Tippetts was once the Housekeeper, now is the Keeper of the House
ALDINE – Twenty-one years ago, when she spoke very little English, an immigrant mother of three children went to work at a Lone Star College campus as a part time night custodian.
Now Reyna A. Gomez Tippetts, from a small Mexican town, is the new dean of Lone Star College-East Aldine Center in the town center built by the East Aldine Management District.
Along the way, she earned an associate’s degree from Lone Star College, a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, and a master’s degree in business administration from Lamar University in Beaumont.
Archetype. Paradigm. Role Model. Ideal. Exemplar. Paragon. Those are just a few of the words that would describe the 45-year-old dean —if one uses the kind of wonky Radio Shack electronic translator she desperately needed to communicate in English in her manual labor job with the Lone Star College system.
The gadget had been a gift from her new husband, Roscoe Tippetts, a graduate of MacArthur High School in East Aldine. They happened to meet for the first at a Christmas party in 1998 in her hometown of Ebano, Mexico.
Roscoe Tippetts, recently widowed at the time, was visiting the parents of his late wife with their two young sons. He had brought the boys to visit their maternal grandparents for the holiday.
Reyna, then a 19-year-old Spanish speaker, admits that she “fell in love with a blue-eyed, blonde-haired baby boy” in his father’s lap at the party.
“That’s how I ended up marrying my husband, a gringo!” she said with a laugh.
“I always tell my son that he is the reason I came to this country. I fell in love with the little baby, and yes, his cute daddy.”
After what she describes as “a whirlwind romance,” the young couple married and moved to the East Aldine area, where they had a baby girl.
With the family struggling to make ends meet in 2001, she took the night custodian’s job at the Lone Star College-Harris North campus.
While working and attending school in the same place, Tippetts also helped raise the two young sons, Nelson and Brandon. They have followed in her academic footsteps.
Nelson holds a bachelor’s in criminal justice from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Brandon has his associate’s degree from Lone Star College. Their daughter, Alma, holds a bachelor’s in geology from Baylor University and is pursuing her master’s degree at Ohio State University.
Now it is the new dean’s goal to convince other students and their parents in East Aldine that education is the key to their future. Tippetts also wants the East Aldine community to know that Lone Star-East Aldine is home not only to Rose P. Avalos P-Tech High School, but also offers community college classes to help English-language learners and business owners improve their educational and economic opportunities.
But education had always been important to her. Even as a little girl in Mexico, Tippetts recalls, “I studied very hard. My parents didn’t really understand why I worked so hard.” Tippetts was barely able to communicate when she first enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at the North Harris campus.
She tearfully remembers another woman who worked there: “She was a dean who wore business suits to work, and she learned my name. I will never forget that I even called my mother to tell her” about the staff member’s caring gesture.
Tippetts eventually began working in other jobs at Lone Star.
She was a dispatcher for the community college police department, then advanced to a department position where she was responsible for paperwork ranging from time sheets to preparing required state and federal reports. She also eventually worked as an adjunct faculty member in computer sciences.
After she discovered that she initially lacked some credits necessary for her associate’s degree, Tippetts made it a personal mission to ensure that other students stayed on track with course credits. For a while, she worked as an advisor to a “graduation specialist’’ to ensure that other students didn’t fall behind in their educational plans.
Tippetts, who took over as dean in March, plans to meet with business community leaders to spread the word about the importance of education in East Aldine.
“It’s very important in the East Aldine community that working people know that education can be a business tool,” she said. “That’s why I really want to promote the classes that we will be offering on weekends.”
Every day, Tippetts carries the memory of that dean who remembered her name.
“I don’t care if I am the dean behind the desk or the housekeeper, I believe in giving it my all, my very best,” Tippetts said. “Because I really believe we all have the same aspirations.”
— by Anne Marie Kilday