James Barta: Former registrar has fond memories of BC’s early years

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James Barta poses for a photo during a recent visit to Brazosport College.

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James Barta works at Brazosport College in this 1975 BC file photo.

With nine stand-alone buildings, beautiful water features and eye-catching architectural designs around every corner, the 156-acre Brazosport College campus is well known as one of the area’s nicest locations.

But it wasn’t always this picturesque.

In fact, the current campus isn’t even where Brazosport College got its start. For that, the College goes back 50 years, in a small building in Freeport, where it spent two years before moving to the land it sits on today. Most people either weren’t around or simply don’t recall Brazosport College from those earliest days.

This isn’t the case for James Barta, who not only remembers Brazosport College’s infancy, but also has vivid memories of working for the College during that time.

Barta wasn’t at BC when the doors opened in the fall of 1968, but he was part of the staff by the time summer rolled around in 1969 and remembers many of the advantages and disadvantages of starting up a new college.

“This College was such a fantastic place to work,” Barta said of the school, known then as Brazosport Junior College. “The employees were so close, it was like a family.

“We started in the old Lanier High School in Freeport, and my office was in an old hallway where the air conditioner drained, so we enjoyed the sound of dripping water,” he added with a laugh. “But we knew what we had to do and what was necessary at the time.”

Barta’s time in Freeport was limited, however, as the school moved to its current location on the banks of Oyster Creek only two years after opening its doors.

“It was such a nice change,” Barta said of the move to Lake Jackson. “With the beautiful setting and all of the nice new furniture. Everyone was in awe of the new facilities.

“I considered it an opportunity to get things set up the way they needed to be,” he added.

Barta, who was the director of admissions and registrar, had one of the most challenging positions on campus. One of his primary roles was to make the registration process as quick and smooth as possible, which is never an easy task. He also did this job many years before computers and the Internet changed the world.

“The system was 3-by-5 index cards and keeping a manual tally of how many were in classes,” Barta said. “It was a smaller number than it is today, but everything still had to be typed up and recorded. It was a much different system than it is today, but everyone pitched in and it worked well.”

Barta, who retired from Brazosport College in 1998, also spearheaded the change from index cards to computers.

“That was a fantastic change,” he said. “There were different procedures and things we had to deal with while learning the evolution into computers but, with the staff we had, it was a good transition.”

For Barta, his co-workers provided the greatest memories during his 30-year career at BC. He knew all four of the College’s presidents, as well as most of the long-term staff and faculty members. He’s still recognized by many when he visits the campus today.

Actually, his influence still resonates around campus, especially through a couple of current BC employees.

“Brazosport College has had so many great employees through the years,” Barta said. “In fact, two ladies I hired 20 or so years ago — Jeraldyne Stripling and Suzanne Raymond — are still working here.

“I always joked with them that I hired them for life,” he added with a laugh. “I guess that’s the case.”

As for Stripling and Raymond, they remain close to Barta to this day.

“I was so grateful when he hired me,” Raymond said. “He was the best boss and you always knew what was expected.”

“We hated to see him take early retirement,” Stripling added. “But we still see him. We’ve even visited him at his home in the hill country. He’s a great friend.”

Today, Barta lives in Wimberley with his wife, Rosemary, and spends much of his time creating art through pottery and photography. Along with Rosemary, who is a talented painter, he is occasionally spotted selling their works at art shows.

Not surprisingly, he was introduced to pottery through classes at Brazosport College.

Actually, that sums up the importance of Brazosport College to Barta. Not only did it give him a career, it also provided a lifestyle after retirement.

“Brazosport College means so much to so many people,” Barta said. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be associated with such good people here, have all the benefits and a good salary. This college has made a difference for me and my family.”