At 20, Northwest Vista College robust and growing.

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English professor Chester Byars reflects on the 20 years he has experienced at NVC.  Photo by Tyrin Bradley

English professor Chester Byars reflects on the 20 years he has experienced at NVC. Photo by Tyrin Bradley

Two professors reminisce over college’s beginnings.

By Nathalie Mora

Northwest Vista, the campus and college, grew from a class of seven students into a diverse institution of more than 16,000.

Two professors shared their memories of the young college as it grew.

“I never envisioned this campus looking like it does today,” said Cluster Byars, an English professor at Northwest Vista for 20 years. “Less than 10 years ago, all these buildings and lake were non-existent.”

Dennis Gittinger, math professor at Northwest Vista  Courtesy

Dennis Gittinger, math professor at Northwest Vista Courtesy

Much of the campus was constructed with funding from a $450 million bond issue approved in 2005.

Byars remembers when the campus consisted of only one building and one trailer.

In 1998, NVC opened its first building across the street from Sea World and had 20 graduates that same year.

A Dec. 1, 1995, article in The Ranger, “Northwest Vista’s seven pupils begin college trek,” detailed the beginning of the college district’s fourth college.

Northwest Vista classes began in fall 1995 at partner sites, including high schools in Northside Independent School District, Baptist Institute of Health Education, and the Memorial Hospital System.

Byars said NVC had a different atmosphere than the rest of the Alamo Colleges since day one. He’s been able to experience this himself because he’s been an adjunct at every college except Northeast Lakeview.

“This college has a personality of its own,” Byars said.

Dennis Gittinger, math professor at Northwest Vista for 17 years, agrees with Byars.

“This campus is very friendly, accepting and has always been student-oriented,” Gittinger said. “It matches the personality of the people who work here.”

Gittinger taught at St. Philip’s and this college before being hired to teach math at NVC.

Byars credited then President Jacqueline Claunch for the personality of the college.

“Jackie made everyone feel they were part of this,” Byars said.

From the professors to the department chairs to the janitors, they all felt they were in it together, Byars said.

Gittinger remembers seeing Claunch helping clean trashcans after a flood a day before Flex 2 classes started in the fall of 1998.

“Everybody helped with everything,” Gittinger said. “We’ve always had a can-do spirit.”

Byars said that attitude permeated the whole campus and her legacy is still felt even after her retirement more than a year ago.

Professors continue to make humorous references like “I Claunched my keys,” or “someone Claunched my pen,” referring to the times the president locked her keys in her car or “borrowed” a pen without returning it, Gittinger said.

The new president, Dr. Ric Baser, was installed in August 2014.

Gittinger said Baser is the best person to take over Claunch’s position. “He’s the perfect person to continue with the vision,” he said.

The campus grew both physically and academically in a short 20 years.

According to, by fall 2014, more than 16,000 students were enrolled at NVC.

Gittinger predicts NVC will have the largest population of the Alamo Colleges in the next 20 years.

To do so, NVC will have to surpass this college’s population of more than 20,700 students.

Gittinger said he hopes the can-do spirit and great attitude is kept alive for the next two decades.

Byars is concerned about the college’s academic future.

“The district is treating education like it’s a business, and its only focus is to get students graduated,” Byars said.

Byars said he doesn’t agree with some of the district’s policies, like mixing English and math classes or having only one developmental class before going to a college class.

NVC received distinguished recognition from the National Association for Developmental Education in 2008 for developmental coursework in mathematics.

“We need to produce people who can think,” Byars said. “Rushing students to graduate is not in the best interest of the student.”

Byars said from the beginning, everyone knew NVC would be diverse, and he captured that in a poem he wrote when the college opened.

“Jackie and I always felt that Spanish wasn’t another language, rather it was part of our culture,” Byars said.

Byars named the poem “Viva La Vista” and incorporated lines in Spanish.

“Cual es su nombre? Como se llama la recien llegada? Se llama Northwest Vista. Viva la Vista! Viva la Vista!”

In English, it translates as: What is your name? What is the newcomer called? The name is Northwest Vista. Viva la Vista! Viva la Vista!

To read Byar’s poem, visit


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