Beloved TCC Administrator Retires After 19 Years

Contributing Writer

FLO POTTS AND FAMILY: Flo Potts, who served as TCC Metro Campus’ provost for 19 years, stands with her family. Potts, wearing blue, retired in October.

Anyone who has worked at or attended Tulsa Community College’s Metro Campus knows Dr. Flo Ella Potts. For 19 years, she served as the provost for the campus, leading a team of administrators and setting the tone for a diverse student body and faculty. In October, Dr. Potts retired. Her life and career is an intersection of two important themes: education and building relationships.

Potts was first in her family to graduate high school and go on to college. Her parents, Floy and Ella Arnold, did not attend high school. Instead, they worked on a farm in Walters, Okla. Her parents were always supportive; “There was never a question about whether I would be supported,” she says of her decision to pursue college.

Even with a strong support system, however, Potts faced challenges beyond her academic work. As she moved into the professional world, she met institutional roadblocks head on. At one company, she was disappointed to learn that women and men were being offered opportunities from separate files. Management training positions were generally reserved for men, while secretarial work was offered to female prospects. “I told them, ‘I want a management training position, and I know you have them.’” She stood her ground, and was accepted into the training program, despite a supervisor’s disagreement. Potts is able to laugh about it now.

After spending years in the business world, Potts found herself working in a position which involved regular flights around the country. Her time at home was fragmented, and she felt ready for a change. “I was ready to stop traveling and spend more time with family,” says Potts. offered relatively normal working hours and an office close to home. In 1985, she began at Southeast Campus in the business division. It was not long before Potts moved to Northeast campus to chair its business division, coordinating faculty and class sections. In the mid-nineties, Potts jumped at an opportunity when opened the West Campus. However, at the same time, the college was looking to fill a provost position at the Metro Campus.

“It was a unique situation. There were positives about both (campuses) that would have been exciting,” she says. At the West Campus, the new provost would have had an opportunity to build her team from scratch. The Metro Campus – the original campus – was well-established and boasted extensive health and business programs, as well as an active communications program. “I wanted to be able to be where I would best serve. I was ready for whatever the answer was,” says Potts.

She was selected as the new provost for Metro Campus and served for almost two decades. During her time there, Potts earned a reputation for effective leadership on campus. She also became well known for building relationships throughout the college and beyond.

Quick to downplay her role in guiding decisions at the college, Potts pivots to shine the spotlight on colleagues. “When you are in a leadership role, the most important part is the people. It’s not something you do on your own,” she says. “What I found fulfillment in was working with so many people that had such diverse backgrounds and knowledge. Where else could you find that, anymore, than at a community college?”

Potts witnessed the collaborative dynamics of teamwork in play following the fire that hit Metro Campus in 2013, easily one of the most difficult times during her tenure as provost. “I have never been so proud of how people came together on all the campuses,” she says. Within days, she worked with colleagues to hash out a plan so that students would be able to continue their classes throughout the summer. “It takes everyone. Diversity in skills and knowledge really comes into play. Everybody wanted to do what was needed to make it happen.”

The team was able to spread the word through college communications to students and staff and coordinated with media outlets to spread the word. The leadership team even arranged for buses to run students from Metro Campus to alternate locations so no student would have to drop a class because of the fire. “If we hadn’t been ready, and if those relationships hadn’t been established – where people didn’t just talk about being a community. If that wasn’t truly in their hearts, we would not have been able to do it,” she says.

By the end of the summer, students, staff and faculty were able to return to their home campus and resume normal operations. Once everything had settled in, Potts decided the time was right to announce her retirement.

Now that she has more time, Potts looks forward to spending more time with her family. With three grown sons and young grandchildren, she is cherishing her newfound luxury of controlling her own schedule. She also plans to continue giving back to the community and working with nonprofit groups. Indeed, even as she retires, Potts’ focus is on the people and community around her.

When asked what she will remember most about her time as provost at Metro Campus, the theme becomes clear. “The people – internally and externally – who support Metro,” she says, “and the opportunities we’ve had to make a difference in the community.” When asked about how she might be remembered at , Potts is consistent. “I hope I did something to touch their lives and help them be successful,” she says.

Updated 12-23-2013

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