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Panel on Saturday to explore race relations in Tyler and Texas

A panel planned for this weekend will explore race relations at the local and state levels from the perspectives of gender, education, politics, community and law enforcement.

“I had a vision to present this event because of the atrocities that have happened in other cities, in El Paso, in Ohio and all these different cities with these hate crimes with racial indifferences,” said Gloria Washington, the executive director of the Texas African American Museum, which is putting on the event.

“And I just wanted to bring this to the area, to our community, to our citizens, to unify our differences,” Washington said. “We know that these differences are out there, but there’s only one world and we have to learn to live together as one world.”

The State and Local Race Relations Forum will be held at the UT Tyler Ornelas Center, 3402 Old Omen Road, from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. The free event will begin with breakfast, and the panel discussion will follow.

“We’re all doing great things, and we want a better nation, and the way we have a better nation is we have to talk about these issues that we’re experiencing,” Councilwoman Shirley McKellar, the panel’s moderator, said in an interview.

McKellar has invited representatives from the Tyler Independent School District, the Tyler Police Department, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Minority Conservatives & Republicans Coalition, and a staffer for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, among others.

McKellar said the event is inspired by some people she knows who have faced issues like school bullying, lack of access to legal representation and racial bias in law enforcement. She has held similar town hall meetings in Tyler, and was involved in a similar event in Houston.

She described the daughter of friends who live in California who experienced bullying in school. The 7-year-old went on to publish a book on the subject about how she stood up to bullies.

McKellar said the subjects covered in the panel will include crisis and how people can work to get out of crisis areas, how pastors can work in their own churches to help to unify people, racism within races, and racial ideology within the criminal justice system.

“Law enforcement is important for us to have,” McKellar said. “We don’t want people to be afraid of law enforcement, but we want law enforcement to be fair in their matters with all ethnic groups.”

“There’s hard work involved in it,” she said of race relations.

“We want to make sure we never have a Columbine or other things that happen, or El Paso or Las Vegas,” she said. “That’s why we have to talk about it and do these things in our own community.”

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

Mural depicts history of UT Health Science Center at Tyler as it confronts public health issues

In a sun-filled room in the new School of Community and Rural Health building at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, a huge mural covers one wall.

A series of panels illustrate the history of the facility that was founded during the uncertain years of World War II and is moving into the future with an increased emphasis on improving public health.

“I see it (the mural) in terms of our mission then and now,” said Dr. Kirk Calhoun, the health center president.

“As we move forward, our mission continues to change,” Calhoun said.

In May 2017, the UT regents approved $39 million to build the School of Community and Rural Health on the medical campus north of Tyler.

Among other things, the 89,000-square-foot building houses classes for students seeking master’s degrees in health administration and public health.

Calhoun said the college will play an important role in the center’s goal of improving the health of residents in East Texas, a region with high rates of heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.

“The greatest gains in improving health have come from innovations and training in the public health sector,” said Calhoun, who began his tenure in 2002.

In a UT Health Science Center publication, Calhoun added, “Our new school is the platform to launch the next wave of health professionals into our community, equipped to solve the challenges we face here in East Texas. ... Our goal is to lift entire groups of people. This is what community health is all about.”

The health center commissioned L.C. Kitchen, a Kilgore artist, to paint the mural, which was completed in 1991. For many years, it was on view in a research building on campus. It eventually was taken down and stored in a warehouse.

“Unfortunately it sustained some water damage and damage from dust,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun knew one day the mural would have a new home on campus. The large conference room on the ground floor of the college was the perfect choice, he said.

The mural was retrieved from storage. Nancy McCain, a painting restoration specialist, repaired the damage and the Gold Leaf Gallery put it in a new frame more suited in the building on the nearly 80-year-old medical campus. 

The health center opened in 1943 as a hospital at Camp Fannin, a camp north of Tyler that once housed tens of thousands of men being trained to fight in World War II.

The opening panel shows a young soldier standing in front of a barracks at the camp.

After the war, the hospital continued with a new mission.

The next panel, dated 1947, shows it as the East Texas Tuberculosis Sanitarium, one of the few facilities in Texas that treated tuberculosis, an often deadly lung disease.

A panel dated 1951 shows the hospital during its time as East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital.

The panel dated 1971 is labeled East Texas Chest Hospital and shows researchers focusing on pulmonary disease.

The panel dated 1977 depicts the hospital as the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, a facility that provided patient care, community health education and biomedical and clinical research.

Since then, developments have continued.

In 1980, a six-story addition to the hospital was completed, and in 1987 a $9 million Center for Biomedical Research opened.

In 2005, the four-story outpatient Riter Center for Advanced Medicine was completed. In 2008, the institution’s name was changed to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, and the following year the $67 million Academic Center was built, housing a cancer treatment and prevention center.

The master’s program in public health was launched in 2016 with classes originally held in different space.

Classes in the School of Community and Rural Health building began in August.

The building will be dedicated in a ceremony set for 10 a.m Sept. 19.

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper

TJC approves $96 million budget

Tyler Junior College’s budget will benefit from new academic performance incentives passed in the most recent legislative session, school officials said.

The TJC Board of Trustees voted to approve a $96 million budget and keep a tax rate of 19.9926 cents per $100 of valuation during its regular meeting on Thursday.

Thanks to changes from Senate Bill 25, co-sponsored by Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, the college will see a $2.6 million increase in state funding over the next two years.

In an editorial for TJC’s Apache Magazine, Schaefer said Tyler Junior College, and community colleges around Texas, provide a better return on taxpayer investment, and lawmakers worked hard to ensure that was recognized in the 86th Texas Legislature.

TJC also will benefit from increased property valuations. The college will keep its tax rate at 19.9926 cents, which will result in a tax levy increase for homeowners, and about $1.48 million in additional revenue for the college over its 2018-19 levy.

Altogether TJC will see its budget increase by about $3.5 million over last year, bringing its 2019-20 budget total to $96.4 million. About $35 million comes from tuition and fees.

Salaries account for 59% of the college’s expenditures, with operating costs following at 27%.

“The increases included in the budget will continue to enhance and support the educational endeavors of our TJC students,” TJC President Juan Mejia said.

Mejia said some examples include districtwide improvements and enhancements to existing technology, expansion of existing programs throughout the college’s service area, pursuit of program accreditations, and the college’s preparation for its upcoming reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2020.

The office of technology services will see an increase of $600,000 in its budget and the various schools within the college will see increases ranging from $210,000 for the School of Continuing Studies to an increase of $783,000 in the School of Professional and Technical Programs.