Currently, Dr. Patricia McKenzie is the Vice President and Dean of Instruction at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. Lufkin is located in Angelina County in the heart of deep East Texas. She was born Patricia Mae Donley to Norris and Berta Mae (Lilly) Donley in Lufkin, on December 30, 1940. Her father, Norris, worked as a laborer at Texas Foundry until his illness, and then worked as a taxicab driver. Her mother, Berta Mae, worked outside the home as a maid and also as a cook at Perry's Cafeteria. She grew up in a segregated African American neighborhood in Lufkin. She attended segregated schools; Carver Elementary, Garrett Junior High, and Dunbar High School. In high school, she was very active in the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which was held at Prairie View A&M College and gave her a glimpse of where she would be going to school. Upon graduation from Dunbar, she attended Prairie View A&M College and obtained her degree in nursing in 1963. Her first job after college was at Booker T. Washington High School, a segregated school located in Wichita Falls, where she was the school nurse and health instructor. She joined the Peace Corps in 1965 and served her two years in the Dominican Republic as a nursing instructor and community development leader. She returned to the United States and attended the University of Pittsburg. She received her Master's degree in Public Health Nursing in 1968. She stayed at the University of Pittsburg as a community health instructor for one year before she decided to return to Lufkin. When she returned to Lufkin, she married an old friend, Richard McKenzie, on January 8, 1969. Later that year she began her long career with the newly opened Angelina College as a nursing instructor. Her daughter, Stephanie was born in 1975. Several years later, she and her husband divorced but stayed close to raise their daughter. In 1981, she decided to start work on her doctorate degree at Texas A&M University located in College Station. Between work and raising her daughter, she completed her degree in 1987. Shortly after, she was asked to step into her current role as the Dean of Instruction, which was later combined with the position of Vice President. Dr. McKenzie is also involved with many organizations within the Lufkin community. She has served on the Board of Directors for Memorial Health Systems of East Texas since 1972 and served as the Chair from 2002-2003. She also serves on several others boards in the health field. In addition to those, she is an active participate with The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Regional Accrediting Agency-Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as part of the peer review team, the NAACP, and the Angelina Rotary Club. Because of her superior service to the community, Dr. McKenzie was awarded the Silver Spike Award by the Angelina County Chamber of Commerce in 1993. Dr. McKenzie is also active in her church, Long Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, as the Director of Christian Education, Sunday school teacher of Youth, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and President of Adult Choir for the Southeast Texas Region of Eighth Episcopal District.
The interview was conducted on June 20, 2012 by Pamela Temple in McKenzie's office at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas.
TEMPLE: Today is Wednesday, June 20, 2012. I am here with Dr. Patricia McKenzie in her office at Angelina College.
[About 15 seconds of dead air, technical difficulties with the video recorder.]
TEMPLE: Okay. Good morning Dr. McKenzie.
MCKENZIE: Good morning, Pamela. I am happy that you're finally here.
TEMPLE: Well, I am very happy to be here. I'm going to ask you some questions to start out. When and where were you born?
MCKENZIE: I was born in Lufkin, Texas, Angelina County and I was probably born in a clinic because we didn't go to the hospitals for births during my day.
TEMPLE: Okay and when were you born?
MCKENZIE: In December 30th, 1940.
TEMPLE: Okay. What was it like growing up in Lufkin? Did you grow up in a segregated neighborhood? What was the neighborhood like that you grew up in?
MCKENZIE: I grew up pre-1960s. So we lived in our area, we went to our schools, we participated in our churches. All of the activities were designed through us. In fact, I really didn't know where the other schools were. I just heard about them. And I heard about them because often we would get books that they had used in the white schools and had given to us. Or we would get band instruments that they had used. And the independent school district would pass them on to us because the funds were not always allocated equally.
TEMPLE: So, you went to grammar school at Carver Elementary, correct? And then went to high school at Dunbar. And they were both segregated, I mean, they were black schools? I mean they were not integrated.
MCKENZIE: Carver, in fact, there is no monument, no sign, or anything. Carver was located off of Chestnut Street; and there is a business there now. We just know where it was. When we were growing up; but no one else would know if they had not been a part of Lufkin at that time. Garrett, of course, is not the Garrett that people know in Lufkin today. Garrett that we attended was on the opposite side of the street. If you drive down Kirth Drive you'll see something labeled Garrett Primary, but our Garrett Junior High was on the opposite side and it was a rock building. Where you see Dunbar is not quite the same, because only half of that area was developed. Our Dunbar High School was on the right side of what is now Martin Luther King. What has developed after integration is the left side, because when we were attending school, that left side had a fence and trees and if you crossed it, you were over into the property of the Lufkin Country Club.
TEMPLE: Wow [laughter]. So, the schools and your churches and everything were in your neighborhood. Did you, was there a, did your neighborhood have a name? Did y'all, was it just, your neighborhood? I mean-
MCKENZIE: Well, there were a few names given, like Keltys was predominantly African American, they built over off of Williams Street, Glenn, Oquinn, they built what they called a Dunbar subdivision where many of the people who didn't have homes, built homes at that time. We lived on Chestnut Street up until fifth grade. Then when we moved to Williams Street, that's when I changed schools. So, I didn't know the students who started at Brandon Elementary until I moved and we all met up at Garrett going into sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. And then we were all together at Dunbar cause there was only one school.
TEMPLE: So, what do you remember about the house you grew up in, or the, I guess the two houses you grew up in? Do you have any fond memories of them, or any memories of your homes?
MCKENZIE: Fond memories because where we lived was next door to a very dear friend. He was in my class but his sister was older than we were and she was in grades two years ahead of us and so we played together. There were not a lot of children on Chestnut Street so we were very close, but we were only a block away from our church. And so all activities revolved around either the school or the church. Not many things in elementary school, just a few things in junior high, but a lot of activities at Dunbar. So, if you didn't find us at the church, you found us at the school.
TEMPLE: What kind of activities were you involved in high school? What kind of activities were you involved in?
