It was windy and there were occasional drops of rain, but inside the tent at the new site of Tarleton State University’s Fort Worth campus just off Chisholm Trail Parkway, the mood was jubilant.
As it should have been, even though the university will face an immediate problem when the first building opens in the fall of 2019.
“That problem is going to be, we’re going to be out of space the day it opens because of the number of students that are wanting to come to Tarleton-Fort Worth,” said Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio, the 15th president of Tarleton State University.
“We know that already,” Dottavio said at the Feb. 27 groundbreaking for the school’s campus. But there is also good news – the Texas A&M System Board of Regents asked for a master plan. “We know where all the other buildings are going to go, and where No. 2, No. 3, and so forth need to be. As soon as we get the money, obviously,” he said.
The first and subsequent buildings are being built on an 80-acre campus on a hill donated by the Walton Group of Companies.
John Vick, president of Walton Development and Management West USA, recalled the meeting in February 2014 regarding donation of the land.
“They had a vision and needed a place to make it happen. We were creating our vision for this beautiful piece of property and realized that designing the west half of the property around the university met many of our goals as well,” Vick said.
“Higher education is critical to our community. As the city competes nationally and internationally for business, education is a key component and one where we can prove Tarleton’s new campus in South West Fort Worth is a great step in that direction,” Vick said.
The initial building will include all academic student services and administrative functions, and has been designed with growth and expansion in mind, said Dr. Kyle McGregor, Tarleton’s vice president for institutional advancement.
Tarleton, which traces its history to 1893, first began offering classes in Fort Worth in 1978 with eight students on West Myrtle Street. It moved to the Richard C. Schaffer Building on Enderly Place in the 1990s and expanded to the Hickman Building on Camp Bowie Boulevard in 2006.
Tarleton-Fort Worth currently serves approximately 2,000 students. Projected enrollment at move-in for the first building is 2,500, and, with additional buildings, the campus could serve 9,000 students by 2030, the university said. Tarleton-Fort Worth offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs to a diverse student population of working adults, community college graduates and returning students.
Dottavio said the largest number of students on the main campus in Stephenville come from Tarrant County. Many are transfer students from what the university considers “some of our top academic partners” – community colleges such as the Tarrant County College District (TCCD) and Weatherford College, among others.
TCCD Chancellor Eugene V. Giovannini noted that he’d never been invited to speak at another college’s groundbreaking.
“That speaks to the partnership of the institution. That speaks to the personal relationship that Dominic and I have as well,” Giovannini said.
“We do share programs, we share services, we share resources, and we’re really excited to be the ongoing partner,” he said. “We do have a shared vision, and that is being student-centered. We have a wonderful collaboration. Our core values – in terms of teaching and learning, and helping students move through their pathway – are shared, to the point that we will want to move in the direction of dual-admitting students. Meaning that, particularly as this campus, as they’re admitted to TCCD, they’re also admitted to Tarleton at the same time, and allowed to use and enjoy the programs and services of both institutions.”
The expansion required political support from the Texas Legislature, of course, for funding.
“I’m proud to have this new campus deep in Senate District 10, and to have played a role in supporting the new campus,” said Texas Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth. “I look forward to watching its continued development and impact on our region.”
Burton said she met with Dottavio and McGregor when she was elected in 2014 about the plans already underway.
“They were very proactive and absolutely covered all their bases,” she said. “ I’d like to think they had an easy in with me, because my daughter, Tori, and now son-in-law, J.T., had just graduated from Tarleton State in Stephenville.”
District 97 State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, presented Dottavio and McGregor with a flag that had been flown over the Capitol in Austin.
“We’ve had a long journey from five years ago when we first met, and I look forward to continuing that journey for many years to come, and hope you’ll fly this flag over your great campus for many, many years,” Goldman said.
Goldman also quoted South African leader Nelson Mandela: “An education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
The development is in Fort Worth Council District 6, and Council Member Jungus Jordan noted that while it took 55 years to build what is now the Chisholm Trail Parkway, the Tarleton State University campus is happening in a fraction of that time.
“We all stand on the shoulders of the visionaries who preceded us. In the 1860s, it was Mr. Chisholm and Mr. Tarleton that foresaw things to come,” Jordan said.
Mayor Betsy Price talked of the need for education in the rapidly expanding city of Fort Worth.
“Our great nation was founded on great public schools and great universities,” she said. “To continue that, we have to continue to offer wonderful, high quality, affordable universities for all of our children to come to.
“Fort Worth is now the 16th largest city in the nation, and with the 2020 census, we will be at least 14th if not 12th or 13th. Our growth has just been phenomenal. And this university will continue to help us find a place for those kids as we bring jobs in, as we work on economic development – we can be proud to say that we have a great educated workforce here,” Price said.
In addition to state-of-the-art learning environments, common gathering spaces, offices and a large event area, the first building will include a one-stop shop for student services and a community counseling center offering assistance on a sliding-fee scale.
The global Dallas-based firm Perkins+Will is the architect and designer, and Holder Construction the builder.