Contact: Ann Hatch214-378-1819;
For immediate release — Aug. 13, 2018
(DALLAS) — For more than 40 years, Pam Quinn has been a pioneer and champion of distance education. It’s no surprise that she earned her doctorate online the first year that anyone in Texas could do that. After all, her work for the Dallas County Community College District always has been focused on breaking down barriers. That focus also explains why, earlier in her career, she asked herself this question: “Why should a person’s inability to be present in a classroom become a barrier to earning a degree?”
Quinn has answered that question and more during her four-decade tenure, and now it’s time for her to ask other questions as she retires at the end of August as provost of DCCCD’s LeCroy Center. This educational telecommunications center served students and the community during years when distance learning went from the telephone to the internet.
Quinn was no stranger to community colleges when she came to DCCCD. She arrived with no stereotypes and no misconceptions. “I grew up knowing community colleges because my dad attended Morton College in Chicago — one of the earliest community colleges in the U.S. I was excited to be part of Richland College when I first got there,” she said.
A former reporter for the Richardson Daily News, Quinn covered education on her beat. “I got to know Richland, which was brand new at the time (1972),” she recalls. That experience brought her to Richland as its second public information director in 1975, where she worked for the next four years, and then to KERA-TV — but she never really left the college.
“I worked at KERA for three years. During that time, I actually worked a lot with DCCCD because we were airing telecourses produced by the district on channel 13 throughout the Dallas Metroplex,” she said.
Until 2008, DCCCD produced documentary-style videos, or telecourses, which students could use to earn college credit from the comfort of home and beyond. Until this decade, DCCCD telecourses were everywhere. Recorded video courses could be found at local Safeway grocery stores as far away as rural Utah. Military personnel in the U.S. Navy and other branches of service used telecourses to earn college credit while they were deployed overseas. Those classes literally put DCCCD on the map nationally.
When Quinn came back to DCCCD in 1983, she returned as the district’s national marketing director for telecourses. “I was well-positioned to work with telecourses because I already knew PBS (the Public Broadcasting Service) so well,” she said.
Quinn worked with PBS in Washington, D.C., for more than 15 years, where DCCCD telecourses were uplinked by satellite. “We worked with more than 1,500 colleges and universities across the country who used our college district’s materials,” said Quinn, who played a key role collaborating with those institutions and getting them to license the district’s courses.
During the 1990s, the district used live television, both as faculty-taught college courses on DCCCD’s cable channel and also for professional development courses developed by STARLINK, a Perkins Grant-funded satellite network for Texas community colleges which DCCCD directed. “Much of the concept and the STARLINK name were Dr. Quinn’s brainchild,” said Rick Walker, STARLINK’s director.
After 18 months of behind-the-scenes planning and campaigning, Quinn received support internally and from the DCCCD board of trustees to break ground in 1990 for the R. Jan LeCroy Educational Telecommunications Center, adjacent to the Richland College campus. A stick of dynamite replaced the traditional shovel of dirt.
The vision for the center included a larger production staff plus a studio for filming and editing, instead of using contracted facilities. The growth of the center also reflected the growth and changing needs of students and the community.
“We acquired and worked with faculty to use a variety of technologies, including Instructional Television Fixed Service channels, which was a spectrum provided by the government for education,” explained Quinn. “We’ve used CD ROMs, videotapes and all kinds of technologies leading up to the internet. We just had to keep up with new ways to reach students, and that (approach) encompassed a lot of different technologies.”
She added, “In the beginning, the internet delivered only text, but many of us could see that it eventually would deliver video, audio and all of the robust applications we see now. The LeCroy Center’s role has been not only to acquire new technologies but also to figure out how to help our faculty use the technology effectively to teach students. Faculty were key to this process because they were the content experts; together, we were the team producing it all.”
Dallas TeleCollege was launched in 1997 (later called Dallas Colleges Online), offering 20 courses to 200 students through its virtual campus. Today, more than 36 percent of all DCCCD enrollments are online, and 60 percent of all DCCCD students will complete some portion of their college education with the district online.
“My role heading the LeCroy Center has changed continually throughout the years because we had to evolve with technology. The staff has done so much more than simply buy technology; it’s also about how you make it work,” said Quinn.
As the LeCroy Center’s retiring provost looks ahead, she sums up her time with DCCCD this way: “My favorite part of working for the district has always been the people, both those I’ve met here and nationally. The work of the LeCroy Center has helped put DCCCD on the map as innovative, and I’ve represented us through visits to other colleges and universities, teaching them the benefits of distance learning, and on numerous boards at the state and national levels dealing with distance education.”
A Hall of Fame inductee in both the Texas and U.S. Distance Learning Associations, Quinn has formed many long-time friendships during her tenure that will continue into her retirement. And she’ll stay busy in McKinney with the Heard Museum and the McKinney Historical Society as well as Girl Scouts (she’s a former leader and North Texas board member) and possibly as a distance learning consultant.
“Most importantly, I’ll take more time to breathe and be with friends, family and my wonderful young grandchildren who live within just a mile of my husband and me,” said Quinn.
# # #