MCKENZIE: In high school, I probably was a part of most things. We had what was home economics then, so we were a part, but we didn't have like future home economics. We had our own club for home economics and so we were involved in that. I was a member of the band. I played basketball at the time that we played half court not like the ladies play today [laughter] on both sides of the court. I participated in track and field events, debate club, poetry club. I was even a part of the University Interscholastic League [UIL], which was separated. All of our activities were conducted at Prairie View A&M University now, but was then the college. And everything that we did in preparation, we did it to attend that program. So all of the African-American students would come together in what people know as UIL, but it was pre-integration. So I competed in math contests, I competed in essay contests, every contest that my principal thought we could excel in because the faculty were a part of preparing us. And so we would go to the contests and represent our school and represent our community because we really weren't seen as representing Lufkin. But our community was very excited when we would go off and do well.
TEMPLE: So, you were there to basically, your community, make your community look better? Even though it wasn't for Lufkin, it was for your community.
MCKENZIE: Absolutely. Everything that we did. Because the community was a part of shaping us. I grew up when the neighbor could see you doing something and the neighbor could discipline you, and mom and dad, and by the time you got home, had received the message and they would discipline you again [laughter] and there was nothing you could say about whomever that neighbor was who had disciplined you. And so when I grew up everyone felt that they were a part of helping you to be the best that you could be and that's why I think the church and school were so much a part of our lives. We didn't have other places to go. We didn't have a lot of activities, so we did a lot of things in the home. And there were a couple of people in my class who were always designated because their parents always invited us to be in their homes. Didn't do very much. We would play games and entertain ourselves, but that was when we only had black and white TV and only a few people in the class had TV. So we had radio programs and very little TV.
TEMPLE: So you had to find ways to entertain yourselves?
TEMPLE: Use your imagination?
MCKENZIE: Oh and we were very good [laughter]. We were very creative. In fact, I can remember at Dunbar High School we had an art teacher, a drama teacher, a theater teacher, all rolled into one. And she liked putting on productions. So we were always practicing for a play of some kind. And she loved designing the sets and background, so we did everything because they said we should be prepared. Not against others in the town, but against the world which we would find ourselves and if we were not great at what we were doing then people would not appreciate us. So I grew up pushing always to do better than I had done the year before and not accepting that I had to be just average.
TEMPLE: So your parents, what do you remember about them? Did they work outside the home?
MCKENZIE: My parents worked outside of the home. My father graduated from high school, my mother did not, but she had a lot of mother wit. And so even though they didn't have a college education, they believed in education. And see, I grew up when family mixed with teachers. So they would talk about the future of your child. They would try to advise our parents, who didn't have college education. Okay, you can do this. I can remember that Prairie View A&M was introduced to us. Texas Southern in Houston was introduced to us. A lot of my classmates went to Jarvis in Hawkins [Jarvis Christian College, a historically black institution affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), located approximately 100 miles southeast of Dallas]. And that's because the teachers had come out of those areas. And we had a principal who said, "You're going to school," and that's what he told our parents. And our parents said, "You going to school." There was no ifs, ands, or buts about it. You're going to college. Get ready. And so everything was done to get us ready. We didn't have a lot of clothes, but they kept clean what we had to wear. And it was in the day when we didn't have standard dress. So you just wore what you had, a good blouse, a good skirt, a Sunday dress and you were able to do everything that you needed to do. When I went to college, to Prairie View, I remember my parents carried me and they left me. And I don't think I had been very many places without them, except church activities. We would go to church programs and we would-I knew Prairie View because I had been a part of the UIL and so we knew that campus. But amazingly enough, we didn't know that how we lived when we were there with the students, because there was not special housing set aside for us. We actually lived in the rooms where the students were living. So you would end up, there were already three college students in there, and they would end up with two or three of us. So cots were brought in and I didn't know that my life at Prairie View would be the same because then I was the student and someone was coming and living with us [laughter]. And so I got a chance to share my space with other people. There were three of us going to school, and when UIL time, we were told "Students will be in the room with you. You will share your space with them."
TEMPLE: No choice.
MCKENZIE: No choice and we had showers down the hall. There were not cooking facilities. We'd go to the cafeteria. Home-style meals were served. And in my room, there were two of us who were nursing majors and the other person that was in our room, I think, was a psychology major. But she was not a part of the nursing group. And so, I had left home with everybody being concerned about me, arrived at Prairie View and then everybody was concerned because we were nursing majors. And we were very special people.
TEMPLE: Was that not common then for, I mean, how, I guess, how common was it for there to be black nurses? I mean, was it common? Was it, were there very many other places where you could have gone or was Prairie View it to get a nursing education?
MCKENZIE: No, in Texas, Prairie View was our only location. The UTs [University of Texas] and the TWUs [Texas Women's University] had not opened up. Again, this was all pre-integration in our state and in our country. But we had excellent teachers who were determined we were going to excel. So I left Lufkin where people were all about pushing you to be the best, arrived at Prairie View and encountered people who demanded the best from you. One reason, you were going to take care of patients. The other, you were going to be an African American practicing in a predominately white world. And so they said, "You're going to be good. You're going to be able to think. You're going to be able to provide care and you are going to be able to recognize that you can't stop here. You must continue to grow. You must learn all that you possibly can." I guess that's part of why I push students.
TEMPLE: So, with the UIL students and having them there was there, when you were there did you, were you mentored by who you stayed with and then later on when you had UIL students staying with you, were you able to mentor them at all? I mean to kind of help them. You know, see what was out there, give them a little encouraging hand or was it just they were sharing your space and-
MCKENZIE: No, primarily they shared your space because we were going to class every day. We would get up go to class. They would go to their special activities so we would see them in the room and I can remember talking to them about what we were doing at school and how it was different from what we had experienced. And that they needed to be sure that they were doing the best they could do when they went back home. But we were on the move to do what we had to do, because Prairie View had a schedule for us that, and as nurses we had a very strict schedule. In fact, the person in charge, the director of our program, never accepted excuses for anything. I can remember going to a class where other majors were, we weren't even allowed to leave after 15 minutes. Other students could do that, who were a part of other disciplines. But our director said, "That's your class. You will stay there, even if the instructor does not arrive, you will still stay there." And so we grew up knowing that what our schedule was commanded our attention and you just stayed focused and did your work. We were the only students on campus who if the instructor let you out late, would be seen running across campus to get to the next class because our dean didn't accept that you couldn't be there on time.
TEMPLE: Cause you had a sche[dule]. You were expected to keep your schedule.
MCKENZIE: You were expected to be there at the time that was scheduled and she simply didn't accept excuses.
