History of 鶹Ƶ

First 鶹Ƶ campus building.

From Humble Beginnings

Opening in 1970 in response to the community need for a public higher education institution, Tulsa Junior College (as originally named) would grow from one campus in the city’s downtown with approximately 2,800 students to a multi-campus college now serving more than 20,000 students each year.

A College for All

Known for meeting students where they are, TJC saw rapid and immediate growth – doubling enrollment in five short years. Today, 鶹Ƶ educates more Oklahomans than any other higher education institution in the state.

Name Change

Tulsa Junior College became known as 鶹Ƶ in 1996 to reflect the College’s role in providing quality education for the community and its citizens.

TJC Statue and tcc sign

Anniversary Celebrations

The College has marked two anniversary milestones. In 1995 in honor of the College’s 25th anniversary, a time capsule with items collected from students, faculty and staff was buried at Metro Campus with instructions to be opened in 2020 during the College’s 50th anniversary. Watch this video as 鶹Ƶ President Leigh Goodson and former 鶹Ƶ Presidents Dean VanTrease and Tom McKeon reveal the items and discuss the College’s history.  

The College Through the Years Exhibit

Experience 鶹Ƶ from the beginning to the present through photo, and news articles from the College's first 50 years.

鶹Ƶ Former President Alfred Philips

Alfred M. Philips

鶹Ƶ President 1970 – 1989

Learn About Philips' Legacy
鶹Ƶ president Dr. Dean Vantrease.

Dean VanTrease

鶹Ƶ President 1989 - 2004

Learn About VanTrease's Legacy
鶹Ƶ Former President Dr. Tom McKeon

Tom McKeon

鶹Ƶ President 2004 - 2014

Learn About McKeon's Legacy
鶹Ƶ President Dr. Leah Goodson

Leigh Goodson

鶹Ƶ President 2014 - present

Learn About President Goodson

Former Presidents & Their 鶹Ƶ Legacy

Alfred M. Philips

Alfred M. Philips was the founding president of Tulsa Junior College, selected from a national pool to lead the institution. He had previously served as president at both Big Bend Community College in Washington, and at Sheridan College in Wyoming. He also was First Vice Chancellor of the Dallas County Community College, a multi-campus system in Texas. 

Philips guided TJC from a one-campus college to a multi-campus operation. Under his leadership, the College opened a center that offered a variety of academic support services and adaptive technology for students with disabilities. From Philips’ legacy, student services would eventually expand into the Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the 1980s. The Resource Center provided sign language interpreters, tutors, speech-to-text services and assistive listening devices. Now named Accessibility Resources, it is the first stop to qualify students for educational accommodations in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

Philips retired from TJC in 1989 and Dean P. VanTrease was named president. In 1995, Philips was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.


Dean VanTrease

Dean VanTrease held leadership positions at 鶹Ƶ for 34 years, first serving as executive vice president, and then as president until 2004. Before coming to Tulsa, he was Dean of Instruction at Dallas County Community College and worked at Big Bend Community College.

His leadership emphasized the health sciences and the arts. With the opening of the Alfred M. Philips Health Sciences Center on the Metro Campus in 1990, Tulsa Junior College, as it was called then, expanded opportunities to meet workforce needs for nurses, dental hygiene assistants, and other allied health fields. As a hands-on learning lab for dental hygiene students, the Dental Hygiene Clinic provided community members access to low-cost dental hygiene services, which is still open today. Also in 1990, TJC announced the Natalie O. Warren Chair of Nursing, its first endowed chair funded by the Saint Francis Hospital Auxiliary with a matching grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

The Performing Arts Center for Education on the Southeast Campus was also unveiled in 1996, allowing the College to expand its Music, Theatre and Arts academic programs with a 1,500-seat performance hall and adjoining classrooms. The PACE was named for President Dean VanTrease in 2000, which followed a 2003 expansion phase adding stage production laboratories, sound recording and teaching studios. It became the home of the College's performing arts programs and the Oklahoma Sinfonia, now Signature Symphony, a professional orchestra-in-residence for the College.

VanTrease also oversaw the name change from Tulsa Junior College to 鶹Ƶ in 1996 to reflect the institution’s role in providing quality education for the community and its citizens. Throughout his role as president, he emphasized cooperative education in Tulsa with model educational partnership programs like Tulsa’s Aviation Education Alliance, Career Partners, Inc., IndEx Inc., EMERGE, Tulsa Training Coalition and the Tulsa Summer Academies.

Among his honors, he received the Whitney M. Young Award from the Tulsa Urban League and was inducted into the Oklahoma Education Hall of Fame in 1999. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2005.

To learn more, by the University of Tulsa. He explains how the College was born and developed. 


Tom McKeon

Tom McKeon joined 鶹Ƶ as a horticulture instructor in 1980 and served in a variety of administrative roles at the College, including Dean of Instruction, Provost of two campuses and Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, before being named President in 2004.  

As President, he oversaw several initiatives designed to increase access to college that would be adopted across the state and U.S. Through several pilot programs and partnerships, 鶹Ƶ led the state in delivering college classes to high school students. In fact, research from one of the pilots shaped the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s policy on concurrent enrollment. Studies show that completing college courses while still in high school increases the college graduation rate while helping to decrease student debt. To date, 鶹Ƶ is the largest provider in Oklahoma for concurrent enrollment.

Additionally, McKeon led the creation of the nationally recognized Tulsa Achieves scholarship program which has served as a model for other communities including Knoxville, TN. The scholarship pays tuition and fees for eligible high school graduates to earn a degree without going into debt. In addition, Tulsa Achieves has provided multitudes of students with a path to college while engaging them in the community through required volunteer service to maintain the scholarship.  

He is responsible for the creation and construction of the Metro Campus Center for Creativity designed to embrace rapid changes in curriculum delivery and merge a variety of academic disciplines to prepare students for the digital environment. The Center was named for him in 2014 upon his retirement. McKeon also introduced the national Achieving the Dream initiative which has increased success rates for students, particularly first-generation college students, and later resulted in a college-wide skills course required for both Tulsa Achieves and developmental students that has significantly boosted grade point averages and retention.

McKeon’s attention to the community resulted in the addition of the Riverside Community Center and Aviation Center and the creation of the 鶹Ƶ Education Outreach Center in east Tulsa, which has become a national model for Hispanic and minority education inclusion and outreach. Under his leadership came the design of the Nate Waters Physical Therapy Clinic, a teaching laboratory for students in 鶹Ƶ Health Sciences programs and a public physical therapy clinic for underserved and underinsured individuals.  

Active in the community, McKeon served as president of many boards, including Leadership Tulsa, Oklahoma Council of Presidents, Oklahoma Academy for State Goals, and Street School.  

Among his honors, McKeon was inducted into the Oklahoma State University College of Education Hall of Fame and was a recipient of the Paragon Award from Leadership Tulsa. In 2008 he was named the Tulsan of the Year by Tulsa People Magazine, and in 2012 he was selected as one of five Oklahomans of the Year by Oklahoma Magazine. He was named one of four 2013 Icons for OSU by OSU-Tulsa in recognition of his contributions to OSU, the city of Tulsa, and the state of Oklahoma.  

McKeon retired from 鶹Ƶ in June 2014 and was named President Emeritus by the 鶹Ƶ Board of Regents. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2015.