A Tarrant County College search committee is closing in on replacing a man whom many find irreplaceable.
Nearly two decades into his presidency at TCC’s Northeast Campus, 69-year-old Larry Darlage decided to retire, sort of, on Aug. 31, after 18 years of leadership at the campus surrounded by Hurst and North Richland Hills.
Darlage, who lives in Southlake with his wife of 47 years, Mary Linn Darlage, will take over as principal at Crown of Life Lutheran School in Colleyville on Sept. 1.
The school is associated with a church of the same name that Darlage attends, and caters to preschool through eighth-grade students.
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“My wife says, ‘I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch,’ ” Darlage said of his “retirement.”
Darlage, who taught introductory chemistry every other year since the start of his presidency at TCC, also conducts science week at Crown of Life Lutheran.
He said he plans on focusing on the children first before exploring the opportunity to teach night classes at another university. Darlage said he doesn’t want to step on the new president’s toes.
“I’ve always had an open door. I never turned anyone away,” he said. “Faculty was so supportive because I was teaching and we could visit about things we tried in the classroom.”
TCC Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley appointed a search committee made up of vice presidents, divisional deans, students, faculty members and support staff. She said the committee conducted a nationwide search, and is “pretty close” to narrowing down candidates to replace Darlage.
So far, five have been selected, and they will be called in for face-to-face- interviews on July 7 and 8. After that, TCC will narrow the candidates to three, and have them speak at a town hall forum on either July 14 or 15.
“Larry has been a wonderful leader for that campus,” Hadley said. “His employees really do love his quiet nature — his determination to do things that need to be done in a very nice, collaborative way. … Externally, he is the consummate collaborative leader in that you can’t find anyone in Northeast Tarrant County that doesn’t know Larry Darlage.”
Darlage even served as interim chancellor at TCC for five months in 1997.
‘A really, really good person’
Northeast student leader Jordan Talley said Darlage didn’t hide behind his administrative role.
After Talley was recently elected president of the campus’ Student Government Association, he stopped Darlage in the hallway and asked for some leadership advice.
“He dropped everything to talk to me,” Talley recalled. “He’s just a really, really good person.”
Darlage left a teaching job at a small liberal arts college in eastern Kentucky in 1978 to take on the role as the first divisional dean of science and math at Brookhaven College.
After nearly 18 years at the community college, and a stint as its interim president, he decided he liked his brush with presidency, and in 1996 became president at TCC’s Northeast Campus.
He recalled that his first two weeks at TCC were spent speaking with faculty about what part of their work made them proud.
“You only have one shot at developing positive relationships with people,” he said. “Take the time to develop those relationships.”
He said during his time he focused on making sure the campus was a part of the community.
“I think I want to be remembered as a president who was a teacher and community service leader,” said Darlage, who serves on at least a dozen committees in Northeast Tarrant County.
“Larry is so doggone dedicated and caring,” Hurst Mayor Richard Ward said of Darlage’s community service. “I would hate to have to try to replace Larry.”
North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino agreed.
“He has reached out to all the cities. He’s been the chairman of every organization in our area. He is involved in every aspect of the community from nonprofits to civic and social events. He is everywhere,” Trevino said.
“He doesn’t just show up,” he added. “He shows up and he offers insight. He promotes TCC very heavily — but he does it in a way that doesn’t cram it down your throat. He signs up, shows up and rolls up his sleeve.”
As Darlage prepares to leave the Northeast Campus in his rearview mirror, he recalled his favorite interview question for prospective employees.
“It’s the end of the day, and you’re driving home just floating on cloud nine because of what happened that day on campus — what happened?”
Darlage’s answer — collaborating with faculty and students.