Endowment Honors Turners’ Impact on TAMUC and Texas Education

Professor Emeritus Lynn Turner holds an important place in Texas A&M University-Commerce history. As one of the original faculty members in the Department of Educational Leadership, his contributions helped build the department into a leading producer of principals and superintendents in the state of Texas.

A&M-Commerce honored the professor and his wife, Mrs. Alene Turner, at a campus reception on May 18. The Turners, who reside in Sulphur Springs, were recognized for their lifetime of service and commitment to education. Attendees also celebrated the new Dr. Lynn and Mrs. Alene Turner Endowment for Educational Leadership. The endowment will provide scholarships to graduate students pursuing degrees in educational administration.

Throughout his 35-year career at A&M-Commerce—from 1966 to 2001—Turner helped grow the Department of Educational Leadership into a leading program in Texas. For over 50 years, the department has been recognized statewide as a major producer of school administrators.

Among his most impactful contributions to educational leadership, Turner was the founder and director of the East Texas School Study Council (ETSSC). ETSSC provided a roundtable where school administrators from regional school districts shared research, exchanged ideas and grew innovative new programs.

Under Turner’s 25-year tenure as director, ETSSC grew from 26 charter members in 1966 to 85 school districts by 1995. The organization influenced the development of public-school programs across the North and East Texas regions.

Turner's work with ETSSC helped bring A&M-Commerce (then East Texas State University) to the forefront and establish the university as “the place to go” for a degree in education.

“I met dozens of school administrators, and a lot of them came and did their master’s and doctoral degrees at ETSU,” Turner said. “Our involvement with ETSSC brought a lot of students into our educational leadership program at Commerce.”

Turner also founded Catalyst for Change: A Journal of the National School Development Council as an outgrowth of ETSSC. This national journal was published twice a year from 1971 to 1996. Turner served as managing editor of the publication for 25 years, from 1976 until his retirement in 2001.

In addition, Turner directed the Texas Association of School Boards Workshop for 25 years. The workshop was hosted annually at ETSU, and around 400 to 500 people participated.

Turner also served as president of the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration in 1981-1982. For his professional accomplishments, he was named professor of the year by the American Association of School Administrators in 1988 and served a semester-long residency in Washington, D.C.

According to Turner, his most important achievement is his students’ success. Throughout his career, he taught thousands of students. He directed the dissertations of 50 doctoral students and served on the committees of many more.

“These highly capable individuals served with distinction as principals, superintendents, central office administrators, college deans and college presidents,” Turner said. “I’m proud of their success.

One of Turner’s students, Dr. Bob Riley, served as president of Howard College for eight years and president of East Texas Baptist University for 17 years. Riley was a graduate assistant for Turner in the mid-1970s. 

Riley recalled: “I had an office next to him and heard him give wise counsel to many students who also benefited from his experience and caring heart. As I graduated from ETSU and began my career, I reflected on so many things we talked about that made me a better administrator. I spent 25 years as a college president, and I am thankful that I was able to mentor many young leaders the way Dr. Turner mentored me.”

Alene Turner also logged a highly successful career in education. She served as a junior high and high school teacher in Commerce and Sulphur Springs, molding the lives of hundreds of students throughout her career.

Alene was active in several professional educational organizations. As president of Commerce Classroom Teachers, she secured sick leave for teachers before it was legislated by the state. She also led a unique reading program at Commerce High School where students and teachers enjoyed pleasure reading each week. Alene graduated with Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Arkansas and pursued doctoral work at ETSU. She also served as a teaching assistant in the Department of Sociology at ETSU for three years.

The Turners inspired eight of their family members—including their children and grandchildren—to pursue careers in education. Three of their grandchildren graduated from A&M-Commerce.

Turner’s long-time colleague, Professor Emeritus James Vornberg, led the effort to create an endowment in the Turners’ name. Dr. Bob Riley co-led the project. Together, they contacted dozens of alumni and university friends who have supported the endowment through contributions.

“Dr. Turner was a superior person in that department because he made so many great things happen,” Vornberg said. “He was just a fantastic guy, always helping everybody. He was known all over the region for everything he did for education. He was a wonderful professor, teacher and friend. That's one reason I wanted to create an endowment in his name.”

Dr. Peter Williams, interim department head for educational leadership at A&M-Commerce, said the endowment continues the Turners' legacy of service to education.

“Dr. Lynn and Mrs. Alene Turner served the A&M-Commerce educational leadership community for decades, impacting the lives of many educators directly and thousands indirectly. This scholarship continues that legacy of servant leadership,” Williams said.

To contribute to the Dr. Lynn and Mrs. Alene Turner Endowment for Educational Leadership, please contact April Carl, A&M-Commerce development director, at [email protected] or 903.468.8167.