TEMPLE: So what time did your day begin and end?
MCKENZIE: Our day began probably about seven because we had to be in the cafeteria and we lined up in the cafeteria, and when I went to Prairie View, we had a block schedule. We would complete the first two years, of a four-year program, on campus. Then we would leave for a year and we would be in Houston for clinical experiences. We would go to Galveston for clinical experiences. And then our last year, we would come back in and complete our fourth year on campus. So during the fourth year we could work part time. And so the nurses, who were Prairie View graduates, would invite us to come in and get extra experiences. But they would give us a few dollars to do that because it was their work schedule. So if you want to work on my schedule, be here. So we might go to Houston to work on a Friday afternoon and come back on a Saturday morning. That's when I could do back-to-back eight hours.
TEMPLE: [Laughter.] Back in your younger days.
MCKENZIE: And still function. Because you couldn't, you know, you didn't dare not give excellent patient care because it was the Prairie View graduates' assignment. And so even though we were students, we knew we had to do the best and everybody expected us to be great when we graduated. And I guess most of us lived up to that, because many of my classmates went on to do very exciting things.
TEMPLE: The year you graduated, how many other students were there that graduated with you in the nursing program?
MCKENZIE: In our nursing class, I think we had 40 students graduating. And most of those students were from Houston because, again, they didn't have the option of going to a college in Houston, so they traveled to Prairie View to complete their nursing. And we all went our separate ways. Many of us went to Houston to get additional experience but then we went on to other places. Some of them stayed in Houston, some of them excelled in class, in schools that were in hospitals, some of them worked on the floor to provide patient care, some of them worked in public health, clinics in that area. But we all worked when we graduated. And then we kind of separated and went on our way.
TEMPLE: So I saw that after you completed your degree you spent some time in Wichita Falls [located in north central Texas, about 15 miles south of the border with Oklahoma] as the school nurse and health instructor. Was it at a segregated school?
MCKENZIE: Booker T. Washington was in the African-American community and that's where I worked. Interestingly enough my principal from Dunbar High School had moved to Wichita Falls and was principal at Booker T. Washington. And when I graduated and completed all of the work I wanted to do in Houston, he said, "We have an opening. You need to apply." But that he could have told me as my principal, now he was telling me because I had grown up with him at Dunbar High School. And so, naturally, I applied.
TEMPLE: [Laughter.] Who could turn him down? [Laughter.]
MCKENZIE: And so I went to Wichita Falls, interviewed, of course had his recommendation because he knew me from Dunbar and that was my job there, at his school, where he was principal. And there was another person there from Lufkin also, so there was two of us from Lufkin. He was a graduate of Prairie View and he was teaching automotive technology. I was a graduate from Prairie View and I was their school nurse and health instructor. And trying to teach ninth through twelfth and always changing because they change. But that was an interesting community. There was an air force base [Sheppard Air Force Base] near, so you had to teach your young ladies how to be young ladies because the guys were older, coming into the city and you wanted them to know that just because they pay attention to you, [laughter] you can't accept that they're interested in you. So the ninth graders, who probably looked a little older than they would have normally, thought this was exciting. So we had a lot of out of unit class about life and living because I didn't want the ninth graders to lose their opportunity to finish school. And sometimes the body can tell you one thing, and you allow it to override your mind.
TEMPLE: [Laughter.] Of course; especially as a teenager [laughter].
MCKENZIE: Yes, and so I had interesting times with them, developed a club for them after school where we would go to clinics and to mental health agencies in the community, so that they would get a chance because I wanted to share nursing with them. There was a different way to look at what you do. And where I lived, we lived with families because there were not many places where we could live in the community and I lived with a family, and bless her heart, she always said, "Are you ever coming home on time?" I said, "No because I have students to worry about." And so I would take them, transport them, because their parents had other things to do, transport them. We would have our meetings; they would get a chance to see how helping other people could make a difference for them. And then they didn't have to make up things to do or entertain themselves in doing something I would have found unacceptable. So those were interesting years and met a lot of people who were different than who were now my colleagues, who were different from my teachers at Dunbar; learned a lot from them and decided that I needed to do something-different. And that was when the decision was made to join the Peace Corps.
TEMPLE: That's what I was going to ask next, is how [laughter] did you come to the decision to join the Peace Corps? Because I think that's pretty neat [laughter].
MCKENZIE: I enjoyed working in the community but I was looking for some other way to grow and I had a friend who had the information about the Peace Corps because she had expressed interest but decided she really didn't want to go and be away from home. And so, when I got the information, I thought, oh, this is wonderful. Why wouldn't somebody want to go serve, learn? And I applied. And they interviewed my family in Lufkin. They interviewed my neighbors in Lufkin. They interviewed the teachers in Lufkin. They interviewed my colleagues in Wichita Falls. Because they were very serious about getting people who would not only represent our country but would do what they were expected to do. And so all of them gave me good recommendations. I finally received the letter saying you have been accepted and we went off to Baylor [Baylor University is located in Waco, Texas] for the three months to prepare.
MCKENZIE: Learned everything that they thought we should know to interact in a different culture, went to class every day. But the most unusual experience that almost kept me out of the Peace Corps because the Dominican Republic is on part of the island with Haiti [Dominican Republic occupies the east side of the island of Hispaniola and Haiti occupies the west side of the island], we all had to learn how to swim. Few of my friends knew how to swim when they came into the Peace Corps. I didn't know how to swim when I came into the Peace Corps. And so I had to make up my mind, I was going to learn to swim or I couldn't serve in the Dominican Republic. Well, I don't particularly like water on my face [laughter]. And so it became a very difficult task for me and the instructors finally said, "Okay, can you swim across this pool?" And of course, Baylor had a very nice pool. And I said, "Well, I can try. But if I can float for the time that you would expect me to swim across, will you accept that?" And so I guess they looked at each other and go, well if she can float that long somebody could probably get to her. And I learned to float better than I could swim. And so I, that meant being on my back and keeping my head and face out of the water. And so I learned to float. And I could float for hours on end and just stay there and they would say "Okay, it's time to come out now." This is pretty good. I learned this pretty well [laughter]. But they were convinced that I would not drown and I could be saved going into that situation with water around us. And it happened, we left there and went to Puerto Rico [Puerto Rico is an island located to the southeast of Hispaniola], and that was close to the Spanish speaking country we would be in. So we stayed with a family there. We ate with the family, whatever they ate. And we did something unusual; we went out into a forest and did climbing. It wasn't really a high mountain, but when you were rappelling off of it, it looked like a very high mountain. And so we had to learn to repel because in the Dominican Republic, some of the areas were very mountainous areas. And you might have to survive out there and so they would hook you into this harness and you learned to rappel off of the top of the mountain down to the ground below.
