Brazosport College Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Brazosport College has been the College of Choice for southern Brazoria County for 50 years now.

From its humble beginnings in 1967 and an initial graduating class of 25 students in 1970, to being named one of the top community colleges in the nation with more than 1,000 graduates in 2016, Brazosport College has seen tremendous growth.

However, the primary goal has always remained the same: Brazosport College is focused on student success.

Located in Lake Jackson, Texas, Brazosport College has enriched the lives of its students with affordable and efficient educational opportunities including certifications, associate and baccalaureate degree programs, as well as academic transfers and workforce development. Students planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree may enroll in academic classes, as well as courses in major fields of study that will transfer to four-year institutions.

Recognized twice by the Aspen Institute as one of the nation’s top 10 community colleges, Brazosport College offers more than 75 degree and certificate programs, and is now one of four schools in Texas to offer a Bachelor of Applied Technology degree.

Brazosport College is considered by many to be among the best community colleges in the nation, and that accolade isn’t something the college takes lightly. Brazosport College has taken pride in being the first choice for students since it opened its doors 50 years ago.    

The college was founded after voters authorized a tax to support the maintenance of the college in 1967. The Board of Trustees of the Brazosport Independent School District divested itself of the college’s management, control and operation. The Board of Regents for the college district was installed in August of 1967.

In 1968, Dr. J.R. Jackson became the first president of Brazosport Junior College. The first semester of classes began in the fall of 1968 with an enrollment of 879 students. The first class graduated in 1970 with 25 students.

In its 50-year history, Brazosport College has had four presidents, including Dr. J.R. Jackson, 1968-1978; Dr. W.A. Bass, 1978-1988; Dr. John R. Grable, 1988-1996; and Dr. Millicent Valek, 1996-present.

In October of 1970, the college’s name was changed to Brazosport College to reflect its broader purpose. After the turn of the century, Brazosport College underwent many changes, from building additions and improvements to adding innovative new programs.

First of all, in 2002, the Corporate Learning Center and the Children’s Center (later renamed the Bill & Julia May Children’s Center) were built. A few years later, in 2004, Brazosport College received accreditation approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a baccalaureate-level institution.

“When we received the authority to offer baccalaureate degrees, there were 50 community colleges in Texas. Three colleges received that authority, and Brazosport College was one of them,” said current Brazosport College President Dr. Millicent Valek. “It took a while to go through all the steps, such as getting the authority from the Legislature, but it has had a huge impact for this community. It would not have been possible without the support of Representative Dennis Bonnen, who to this day remains instrumental to our success with that program.”

Community support has also been an integral part of the growth of Brazosport College’s spacious campus, which today sits on 156 manicured acres. In 2005, the school’s music venue, The Clarion at Brazosport College, was built, and classes began for a Bachelor of Applied Technology degree in Technology Management program.

In November of 2007, the community approved a $70 million bond referendum that paved the way for even more additions. In 2011, the Master Plan Project was completed with the following additions: the BASF Center for Process Technology, the Byron & Sandra Sadler Health Professions/Science Complex, the Dow Academic Center, a new Student Pavilion, and an expansion to the college’s library. In 2016, the BCPC Welding Technologies Lab and the Freeport LNG Crafts Academy were dedicated. The college even added a jogging trail, which is utilized by the community and students alike, in 2009.

“In the college’s 50-year history we’ve only had two general obligation bonds, which colleges generally use to build their campuses – once when it was built, and again in 2007, which was 40 years later,” Dr. Valek said. “We’ve been able to do a tremendous amount of building and construction without having to go back to the voters numerous times. We’re very pleased to have tremendous support for that, and with that support we’ve been able to really transform the campus as it went from one single building to a complex of buildings.”

Brazosport College has approximately 4,200 students enrolled annually in its certification programs, 4,000 enrolled each year in its non-certification programs, and 20,000 participants in its business and industry training.

