In 1975, an optimistic graduate of East Texas State University, now known as Texas A&M University – Commerce, received a job as an English/speech instructor at KC. For the past 39 years, he has served the college as an instructor, department chair for liberal and creative arts, and for the past five years as the dean of liberal and creative arts.
At the conclusion of the Spring Semester, long-time KC faculty member Dr. Richard Harrison will be retiring.
Harrison majored in political science at Baylor University before receiving his doctorate from ETSU. He also has 30 post-doctorate hours from UT Tyler and ETSU.
“[At Baylor,] I swore I would never set foot in a classroom again,” Harrison said.
Before returning to graduate school, Harrison made a living as a bronco rider in the professional rodeo circuit. With the Vietnam War going on, the civil rights movements, and numerous other factors, he did not expect to live to see the age of 25.
But two years into his rodeo career, an accident left him with three fractured vertebrae, at which point Harrison thought, “I think I’ll be a teacher.”
Taking the position at KC was an easy decision for Harrison and his wife, who is a Kilgore native.
“For her, it was easy because it was like she was coming home,” Harrison said.
Serving as an instructor of English and speech, Harrison also served as a department chair of the liberal and fine arts department for 17 years. He took the position as dean following the retirement of the former dean.
“I thought this might be a nice move,” Harrison said about taking the position.
As dean, Harrison supervises instruction, and deals with faculty and department chairs, determining how to fix problems and how to anticipate and avoid problems for the future.
“Basically, I am a coordinator between administration and faculty,” he said.
When asked why he made the decision to retire now, Harrison answered simply, “Well the Liberal Arts Building is gone.”
According to Harrison, when he first came to teach at KC, Stewart McLaurin who was the dean of arts and sciences at the time, told him to not get “comfy” in the building because it was being torn down; 39 years later, with the building finally demolished, Harrison took it as the sign he needed to make the decision to retire.
During his career at KC, his favorite thing about the experience has been dealing with students.
“They are still young, still enthusiastic, they still have fun…” he said.
According to Harrison, that is what he is going to miss the most in his retirement.
However, he is looking forward to being able to hunt whenever he wants, as he is an avid fowl hunter. He is also anticipating more time to read for pleasure, as well as competing again in old-time fiddle contests, which he did for 10 years following the conclusion of his rodeo career.