TEMPLE: So what did this girl from Lufkin think about Puerto Rico and I can't, it's so different! [Laughter.]
MCKENZIE: Because we had been introduced to cultural information about the Dominican Republic, I loved being in Puerto Rico with them and learning because we recognized that we were not going to have the food from home, and so it gave us an opportunity to eat food that they prepared their way and you think, it's okay. I can do this [laughter]. Because the goal was to be prepared to survive away from home for two years, because that was the tour of duty, that we had to survive. And so it was interesting, not exactly like home. They were very poor people, but they shared what they had. And like I say we were out of there often to go and prepare with our instructors, who taught us still, you're going into a different culture. It's not like where you have been and you need to be able to understand them. One of the things about the Dominicans is that they don't like you in their personal space. And so we learned not to get, you know how Americans can get very close and look at you and keep your attention, we learned not to get into their personal space because they didn't accept that as being a friendly gesture. And we practiced a lot, because most of us know how to get up close and talk to people.
MCKENZIE: But you couldn't do that because you didn't want to alienate the people with whom you would be working. So all of the preparation was great. Peace Corps prepared us. Stayed the full time, taught nursing, and many of my friends in the States learned that all of the magazines with pictures were to be sent to me, because I prepared a lot of demonstrations. Sometimes I couldn't say to them exactly what I wanted to say, and so I just kept preparing pictures and I would have poster boards of pictures to show them and teach them. And in the hospital where we were assigned, one of us was assigned, two of us was assigned to Puerto Rico. [After I listened to the interview, I spoke with Dr. McKenzie about this. According to her, they were only in Puerto Rico for about three weeks before they traveled to the Dominican Republic. She meant to say Santiago here.] One of us was assigned to a med/surg [medical/surgery] hospital, the other person was assigned in another town. But we lived in the same, and it wasn't our space, we lived with a family who happened to have, one, two, two rooms, and a small shower. And that was the first time I'd ever had to take a cold shower.
MCKENZIE: Literally, a cold shower because they didn't have hot water heaters. If you wanted hot water, you put it on the stove and you heated it. And to be at the hospital on time, I couldn't waste time heating water, so I learned to take a shower in cold water. Oh yes, that was an invigorating experience.
TEMPLE: At least you were awake then, right?
MCKENZIE: Um-hm. You were awake and ready to go and be with them. And my first real test with the nurses over there, because I was sent to teach them. That's why I was there, and after my shift with them I would go out into the community to do health education classes and prepare them, but my first experience inside of the hospital, the nurses didn't like something and so they were going to meet with the administrator of the hospital. Now, here's this Peace Corps volunteer, being put up by the nurses, who trusted the Peace Corps volunteer, who didn't know Spanish as well as they did, to defend them with the administrator. So that was an interesting experience. I wrote out everything that I thought I might want to say so that I would be ready to work with him and we got through that. The administrator understood fully what I was trying to say because the administrator knew a lot more English than the nurses who were there working. And so, we communicated. It worked out and my nurses were happy, which meant they were on my side when I tried to teach them all of the principles that I had learned. But it was wards, not rooms, wards, with ten, twenty people in the beds, sometimes two people in a bed because we didn't have facilities to accommodate them. There was a large, very high fence around the hospital made of cinder blocks and the reason for that is they had a yard around and that's where the family members stayed who had brought their loved one to the hospital. So they would live and cook, out in the yard and come in to see their loved one, hoping that we were helping them. But the problem with that, they wouldn't bring them to the hospital until it was almost too late and so very often, we would lose them. And that was not a good experience to often have to tell family members that we had lost their loved one, but by the time they brought them in, there wasn't much we could do for them. And the other shocking experience was OB [obstetrics]. Mothers would come in to have their twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth child and I thought, that's just terrible, they can't feed the ones they have at home. So this Peace Corps volunteer got into trouble because I was going to teach them, in a predominately Catholic country, about birth control and family planning. And I had my first encounter with the real leaders of the community, who said, "We don't want you to do that." And I said, "But I'm burying babies because they don't have prenatal care. They are not healthy and these babies are being born." And we put 'em in what, paper, in a shoe box, or wrapped 'em in paper and put 'em in a box from the grocery store and it just was something I thought I should correct. Well I soon learned that they had their own ways. I had been taught that by Peace Corps. But when you live in it and see it, you think, I must do something to stop this. They can't keep losing these babies. Life is too important. But after that experience I was a little bit more cautious because I had a job to do and I didn't want them to ask Peace Corps to remove me simply because I wanted to change them in two years. So I did what I was supposed to do, I worked myself out of a job. I taught them everything that I knew about nursing. I told them all of the principles that I knew about patient care, even when you have two patients in a bed, you have to treat them as individuals and you must give them the best of care, and so I worked myself out of a job and left there feeling that they could carry on. The only thing they couldn't do, as the Peace Corps volunteer, I could go in to the business owners and ask for donations so we could buy equipment and we could buy supplies. That was the only thing they couldn't do because the business owner responded to The Peace Corps Volunteer. But would not respond to those citizens who were poor and suffering and those business owners didn't use the health facilities there. They would go to some other country. Very often they would travel to Spain to get their health care, so they didn't really appreciate those poor people getting better care. But you learn a lot, you learned to improvise, you learned to adjust, you learned all of the things that maybe you would never use in the U. S. again, hoping that they would be better when you left them and that was the goal. Wherever you were, they would be better when you left.
TEMPLE: What town was this? Or community? What was the name of the place you were at?
