Jennifer Giddings Brooks Reigns On
TCU’s first Black homecoming queen now has her own educational consulting group.
Jennifer Giddings Brooks ’71 (MS ’74) remembers waiting with anticipation at Worth Hills to hear her name at the 1970 TCU homecoming pep rally. She was one of four homecoming queen finalists.
The two runners-up were announced. Then, the big reveal: Brooks was crowned.
“Cheers immediately erupted from the crowd,” she said. “It was a celebratory night of kindness that I will never forget.”
Brooks was the first Black homecoming queen at TCU and in the Southwest Conference. The first Black homecoming king, Yendor Reese, won the title in 2005.
Brooks, a Dallas native, started her collegiate career with the World Campus Afloat/Semester at Sea program through Chapman College in Orange, California. It took her to 16 countries around the globe.
At TCU, Brooks quickly became involved in several organizations. She was communications chair of TCU’s Association of Women Students, a member of Mortar Board national honor society, vice president of Jarvis dormitory, assistant editor of the Horned Frog yearbook and record keeper for Students for the Advancement of Afro-American Culture.
“It was a turbulent time in our nation’s history with the civil rights movement and Vietnam War,” she said. “Many TCU students, like college students all over America, were anti-establishment and politically active. We wanted to ‘make love and not war,’ or in today’s terminology, we wanted to ‘make a difference.’ ”
Brooks earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech pathology from TCU and later a doctorate in education from Texas Woman’s University. Her work stretched from elementary school to higher education.
As a principal, she and her dedicated staff transformed a low-performing campus into a designated exemplary campus in four years. U.S. Rep. Kay Granger included the school’s success in the records of the 106th U.S. Congress. From there, Brooks served as the inaugural director of the TCU Center for Urban Studies, worked for the Texas Education Agency and then — with two other former campus leaders — launched Brooks and Associates Educational Consultants.
Her extensive community involvement includes serving on the boards of Performing Arts Fort Worth, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital/Community Impact, Visit Fort Worth and the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine Diversity Standing Committee. She has been honored as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and an Outstanding Texan and with Bank of America’s Local Hero Award.
The following are some of Brooks’ lessons about life and education:
When making decisions, we need to use the strength of many voices. This will lead to inclusive solutions where each person can learn from the cultural world of the others.
School-age children need help around the clock. We can’t focus on what is happening in the schools without focusing on what is happening in the communities. Education will become a priority for children when their survival needs have been met.
When we become an advocate for ourselves, we should also become an advocate for others. We should be thankful for what we have; when that occurs, we will end up having more.
A favorite book about life is All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. Sometimes people need to be reminded of these things: Share everything. Play fair. Live a balanced life. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that are not yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Flush. Wash your hands before you eat. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, that when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
In each classroom, students deserve a knowledgeable teacher who cares — a teacher who believes that “if my students fail, I fail.”
Never give up on children. As educators, build relationships with them and their parents. Contact parents when their children are doing well — not just when they are in trouble.
True friends are people who are honest with you. They will accept your past, support your present and be there to encourage your future. You can trust them. They will love you when you forget to love yourself. They will be there to support you so that you can participate in the full experience of life.
Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We all want to know that we matter. When everyone else’s voice is silent, our one voice can make a difference. We should not be afraid to speak out against injustices or to speak up for honesty and truth.
We are the combined effort of everyone we have ever known.
We need to be willing to speak up about social problems and be willing to work on the conditions that have caused them.
Important principles for any leader to remember: To use data, really listen, have empathy, be flexible, stay calm, make sure to give clear instructions and always, always, always put people first. When they are respected, people will work harder.
It is important to forgive others for things they have done, but at the same time, it is important to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. We need to learn from them and move on.
We need to learn our history. We need to learn it not just for ourselves, but for our children and our children’s children.
Pick your battles in life. Everything is not worth fighting for. Fight for those things that will be important to you in the long term.
Aging isn’t the end of the road; it is the start of a “new beginning.” It is important to remember that we should live each day with “gusto” because there is no replay or rewind. The future is ahead and the best thing about it is that “it comes one day at a time.”