“One thing that is fantastic about community colleges is that so many of our students are first-generation college students,” Dr. Valek said. “There’s a great deal of pride from their family and friends when we have a graduation ceremony.”

This was never more evident than when the college opened the Dow Academic Center for commencements. Because of the high demand, commencements went from being a single ceremony in the school gym to two separate ceremonies in the much larger building. 

As Brazosport College’s campus and student population have grown, so too has its reputation. In 2013 and 2015, the Aspen Institute named the college a Top 10 Community College in the Nation, an award bestowed biennially to institutions that excel in the areas of student learning, certificate and degree completion, graduate employment rate and earnings, and success rates among minority and low-income students. In 2010, Brazosport College was named a Leader College by Achieving the Dream and was re-certified in 2013 and 2016. Also in 2016, Brazosport College was selected as one of 12 Texas community colleges to participate in the Texas Pathways Project, a statewide initiative designed to increase credentialed Texans to 60 percent by 2030.

Dr. Valek said Brazosport College is unique from other community colleges because of the strong synergy that exists between the college and its industry partners.

“We serve about 20,000 people a year in business training, which is pretty atypical,” she said. “We’re responding to industry requests with a customized response. They do not have to build up as robust an internal training department because they’ve outsourced that to the college.

“The first contract the college had was in the mid 1990s to train 2,000 employees on how to use a personal computer,” she added. “We started with a blank slate and said, ‘What do you want and how long?’ and we were able to respond and deliver. One of the buildings we added in our first expansion in 2002 was a center dedicated to business and industry training. They’ve been able to support a business plan that has kept that vibrant for close to two decades now.”

Expanding even more on Brazosport College’s involvement with the community it serves is its Community Education department. Through Community Education, students can register for a variety of career programs in areas such as healthcare, education, web design and other computer technologies. In addition to career training, it also offers personal enrichment programs, such as painting, ceramics, photography, sewing and music. In 2015, Community Education served more than 4,100 students.

Student success has always been a chief priority for the community through their support of the Brazosport College Foundation. Created as a tax-exempt corporation in 1995, the Brazosport College Foundation raises and administers funds for the enhancement of educational opportunities at the college.

In the past three years, the Brazosport College Foundation has raised more than $1 million in scholarships. In 2002, the Foundation raised $5.6 million with its Building a Legacy campaign. In 2008, it raised $5.5 million with its Your College Capital Campaign, and in 2015, $3 million was collected through the Crafts Academy Capital campaign.

The Foundation is comprised of the Brazosport College regents, staff and faculty, as well as business and community leaders.

Its scholarship programs include WISE, Sponsor a Scholar, ACE It scholarships, childcare assistance and other initiatives. Other projects include the Excellence Fund, which provides for the development of new degrees, classes and lab equipment enhancements, planned gifts, memorial/honorary gifts and naming opportunities, and the Spirit of Music fund, which supports The Clarion at Brazosport College.

“The Foundation is very focused on raising scholarship dollars, and this makes it possible for so many students to attend Brazosport College and graduate with little to no student debt,” Dr. Valek said.

Having served as the school of choice for Brazoria County students for half a century, Brazosport College will continue to do what it does best as it looks toward the future: support industrial and skilled trades, grow its medical programs and prepare its students for transfer to other institutions or successful careers after college, Dr. Valek said. A governing board that remains singularly focused on the college’s mission, a beautiful campus, state-of-the-art labs, and strong community and business relationships provide all the integral pieces for an excellent foundation of education and training, she added.

Having served at the helm of Brazosport College for more than two decades – three times the average college president’s tenure – Dr. Valek is one of several staff and faculty members who have remained loyal to the institution and its goals.

“Be it faculty, staff, students — and myself, loyalty runs high here at Brazosport College,” she said. “This really is the College of Choice for all of us.”

Brazosport College is located at 500 College Drive, Lake Jackson, TX, 77566. To learn more, visit the college website at www.brazosport.edu or call (979) 230-3000.