MCKENZIE: It was outside of Puerto Rico [confirmed that Dr. McKenzie meant Santiago, as she could not remember the correct name at the time of the interview] and I guess maybe I don't remember, maybe it will come to me, the town where we were. But we were up in the mountains, in to a small town outside of Puerto Rico. I mean, outside of their main city, Puerto Vallarta, that's where we were. And so, they did, you know, we found missionaries there because others were concerned about the level and quality of living that was going on. So the missionaries, we were able to go visit with them and work with them and again when we left, the missionaries would still come in and they could carry on the health teaching that we were doing with the community. They just were not nurses. They were true missionaries. So it was a wonderful experience, outstanding. I don't know of a Peace Corps volunteer who would not have completed that experience. I haven't had the luxury of going back to see where they are. Many of my friends gathered in the Dominican Republic about five years ago and had a reunion, but I was busy with other things at AC [Angelina College located in Lufkin]. So I wasn't able to go. But they told me all about it, very different time than when we were there. Things have changed.
TEMPLE: Hopefully for the better.
MCKENZIE: Oh, absolutely. They had been under a dictatorship, Trujillo [Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, nicknamed El Jefe, ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961] and so he told them everything to do and that's what they did. When we went in they had just had their first election and Balaguer [Joaquín Antonio Balaguer Ricardo was the President of the Dominican Republic from 1960 to 1962, from 1966 to 1978, and again from 1986 to 1996] was their elected president. But when you've lived under a dictator for that long, you don't know how to think for yourself, so you were always looking for somebody to tell you what to do. And Balaguer was trying to introduce new ways of doing things, but it was hard. But, I understand things have changed and one day, perhaps when I retire, I will go back and visit and see what they're doing, how they're doing. One of the nurses had family in New York and so after I left, two years after I left, I traveled to New York to see her because she came to visit her family and she too reassured me that things were changing. But I haven't been back. Great time in my life.
TEMPLE: I'm trying to think of a good way to word this. Being an American, obviously you grew up in a time that was segregated and your own, there were things that were holding you down, what was that like being in a place that was so different?
MCKENZIE: Because of the preparation to-
MCKENZIE: -serve as a Peace Corps volunteer, you were taught their history. You were taught something about their culture. You were taught something about the people. You were taught about their systems. And it was easier to learn because we were not integrated into the dominant society and so I could build on having lived away from what the dominant society. That's why I think I could go to the business owners and say "You need to help. You need to share. The business you have, you have because these people struggle and they have to buy and if they buy on credit, at some point you still will reclaim what they owe you." And so it was easier, I think for those of us who didn't live in an integrated world to adjust to being in their world. You didn't have so much that you had to set aside. And having grown up with a faith and an understanding, I really did know what I was doing with a predominantly Catholic country. But seeing death every day overtook my feelings and that's when I said "You really need to do something. You really have to tell them that there is a better way. Yes, rhythm may work for some people, but it's not working for you and your children are dying at birth and you can't feed the ones at home." So that to me was a struggle. Because even though we were poor, and didn't have much, we had a lot more than they did. And when you look at where they were living, oh, we were rich compared to them. Because very often they were living in places that look like the homeless, in our country now, out of cardboard homes that they had built and patched up, and they were doing the best that they could. But I thought if they had one less mouth to feed.
TEMPLE: [Laughter.] Well and then what happens when, I am sure as a nurse you knew, the more children they have, the more likely it is for the mother to die too. And then what's gonna happen?
MCKENZIE: They had extended family. One day, in my history, we had extended families and so we knew about grandparents being there and helping with the family, helping with the children. But they still had extended family and so that extended family would take over. The child would not be left; those children would not be left and that was the good part of knowing out of my culture that an extended family was available.
TEMPLE: So speaking of extended family, did your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins grow up around you? Were they in the same neighborhood? Because I know that your mom was born in Louisiana-
MCKENZIE: But they moved to Lufkin. So I was born in Lufkin and I had my grandparents here, with me. I had my mother, had a sister and a brother, they are both deceased. And they were here with us, so we grew up with them and with their children and their family. My father's mother grew up here and so I had them. His father had moved off to try to find better jobs, so I had him every now and then. And my grandmother, my paternal grandmother, decided to leave Lufkin as I was growing up and she moved to Kingsville, in South Texas. So I had an opportunity to spend my summers with her in South Texas and I grew up with summer friends. So when I would get out of school I would go, my sister and I, to South Texas. And so all of our friends, that were friends of my grandmother had children and so we grew up with them and did the things that they did in South Texas. And then we would leave and come back, and we would have our school friends here and live our life until it was summertime. So it was wonderful for us. You know, we just traveled back and forth. In fact, one of those individuals is still a very dear friend. When my daughter was born and growing up, she lived in California with her husband and family and so we got a chance to go out there and visit with her. And now, after all of this she lives in Houston and some of my summer friends live in Houston, so I get a chance to see them. Not often, but when I go down there.
TEMPLE: So you get to have a little, sort of a reunion? [Laughter.]
MCKENZIE: And she plans it. Because she knows where they are, I don't. And so we get a chance to visit and talk about those days when we were growing up and how life was different than where we find ourselves now.
TEMPLE: So I've heard that South Texas is quite a bit different than East Texas, you know, because you think about East Texas is the South and I've heard stories that South Texas is different. That it's not, I mean, how did you find South Texas? I mean, was it still pretty segregated? Was it more integrated? Did you have different friends down there than you did here? Because of it being different? Or was it really not that different?
MCKENZIE: It was not different for African Americans. They still lived in their area of the city. The businesses they had, the difference, they owned those. There were a lot more African-American business owners that I had not seen when I was growing up here. Because most of the business owners in Lufkin were not African American, they were white business owners and so when I arrived there and saw all of these business owners who were African Americans, that was an introduction to what could be and how they were doing better and pulling together and making a difference in their community. But no, they still lived in their own areas, they still went to the churches in their own areas, and I grew up knowing them in their own areas. Now, it's different, because my friend in Houston has gone back to Kingsville and has visited and so now it's very different, primarily because many of those families no longer live there. Many of them live in Houston, Dallas, other places. They decided to leave, but in the area where we grew up, it's a very integrated communities and so neighbors on either side might be Mexican Americans or they may be white, a very integrated community. So, we've been introduced to a lot of things. Blessed to have a lot of people who were a part of our lives growing up.
TEMPLE: So to go a little bit back, after the Peace Corps, you went to University of Pittsburg?
