Remembering a pioneer: Kathryn Yates

Richland College lost a treasured faculty member this fall. Government professor Kathryn Yates died after a brief illness on Oct. 18. She was 74. She taught for the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) 52 years.

Yates’ life can be described as a life of passion and one that lives on in the lives she changed. She had an incomparable impact on the government department at Richland as a pioneer in the evolution of the department. She was heralded for her teaching and her devotion to history and politics.

A Texas native, Yates was born and raised in Wichita Falls. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history and political science from Midwestern State University.

Yates began teaching American government courses at El Centro College in 1966. She transferred to Richland when it opened in 1972.

In the more than 50 years since, not only did she inspire and befriend many of her colleagues, she also made many contributions to Richland, including helping to create and lead the first tele-course offered by DCCCD in 1972.

“She had very high moral standards and yet she was tenacious,” John Ewing, religion professor, said as he reflected on his friendship with Yates.

Over the years, Yates’ influence on her colleagues was undeniable. Her teaching coupled with her expressive nature were traits admired by her good friend and English professor, Dr. Bill Matter.

“What I enjoyed about teaching with her is that even though she had her own strong political beliefs, she did not let that dictate what she taught the students,” Matter said. “So, I found that remarkable for someone with the strong political views that she had. She kept those in check in the classroom.”

Government professor Patrick Moore who acknowledged Yates’ strong beliefs, echoed those sentiments. He specifically remembered the many conversations they had allowing him to know her better.

“Kathy was very passionately devoted to her beliefs and an aggressive defender of her beliefs and the rights of all people to enjoy the full protection of the law,” Moore said.

While Yates had an unyielding perspective on some things, she also had a love for traveling and teaching. Prior to working for DCCCD, Yates experienced her first international trip to Egypt, giving her a chance to embrace diversity early on.

Exploring the world would be something she would continuously pursue during her tenure at Richland.

“She was passionate about travel. She thought travel was the best form of education and she visited dozens of countries around the world and made friends wherever she went,” Yates’ niece Donna Knipp said.

Matter described Yates as “a very bright woman.”

Yates’ intelligence positioned her to become a recipient of the highly sought-after grant from the Fulbright Foundation several times. She took advantage of opportunities to do research in many places such as: Turkey, France and Italy.

Her appreciation for the organization led her to become actively involved with the organization for as long as she could.

“Kathy stayed involved with the Fulbright Foundation throughout her career and helped advise others about how to apply for the grants and provided recommendations for people,” Knipp said.

Her colleagues agreed that her dedication to her students has and always will be highly esteemed.

“She cared very much about her students and was always interested in ensuring that they had a good experience in class,” Moore said. “She would always encourage students to learn about and be willing to stand up for their constitutional rights.”

“Kathy was very caring. She loved interacting with students,” Matter said.

Her death is a great loss to Richland, but her influence will be everlasting.

“I will think about her as somebody who I admired for her consistency of belief and her unswerving willingness to speak out to defend her beliefs,” Moore said.

Yates is survived by her niece, her dog Layla and a host of colleagues and students.

A service in her honor will take place at Richland College on April 12.