John V. Roach Biography
TCU officially launched the John V. Roach Honors College in 2009, funded by a $2.5 million gift from Paul and Judy Andrews of Fort Worth. The endowed gift pays tribute to their friend John Roach, longtime Fort Worth civic and business leader and former chairman of the TCU Board of Trustees.
John V. Roach was born in 1938 in Stamford, Texas, but moved to Fort Worth with his family at the age of four. After World War II, his father operated a small neighborhood grocery store. As a youngster, Mr. Roach worked in the store after school, stocking shelves, sweeping floors, and cashiering.
During his college years at TCU, Mr. Roach held jobs unloading box cars and working as a field engineer. He earned a degree in physics and math, and returned two years later to earn a master’s degree in business administration, where he learned about computer programming and the potential of widespread computer use by consumers.
In 1967, Mr. Roach joined Tandy Corporation as a data processing manager. “At that time,” he says, “neither the concept nor the thought of a personal computer had even been conceived.” During the mid-1970s, Mr. Roach led Tandy in its emergence as a pioneer in the microcomputer industry. He had the ability to see the power of the microprocessor and what it would do for consumers. He made accurate predictions that the computer would become more personal and interrelated long before anyone had ever heard of the Internet. By 1981, Mr. Roach was one of the youngest CEOs in the country. He became chairman and CEO in 1983, and held those positions until he retired in 1999.
Mr. Roach was elected chairman of TCU’s Board of Trustees in 1990 and led the “1990s Project,” which set the University’s agenda for the coming decade. During the intervening years, TCU moved into an enviable position in higher education with steady enrollment, rising academic ratings and dynamic new leadership.
As chief executive of one of the nation’s largest technology companies, Mr. Roach took every opportunity to encourage TCU to approve major increases in funding for technology for teaching and learning. Now, the latest technologies are utilized across the campus. Mr. Roach also led the effort to build a $25 million technology center.
Mr. Roach also has made a significant contribution to mathematics, science and computer science education in the United States, and included TCU in the effort. Wanting to do something to promote the study of science and math, Roach helped launch a program—the national Tandy Technology Scholars Program—that rewards teachers and students who are leaders in those subjects. “I wanted to do something that would help America be more competitive tomorrow in a world where technology is a major driving force,” he says. His program gives financial rewards to teachers and students who have made outstanding contributions to academic excellence in science and math. Today, the program is called the RadioShack National Teacher Awards Program and has awarded more than $3.5 million, with 83% of the country’s secondary schools enrolled.
During his tenure as board chair, TCU was widely recognized for being a model of financial stability. Mr. Roach consistently set the agenda for conservative fiscal management and championed balanced budgets. During his tenure, the endowment more than doubled to approximately $1 billion, placing it among the top 40 of the nation’s colleges and universities, and TCU’s budgets were in the black throughout the decade of the 1990s. A fund-raising campaign, which Mr. Roach spearheaded through the leadership-gift phase, realized more than $126 million.
Perhaps Mr. Roach’s greatest legacy will be his efforts in engineering a smooth transition of leadership for the university. He served as chair of the search committee that chose a successor to TCU’s revered chancellor William E. Tucker, who was one of the longest-tenured CEOs in higher education when he retired after 19 years in office in1998. In large part through Mr. Roach’s efforts, the university was able to recruit Dr. Michael R. Ferrari, president of Drake University, as only the ninth chancellor in the institution’s then-125-year history.
Today Mr. Roach serves as an Emeritus TCU Trustee and as a board member for the TCU Neeley School of Business Board of Visitors, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and the Fort Worth Executive Roundtable. He serves as chairman for the latter.
Mr. Roach gives much of the credit for his success to his solid family background. “I had hard-working parents, and certainly an exceptionally determined mother. I think if I had a role model it was of a strong family-based upbringing.” In addition, Roach says he is inspired by the promise of what tomorrow may bring. “There are so many great challenges and opportunities out there. Whether you’re looking at business, or whether you’re looking at the community, or whether you’re looking at the family, there are just an infinite number of challenges in all directions that make it exciting to get up in the morning.”