MCKENZIE: After the Peace Corps, and the Peace Corps really led to that decision, we were introduced to an international agency and we could work with it as return, as a return Peace Corps volunteer and I thought, oh, this will be exciting. I can extend my time in another country and so I selected the University of Pittsburg because it had a very good reputation for international work and affairs and introducing you to what you could do and I selected, public health nursing because I could build on my foundation, but I could be ready to be a complete community development person. And so University of Pittsburg, was a great place to go and make that happen and that's how I got to the University of Pittsburg. I applied and of course with all of the Peace Corps background and all of the things I had done, I was accepted. I came home, like one month, and the next month I was going to the University of Pittsburg. Didn't have much time with my family, got clothes to wear, things to take with me and left for Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. And the great part was, there were people there to help you find a place to live, cause I didn't live on campus, when I went there. They had families who would accept students in their homes and so I had, they had found a place for me to stay because I didn't know the people there and I learned the bus schedule because I didn't have transportation and they had a very good bus system in Pittsburg because I could get to campus and get back, but I had to be very careful that I didn't stay late in the city. I would go home, so that I could see where I was supposed to get off, since I didn't know the city. I always had to look for landmarks. But it was a wonderful experience, met some people there, and we were in classes together. We've since gone our separate ways after having graduating from the University of Pittsburg. I stayed and the School of Nursing offered me a job to teach community health nursing, primarily because my mentors over at the Graduate School of Public Health had decided that I not only needed to complete my Masters, but I needed to get my Doctorate in Public Health. So they made sure I had a job at the School of Nursing and I worked there and taught there only one year and then decided that I was moving in a different direction, came home, got married. I finished out my year with them and they were building Angelina College. And even though I probably would have stayed a little longer, having gotten married by then, its long distance relationship, but still, several states relationship just wouldn't work, so I came home. My parents said "Well if you can teach nursing at the University of Pittsburg, you can teach nursing at Angelina College" cause this college opened with a nursing program. Many other community colleges established nursing programs after a few years of being in operation, but not Angelina College. They opened in '68, I came home in '69, and I started working at Angelina College, full-time nursing instructor. We have a long history together. We've been through a lot.
TEMPLE: So you pretty much started out here not long after they opened their doors and you have worked your way all the way up to where you are now, which is, amazing.
MCKENZIE: Absolutely. In fact, when they opened and they had the two-year RN [Registered Nurse] program and they did the first year, a friend of mine, [cleared throat] excuse me, a friend of mine, joined me in applying, we didn't know each other then, and we arrived here to be the nursing instructors for the second year because the persons who were teaching would start over with another first-year class. And so we were there for the second-year class and we've been together ever since through a lot of things. The first president, and we only have our second president, so I've not had presidents to adjust to at AC. Nor has this school had, so we're only on our second president.
MCKENZIE: It's a wonderful place to be. Probably wouldn't change it. In fact if I had a job open here, I would retire today, so that my daughter could get the same experience. AC is a great place to work and I would want her to experience that as well.
TEMPLE: So going back a little bit, how did you meet your ex-husband because you weren't, isn't he from Lufkin?
MCKENZIE: He's from Lufkin. We went to Dunbar High School-
MCKENZIE: Together. He graduated before I did and so we knew each other because of being in Dunbar and doing activities together and never thought about being partners or anything. I was too busy doing the things that I enjoyed and he was too busy doing things he enjoyed at school. In fact, we had a chapter of ROTC and he was a part of that because I think he thought that military was going to be a part of his life. But I guess we developed a friendship with my coming home, back and forth during the years, being at Prairie View because he was a local small business owner, and took over from his father, so he stayed in Lufkin. And our classes would get together and, I guess friendship grew.
TEMPLE: What business was it that he was in?
MCKENZIE: He had a house moving business that his father had, until his death. He was a house mover in the Lufkin area.
TEMPLE: So your daughter came along in '75.
TEMPLE: And then I know that you divorced in about '77, I believe.
MCKENZIE: Yeah, she was what-
TEMPLE: A couple years old.
MCKENZIE: About four or five years old when we divorced. And of course, I was a part of AC then, knew I wasn't going anyplace, and he had a small business and so we knew he wasn't going anyplace so we just, surrounded Stephanie whenever we wanted to, then we went our separate ways. And so she grew up knowing her mother and her father. Even though she lived with me, she spent time with her father and spent time with his family and grew up knowing her relatives. So they are very close today, even after his death and they do things together. They keep up with each other. So she was, with all of my coming and going for Angelina College, because I had continuing education, I had meetings I had to attend to represent Angelina College. Well, I was blessed to have family. And so, my mother, before her death, helped to take care of her and then after my mother died, my grandmother was in great health and my grandmother helped to take care of her. So she always had extended family around her and that's why she knows how to be a part of a family, even though we were divorced. I don't think it impacted her because of the extended family and the fact that she was able to be a part of their lives, all the time. Very often, even when I started at A&M [Texas A&M University located in College Station], they would pick her up and take care of her because at that time she was attending St. Cyprian's Day School [St. Cyprian's Episcopal School in Lufkin] and so they would pick her up. My colleagues would pick her up and take her to my grandmother. My grandmother would take care of her. Her father would then take her out to play with the others because there were not many children where my grandmother lived. So she's a very well-adjusted young lady.
TEMPLE: Cause I was gonna ask, how were, how was it being a single mom of a young child and you were working on your doctorate and. But I guess you explained that, her dad was still around, she had extended family, and you made it work.
MCKENZIE: That's the only way that it would have worked because I couldn't take her with me and I didn't want to leave her with people she didn't know. But because she grew up knowing everybody at Angelina College, the Director of Health Careers could pick her up, she had been adopted by my colleague who came in with me in '69 and so Sue could pick her up and it would not be a problem. My friend out of Rad/Tech, while I was serving as the director of the nursing program, he was Director of Radiological Technology, he could pick her up. So I had people who were close to me and they were determined that I was not going to stop once I had started. And sometimes commuting was difficult, but it worked. And then in the summer, she would go with me to A&M and we would stay with the family.
MCKENZIE: So she had summer friends. Didn't remember that, but she had summer friends, because I was there and she went with them to do everything. So she grew up with summer friends and I think they stay connected with technology. They text each other. I don't think they call each other, but they text a lot. But I never thought about that.
TEMPLE: So I can tell from your biographical sketch that you are very proud of your daughter.
