The Torchbearer Awards are symbolic at the same time as my mom was a believer in passing the torch to up-and-coming leaders. My mom loved to prep young people and then watch them go off and work,” said Gould.

The Torchbearer Awards will be the primary fundraiser for the organization, with the first awards to be presented at the foundation’s inaugural event in November. The organization continues to seek partnerships for all its initiatives as well as sponsors for the inaugural gala.

Gould said she was also happy to learn that a scholarship in her mother’s memory at Tarrant County College has now been endowed, with the first recipient to be named this fall.

“One of the beautiful things about this organization is that every single person involved was a really dear friend of my mom’s,” she said. “That makes it really special. People are not only invested in the initiative but were near and dear to my mom’s heart.”

The Chancellor’s Promise

P.O. Box 471251

Fort Worth 76107