PORT ARTHUR – Dr. W. Sam Monroe, who has been a part of Lamar State College-Port Arthur for 49 years and held various leadership positions including president for the past 39, has announced he will retire effective Aug. 31, 2014.
Dr. Monroe succeeded his father, Madison Monroe, as president of Port Arthur College in 1974 and has served in that capacity for nearly four decades.
“It’s been a privilege to serve in this position and work for an institution dedicated to improving opportunity and the quality of life for people,” Dr. Monroe said. “It has been such a rewarding and satisfying position to be in; you see firsthand the results of your work.”
Dr. Monroe has been directly affiliated with Port Arthur College, the forerunner of LSC-PA, since 1965, when he joined the college owned radio station KPAC AM/FM as a staff announcer. After serving in various management positions at the station, in 1973 he was named Executive Vice President of the college and a year later he succeeded his father, who had been president since 1958.
Over the next four decades, Dr. Monroe led the evolution of Port Arthur College to Lamar University-Port Arthur and, eventually, Lamar State College-Port Arthur, bringing accreditation to the institution, which then allowed for student financial aid from state and federal sources.
“As I started my time as president of the college, the focus was on gaining accreditation and the development of a financial aid program on campus.” Dr. Monroe explained. “Prior to that time we were not accredited; we had been licensed by the State of Texas but had not sought regional accreditation.
Today, the college is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as well as 10 other accrediting bodies.
With accreditation and financial aid realized, Monroe began working with the Southeast Texas Legislation Delegation, led by the late Sen. D. Roy Harrington and Rep. Carl A. Parker, both of Port Arthur, to obtain state support for the college through a merger with Lamar University. The merger was approved by both governing boards and was made possible by House Bill 130, sponsored by Parker, which permitted the university to offer classes in Port Arthur. Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe signed the legislation authorizing Lamar-Port Arthur to begin classes in the Fall of 1975.
Additional legislation introduced by Parker would make the college eligible to receive Higher Education Assistance Funds and allow for the granting of associate degrees in its own name. Senate Bill 843, which authorized the conferring of degrees, was signed by Texas Gov. Ann Richards at the Port Arthur Civic Center in 1992.
As the college’s ability to serve the community with financial aid and degree programs grew, so did its physical appearance along the Procter Street corridor in downtown Port Arthur.
The college initially consisted of four buildings on three acres but has grown to 29 buildings on 50 acres. The campus value in 1975 was $3 million. Today it stands at $110 million.
College endowment funds have grown to more than $8 million, helping to fund the aspirations of generations of students at the college. Enrollment in the Spring of 1975 was 151. For the Fall of 2013, 3,124 students were enrolled in pursuit of degrees or certificates in more than 50 programs of study. To serve that ever-growing population of students, the faculty and staff at the college has grown from 12 in the mid-1970s to 250 today. Additionally, the college offers online coursework, allowing working students even more opportunity to earn a degree or certificate on their own timeframe.
In 2004, the college ventured into the world of collegiate athletics, adding basketball and softball as additional scholarship opportunities for incoming students. In 2014, volleyball will be added to the roster of sports on campus.
And while Dr. Monroe has kept his eye clearly focused on the future, he has never forgotten his past or that of his community. His passion for history is embodied in his involvement in the Port Arthur Historical Society, the Museum of the Gulf Coast and the college’s alumni association.
“We organized the Port Arthur College Foundation in 1973, which is the present-day Port Arthur Higher Education Foundation, and we reactivated the Port Arthur College Alumni Association in 1986,” he explained. “The alumni association was closed in the early 1950s before my father came in as president. Together, we reactivated the organization with the people who were still around and had been part of that organization. Having a senior alumni association is an important part of a college’s development efforts.”
Nearly three decades later, the Lamar State College-Port Arthur Alumni Association is flourishing, boasting a healthy endowment fund that provides numerous scholarships to the college’s students.
Dr. Monroe was born in College Station and grew up in Port Arthur, where he graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. After receiving a B.B.A. degree from Sam Houston State University, Monroe earned M.Ed. and an honorary L.L.D. degree from Lamar University. He is married to Linda, who retired as a longtime public school teacher in the Port Arthur school district. Together they have two children, Madison and Kristine, and two grandchildren.
And although retirement is on his horizon, Dr. Monroe will continue to live in Port Arthur and participate in various civic organizations in addition to his work with the Historical Society and Higher Education Foundation.