MCKENZIE: I am very proud of her. She did everything that she thought she was expected to do that was good and great and when she finished, I was a little bit upset that she elected to do small business, but then the more I thought about it, she thought if her father could be a small business owner, then she could be a small business owner. But his was a different world and a different time and so she struggled. She had her good projects and did wonderful things for people in both Austin [Her daughter received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Communication from The University of Texas], because she started there, and then she moved to Houston [Her daughter received her Master's degree in Business Administration from American Intercontinental University] and she continued. But I kept talking about teaching because I know she would never do health careers, [laughter] she doesn't think anything of that world. Hospitals and things, she only goes to hospital if it's immediate family, so when her father was ill, she would go to the hospital, but she doesn't go to the hospital if it's not immediate family. That is just not her world. So I kept saying, "Well, teaching would be a wonderful thing for you to do" because she taught the children at church. And I thought this was something I believe you would enjoy doing. Honey, let's just say I kept talking, but she didn't respond. Because she thought being a small business owner, she could do what she wanted, on her time, her schedule, and it would be okay. She finally decided that she wasn't making as much as she wanted and the business, she was having to reinvest everything into the business. So she decided she was going to go to a job fair at Houston Community College, so she became adjunct instructor for them-and she's still there. I'm hoping she's decided teaching is what she wants to do but because her area is business and I have not had a position in business, maybe by the time she sees something in the immediate area, that we have to offer, then I will have retired and it will not be a complication for her to apply for a job here.
TEMPLE: Would she like to come back here? Or would it just as mom, being her mom, do you want her back here?
MCKENZIE: Well, it would be nice to have her back here, in this world, but she has adjusted quite well to Houston Community College and the commuting life is something she enjoys because she did that a lot, both in Houston and in Austin, when she started because the projects she had in the business, where not in her community, but all across the city, so she loves how she had to get around and she enjoys doing that. But I think it would be a wonderful place to introduce her to the life I have enjoyed for so long. Wouldn't change it; maybe in the future.
TEMPLE: Did you ever dream that when you went into nursing that you would be an instructor or was that your, did you think you were going into nursing to be a teacher?
TEMPLE: Or is that something that just seemed to fall into your lap?
MCKENZIE: I went into nursing to be a bed-side nurse, to actually work directly with patients. It wasn't even a part of my career pathway when I was in nursing. This developed after I had been in clinical and had returned to Prairie View. My roommate said "You know, you write some great patient plans to teach. Have you ever thought about teaching?" No, I want to be at the bed-side, I want to give care and so we, I worked through that with her, never thinking anything about teaching. And then when I taught in Wichita Falls, and my colleagues said "Gee, you do great things with those ninth and tenth graders." I think because they didn't want to do anything with those ninth and tenth graders. And I said, really? "Yes, and they come out talking about what they do in class." I said maybe that's something that I can be proud of and do. So it wasn't what I had planned and then with all of the exposure that I had to opportunities to teach and then after I had to teach, because that was my job in the Peace Corps was to teach nursing to those people who were nurses. I grew to love that and so you think about you say, I might be able to save one patient, if I teach, I might be able to save-twenty patients. So you get excited about extending yourself through your students. And I guess that's what got me in to the real love for teaching, is that you could make a difference in so many people and you would get people who would be great practitioners and you could see yourself, a little bit of you, [laugher] in each one of them.
TEMPLE: Do you still have that passion today for teaching?
MCKENZIE: They say I still have that, I guess that's why I teach the youth in my Sunday school class and so we get along quite well and every now and then when I really, really, need an opportunity to teach, I will do presentations for the church. And so I guess I still love to organize and teach and occasionally I find myself going to Health Careers, where nursing is located, and they say that they keep me grounded [laughter] because you seem to be a little bit anxious when you come over here and we know that we're so much a part of your world that you have to come and do all of your self reflection here and then you can come renew and go back and handle anything. And I never thought about it that way, but the people who knew me when we were together in nursing, all of those individuals have since retired, when I started here in '69 and moved on to other things. And so I guess they understood that my passion and love for teaching comes out every now and then. But I try to convince people because the first year, they thought I was going to play favorites to Health Careers because that was my background, but I managed to convince them, that no, I serve all six divisions. You are a part of AC and I have responsibility to each one of you. In fact, there was a gentleman who came forward after the first two years and said, "I really had my doubts that you were going to be able to separate yourself , but, I'm convinced now that you belong to all of us." The greatest compliment because he'd been able to see me be objective with all of them. And if they did something in Health Careers that was unacceptable, they'd suffer just as the other divisions. So it was wonderful to know that I had been able to grow and demonstrate that to them. Growing is what you do in education, every day. Whatever the experience is, you should grow from it, whether you like it or not.
TEMPLE: [Laughter.] Some are harder to learn than others [laughter]. Or some days are harder [laughter].
MCKENZIE: Yes, and you have to reflect a lot longer on those to see the point that should be positive out of that situation, but when you can do that, then you grow. And I tell students, it will happen. You will reach that point and you think, oh, I'm leaning something new. But that's what life is about. Always learning and you're in education and you're in a health career that changes regularly, so you must be prepared to learn something new every day. Keeps life interesting. I wouldn't want a stagnant existence.
TEMPLE: [Whispers] I agree. [Laughter.] So do you, in your current position, do you ever get to go back and instruct nursing students anymore? Or is that-
MCKENZIE: No. In fact I tried that the first year I was in this position. I insisted that I was going to do both. I was going to teach and I was going to do this position. Well, the roller skates were not fast enough [laughter]. Because when I was over there, something would develop in administration. And when I'd come over here, seems like something would be needed over there. And we finally decided after the first year, okay, maybe this is not a good blend. And so they were able to get someone in nursing and I stayed full-time administrator and I don't regret having made that decision. I just don't think I could run that fast, [laughter] for this long.
TEMPLE: I guess some kind of wrap up questions, that I don't know, just kind of fun questions. Did you ever have a role model or someone you really looked up to growing up?
