Paula Ann Hughes recognized from an early age that going to college and receiving a college degree was the quickest way to make sure people achieve their goals.
Hughes said she believes she’s always been a teacher at heart and has dedicated 45 years of her life to passing on her desire for learning to her students.
Hughes plans to retire from teaching at the end of the spring semester.
She said she’s had a full career, but she said she will continue contributing to teaching as much as she can.
“There are so many people who I’ve met and they kind of stick with you,” she said.
Hughes started her career in education in 1968 at the University of North Texas as an instructor in the College of Business.
“Oh, that was a lifetime ago,” she said with a laugh.
In 1982, she became the dean for the graduate school of management at the University of Dallas, and from 1996 until 2001, Hughes was the dean and a professor of management at Texas Woman’s University.
And in 2004, she became director at Texas Woman’s University’s School of Management.
At TWU, Hughes jump-started the Executive Master of Business Administration program, which is a 15-month accelerated course designed for working professionals whose schedules allow for little flexibility.
“I decided to start the program because I started thinking about the students of today and the responsibilities they have, which doesn’t leave them much time to do what they want to accomplish,” she said.
TWU has locations in Plano, Fort Worth and Houston that also offer the program.
“We wanted to go where the students were instead of them coming to us because most of them are working professionals,” she said. “It’s easier for them if we can be closer to them.”
Hughes is credited with getting the program off the ground, according to alumni and current students.
The first class in 2002 had about 80 students.
“We were shooting for at least 40, so our first year got off to a good start,” Hughes said.
Today the program has 1,857 students.
“It has really grown. And not just the number of students, but also the quality,” she said. “We have people who are entrepreneurs, inventors, owners of retail companies and even school teachers.”
One story Hughes said tugs on her heartstrings is about a former student who was a homeless single mother living in her car with her son.
The mother hit a rough patch in her life and struggled to support her son and herself, Hughes said.
“We were able to help her get through school, get an apartment, and now she’s married with a wonderful husband,” she said. “It’s the stories like these that tell me that I did OK.”
Hughes holds a doctorate in management and a Master of Business in management from UNT and a Bachelor of Science in merchandising from TWU.
She credits her mother and father for pushing her to achieve academic success.
“My mother didn’t go to school because she was busy putting her four brothers through school,” Hughes said. “My mother was very smart. She and my father didn’t get a chance to go to college, but they motivated me all my life.”
In 2003, Hughes’ mother, Allie Clark, died.
“She was a brilliant woman,” Hughes said.
To honor her mother, Hughes established the Alice Collier Clark Scholarship. Hughes established the scholarship during the same year the first EMBA class graduated.
“It seemed like the perfect thing to do,” she said.
Now, students in the EMBA program are also working on establishing an endowment in Hughes’ name. The students are also part of a committee that plans a gala each year to honor the graduating class and to raise money for scholarships.
“I was excited and also humbled when I heard what they were trying to do,” Hughes said. “It was definitely a surprise.”
Committee members said the endowment will honor Hughes’ contributions to the program and her continued support of graduate-level education. Committee members said they hope to raise about $10,000.
The annual gala was Saturday in Arlington at baseball’s Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. The event included a silent auction, a dinner and a tour of the baseball stadium.
“[Hughes] has helped a lot of students,” said Nathan Abato, a business administration student and a committee member.
Abato said he believes Hughes’ passion for teaching stemmed from her mother.
“I think she wanted to give students that opportunity her mother didn’t have,” he said.
In 2012, Hughes was honored by TWU with the Cornaro Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarships and the advancement of learning, according to officials.
The award is named after Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, who in 1678 was the first woman to receive a doctoral degree.
It is the highest honor paid to a senior faculty member at TWU.
During her 40 years of teaching, Hughes said her life has been defined by her desire to learn, which she hopes her students will pay forward.
She added that her experiences in teaching made her more compassionate, caring and aware of the need for higher learning.
“The most important thing I wanted to do when I set out to teach was transform lives, but when I sit back and think about it, it was the students who transformed me more than anything,” she said.
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.