Doyle Community Center's re-opening is a gem for Kerrville

The historic school, a symbol of the city's segregated past, is remade with services to benefit the entire community.

Everywhere you looked on Saturday afternoon, you could see or meet examples of what speaker Peter Pollard described as "standing on the shoulders of those who came before."

For 91 years, the Doyle School has shouldered many responsibilities to its immediate neighborhoods and Kerrville. For decades it served as the school in a segregated community, an oasis of learning and arts for Kerrville's Black community. When segregation ended, the school shouldered transitions to other missions and jobs.

On this day, the Doyle School Community Center was re-opened after an extensive renovation that brought the aging neighborhood center up to a standard that it should serve for decades to come.

"This is the future," Pollard said during his dedicatory remarks. "The Doyle Community Center will serve as a bridge of love."


That love comes in the services now offered through the renovated center, funded by grants, donations and contributions from the city of Kerrville. Residents can get help navigating health care, set up counseling, participate in classes and other programs or seek health care from the on-site clinic.

"Everything here has been put together because somebody wanted to help somebody get to a place they needed to be," said Clifton Fifer, affectionately known by most around Kerrville as "Coach." "If that's not community, if that's not family, I don't know what is."

Clifton Fifer presented a history of the Doyle School.

Fifer and Pollard, along with many in attendance Saturday, represent the past of Doyle. The re-opening also served as an invitation for the community's youth to understand the opportunities available — many in attendance had a direct familial connection to the school.

They were children like 1955 Doyle graduate Silvia Lewis' three-year-old great-granddaughter, or Luke Pardo, a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, who was making his first trip to Kerrville.

For Pardo, the impact of Pollard's words was a little bit more immediate. Those words gave Pardo greater context of his family story.

Pardo wandered around the Doyle School Community Center halls, a moment he best described as surreal. In the center foyer, memorialized for her contributions, is a welcoming portrait of the school's founder Annie Doyle — Pardo's great-great-grandmother.

Pardo discovered his mother's connection to the school; from there, he and his mom, Sylvia Doyle, retraced the family's history, with some help from articles written by Kerrville historian, former mayor and printer Joe Herring Jr.

Sylvia Doyle has now visited Kerrville three times in the last two years. Her first visit was unannounced, but subsequent visits have proven to be deeply appreciated.

"It's amazing," Pardo said of being in Kerrville and at the school for the first time. "(His mom) has shown me a few pictures. It's incredible."

For Sylvia Doyle, it was just another opportunity to connect to a family legacy and help celebrate the community that benefitted from the contributions of her great-grandparents.

"It's very gratifying to see a family legacy carried on, but I also realize it's just a name," Doyle said. "The legacy is all of the people here who have been working so hard to build this and to keep the Doyle community as part of the community."

Sylvia Doyle, left, brought her son, Luke Pardo, with her on the trip from Washington, D.C. to Kerrville for the re-opening of the Doyle Community Center.

The hard work has involved numerous people through the years, several of the community's larger foundations and ample support, most recently from Peterson Health. It has been a nearly 20-year journey that has been led by many but arguably started with current Mayor Bill Blackburn, who began an effort to strengthen the community center when Kerrville Independent School District sold it to the Cailloux Foundation.

"Today means so, so much," said Judy Eychner, a member of Kerrville's City Council but who has also given much to the Doyle Community Center by serving on its board of directors. "It's just utterly, utterly fantastic."

Sylvia Lewis moved to Kerrville in 1951, graduating from Doyle in 1955. She worried she would not live long enough to see the day of the re-opening, but she was there, wearing her best purple with a facemask emblazoned with the logo of the Doyle Dragons — as the school's sports teams were named. Her thoughts were with her late husband — a Doyle football star — but her family also accompanied her throughout the day.

Sylvia Lewis celebrated the re-opening of the Doyle Community Center with her great-granddaughter.

For many Blacks who grew up in Kerrville during the 1950s and 1960s, they will tell you segregation was present in their lives, but it lacked the menace of other parts of Texas and the South.

While Texas politicians wrestle with the legacy of the state's past, the preservation of the Doyle School was a deeply rooted community effort. The crowd on hand represented the diversity of Kerrville now. The volunteers ranged from a wide spectrum of the city from former City Councilman George Baroody, who has volunteered for years, to Eychner — two people who may disagree on city politics but both affectionately believe in this.

As Sylvia Doyle helped cut the ribbon, the doors opened, and people streamed in to see first-hand the renovations. One of the first was Annie Walker, a graduate and teacher at the school, who marveled at the new flooring, new offices and a restored stage.

For many, the greatest connection to the Doyle School was in B.T. Wilson — the legendary teacher and school administrator. Wilson, lovingly known as "Prof," was instrumental in creating a culture of learning and arts that has carried on in many of his former students, including Fifer.

In the foyer of the renovated center, Wilson's portrait is across from Doyle's — a poignant reminder of the legacy of two Black educators who brought the highest standards of education and culture to Kerrville and whose efforts inspire to this day.

"It's sheer joy," Fifer said as he looked upon the restored stage, where Wilson would often perform musically or lecture. "You wait for so long for something to happen, and you don't know what the outcome is going to be, but when it's a good outcome, it's just overjoyed."

So, it's a new chapter for the Doyle community, but one that heralds the same mission as always — be a bright light for all.

Sylvia Doyle represented members of the Doyle family who were on-hand for the re-opening.

There were plenty of Doyle exes at the re-opening.

Portraits of Annie Doyle and B.T. Wilson.

Kerrville City Councilman Roman Garcia takes a picture of the re-done front of the Doyle Community Center.

Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn.

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