MCKENZIE: When I was growing up and developed my interest in education, my parents were a part of that because they believed so much in the power of education. My high school principal was a part of that, who later became my employer, was a part of that. My Sunday school teacher was a part of that. So wherever I have been, I've had people who have said, "You are going to do things. You are going to be better than even you dream" and we miss that today because we don't have that kind of close community connection and sometimes we think other people are going to do it. But we can't rely on others to do it, because all those people in the lives of children when they're growing up and in the lives of our students are a part of making a difference in their life. It may be only one thing that they acquire, but if it's a positive thing, it will help them develop and their philosophy will incorporate that and they can be greater than they ever dreamed, because someone took the time to say something to them, to work with them. So yes, I have had them throughout my life. As I say, I've been blessed. I couldn't do what I do without having those people in my life. And because I grew up in a time where church was so much a part of what we did, my faith has become my foundation. I do nothing without in fact, even this position. When Dr. Hudgins said I want to talk to you about it, I said, "I won't talk to you about that position until I pray about it." Because I just finished A&M, I was too tired to take on a challenge and I thought, I need to recover from that experience before. But, I went home and I prayed about it and because my faith is the only thing I can rely on, all of the time, He reassured me that "I will not open this door for you without helping you go through it." So I came back after a couple of days and I said "I think I'm ready. I think I can do this. Because I have someone on my side that's a lot greater than any of you, but He'll put people there who will give me fit, a fair experience. And so, I don't think I'm here alone and because I'm not, I can do this." And so, every day, I have to get up with that thought. You put me here, so now you have to make this day work out for me and any one I encount-come in contact with, cause I don't want to be a negative influence in anyone's life. Faculty, students, colleagues, doesn't matter, that is not what I want for me. So He's made it work. It's a great place.
TEMPLE: And here you are today. What do you think is your greatest achievement?
MCKENZIE: Greatest achievement in my personal life of course will be my daughter, where she is. In my professional life will be having been given the opportunity, to serve in so many places, not just in Angelina College, but having had the opportunity to work at the state level and having the opportunity now to serve with the regional accrediting body. The opportunities that have opened up and the fact that He's allowed me to fulfill those. And I take no credit for it. I know that wherever I've been, it was a chance for me to demonstrate that you can do things and I hope that some young child, some young person, some person, has felt the influence of my being here. Often, my friends tell me, I am, I'm in this office because they're sending their children and they want to be sure that there is somebody who's going to be objective and look at them and make them aware that they are human being, with the dignity and worth that they should recognize. And so I keep hoping that what I say and do will accomplish the good that I should be doing because He put me here for a reason. Not for me, but to serve others. And whether it is at AC, or out in the community, I hope that's what I'm doing.
TEMPLE: Yes, because I see that you are very active in the community and I wonder, looking at it, how in the world you are able to do it all. Which I know you answered that He, you know, gives you that, but wow! [Laughter.]
MCKENZIE: Well you just keep going and doing and some people say, "Can you say no?" I said, "Well only if something is already on that date, on that time, on the schedule" [laughter] and I'd say, "No, I'm sorry, I can't do that." Otherwise I think I am supposed to serve as much as I can. There will come a time when I will not be able to serve and I want to be able to look back and say, "I have no regrets. I did everything that He opened the door to do and He helped me do it and so I am content to be where I am now, without regrets." And the great part is that my parents were alive long enough to see some of the things that I did and to be happy that what they said did take hold.
TEMPLE: Is your mom still living?
MCKENZIE: They're both dead.
MCKENZIE: In fact, every body's gone. Cause my sister and her family also died.
TEMPLE: I saw that, that's, I'm sorry-
MCKENZIE: And so we just keep going-
TEMPLE: So it's just you and your daughter-
MCKENZIE: That's it. She often asks, "Do you expect me to do what you have done?" And I'm quick to tell her "No, because your destiny is not the same as mine. What you are supposed to do you must stay in tune. And make sure you are doing what He wants you to do. But yes, there is something that He wants you to do." I am hoping that she will do all that she can do, to make a difference somewhere. And I listen to her, some of her lectures, and I think, oh my, are you helping them understand what your expectations because your expectations are quite demanding [laughter]. You teach a rigorous class.
TEMPLE: Do you think she gets that from her mom? [Laughter.]
MCKENZIE: Some of my friends would say so. In fact, some of her uncles have said, "You know, when your mother came home she had more books preparing a class than they had to learn," at AC because they didn't have a developed library and so when I prepared a unit of study, books were all around me cause I never wanted to give them anything, just one perspective on it. I wanted them to be as I had been taught, to be better than anybody else could be in their thinking. So they tell her often, "Don't let her tell you that you're being hard on 'em, let me tell you about." And I think, oh, here they go. They're going to make her think that I was demanding, and I guess I was for some of the early graduates because they'd come back and said, "You know, you don't look that big now." You'd have to have them explain. "You seemed like a giant towering over us all the time and you were everywhere. We'd turn a corner and you were there, everywhere we went. And there was always a question. Have you stopped asking questions?" "No, because that's the way people learn and I hope that you are doing the same thing now that you are in the positions that you have." So I have a few people come back and say that I gave them a hard time [laughter]. I was demanding. I guess I'm demanding of my Sunday school class because I expect them to be the best young Christians that they can be. Why would I want them to be any less? Because once they are grounded, they can deal with the other that will come at them, and the world will come at them and I tell them that every Sunday, "You need to know where you are to be, and what you're supposed to be using to make your decisions, not the world." So if I've enjoyed life, it's been wonderful, I've been a few places, done a few things, that I would not change at this point and so I'm looking forward to what the next part of my life will be, when it is no longer here at Angelina College.
TEMPLE: And so we've been going for a while and I guess we'll wrap up. Is there anything I didn't ask that you would have hoped that I would have asked that you would like to say or talk about?
MCKENZIE: No, you mentioned the service and being busy, that was not busy work for the community. I think every person should serve another human being and so all of the things you see in there gave me an opportunity to do that, even though I did not return to another foreign country. I decided that being in the U. S. of A. was okay, being in Lufkin was okay, because you can serve wherever you find yourself and you do that, then you too will be happy with a full and complete life.
TEMPLE: You're serving the community that you live in and-
MCKENZIE: You learn to share. You grow to serve. And if you never stop serving people, your life will always be full.
TEMPLE: I think that is a great place to end. Thank you so very much.
MCKENZIE: You're welcome.
TEMPLE: You are an amazing woman.
MCKENZIE: Thank you. I have been blessed with lots of opportunities. I just hope that I've grown from them.