Lee Chayes, CEO, International Business College, is the rare gem in the El Paso crown of movers and shakers who have made El Paso a great place to invest in, to live in, and to raise a family. Ben Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” International Business College has been doing just that for more than one hundred years. The spirit, and the passion that the founders brought to International Business College can be found in the administration, faculty, staff and the students. There is a bond shared by generations of students who attended IBC since its inception, a bond that unites grandparents, grandchildren and great grandchildren in seeking the American Dream though skills training and education. It is here, it is about unity, it is about those who actually did something to achieve their goals of a better life. When the student walks on stage to receive his or her diploma, they do not walk alone. Their support team, their family, their loved ones, walk with them. Chayes has a passion for higher education, especially in the career training fields that are necessary for the people of El Paso to be job ready and earn a living to support themselves and their families.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Texas at El Paso with a degree in Psychology (like many young people in that day)Chayes married and moved away – in this case they moved to New York. Her first job was as a temporary administrative assistant in Breyer’s Ice Cream plant in Queens, New York. Everyday, she would go to work and be greeted by fantastic smells of the flavor of the day – chocolate one day, vanilla the next. Chayes found that she really enjoyed working in a business environment. The hustle/bustle of a working ice cream factory in New York City was sheer excitement for a young woman from El Paso who had just graduated college.
Chayes found her next job to be more rewarding. Hired as a special education instructor for a non-profit company called Association for the Help of Retarded Children –AHRC (not politically correct now, but it was in the early 70s) As instructors it was their job to teach children between the ages of 4-14 who had severe mental disabilities. It was hoped that some of these children would be mainstreamed into the public school system and become successful students. The alternative for these children was to be institutionalized in a state run center. That’s really how it was in the 70s.
Her husband was a teacher in the NY system as well. That year was the only year that the state of NY had a surplus of 25000 teachers. As he could not find permanent employment in NYC they moved back to El Paso. Chayes couldn’t get a job in Texas because her degree was in Psychology and she needed a degree in Special Education.
Disheartened that she couldn’t find a job here in El Paso Chayes remembered she went to Luby’s Cafeteria, in downtown El Paso – near what is now the AT&T building. Across the street was a sign that read Durham Business College. Chayes had never heard of a “Business College”. Needing a job Chayes walked across the street and spoke with the Director. He asked her what she could do for him and his “College”. The eager applicant thought about a it and remembered she had taken a typing class at El Paso High School and she was a pretty good typist from her experience at Breyer’s. Telling him she could teach typing the director hired Chayes and that was the beginning of her career in post-secondary career training.
Chayes worked at Durham for a few years and then one day decided to apply for a position as a typing teacher at International Business College (since she now had experience). Hired at IBC Chayes worked her way up to Dean. In 1984 Chayes quit IBC to work at El Paso Community College to teach Word Perfect, Lotus 123 and FoxPro. While working at EPCC, she was offered a position to work with one of the contracts with the Workforce board, EPCC and a company called Control Data Multiskills Center. As it happens with some businesses, CDM went out of business nationwide, although the El Paso site was doing quite well. Once again Chayes was facing unemployment.
At that point in 1987 Chayes decided that she might as well try to buy the CDM Center in El Paso and open her own “business” college. That is how and why Chayes started Computer Career Center. Computer Career Center served the career training needs in El Paso and did well. In 2006 she sold Computer Career Center (now Vista College) to a corporation from Chicago. Chayes stayed with the new company serving as President until 2009.
How and why did you come to invest in another business school?
In 2013 I was approached by International Business College to see if I was interested in buying IBC, I met with Margie Aguilar, then the President of IBC and decided it would be a good fit for me. I had worked at IBC in the early 8Os as a typing teacher and Dean of the School. Now it was time to return as owner. I felt this was a full circle to my career. I liked the fact that IBC had been in El Paso since 1898 and had a full, rich history. I knew the name International Business College meant a lot to the people of El Paso and many of our citizens had uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. who had graduated from IBC. I liked the fact that IBC had a good reputation for teaching many of out leaders. My first secretary when I worked for IBC in the 70s was, coincidentally, Ms. Margie Aguilar. Here I am more than 25 years later and now I own IBC. We came full circle. Margie stayed on for about six months and then moved on. So as you see, I have been in several niches of career training and the circle continues to expand.
What were the Pros and Cons of such an investment?
Pros – Doing what I love! Having the passion for this type of career education and knowing IBC makes a difference in people’s lives…it teaches the person life-long skills to be productive and self sufficient and feel good about themselves. It is with that passion for education, a passion for this business, a passion for the students that I made this investment.
Cons – Three years before I returned to IBC, the school had changed its name to Franklin College. My first thoughts were “how do you destroy a school name that has been around for more than 100 and become a household name in El Paso?” I thought absolutely not! Here is a 100+ year old school with a history. You don’t change Harvard. You don’t change Princeton. Why would you change International Business College? First thing I did was to rename Franklin College to International Business College.
What is your challenge now?
My challenge is to reestablish International Business College as the premier business college in El Paso and keep it going for at least 100 more years.
How has the business changed?
The entire business of post secondary career education has changed! Proprietary schools are now under a lot more scrutiny with the Department of Education. Many of the big chains are now closed. There are more regulations and more accountability, which is how it should be. Unemployment is lower than it used to be with some people thinking they don’t need to go to school to find a job. On the contrary, businesses are seeking qualified, trained applicants who have “skills” needed for the job market. People need more skills to stay competitive and get the best paying jobs.
How would you like to see El Paso businesses treat IBC graduates?
El Paso businesses need to recognize the fact that a career education is extremely valuable and graduates should be paid accordingly. Knowledge is necessary to survive in today’s market place. When I started, computers literally filled the rooms….now you can have unlimited capacities based on a computer that fits on your wrist. It will be interesting to see what the next generation will be using to meet business demands.
What community organizations are you involved with?
Board member – Better Business Bureau, Board member United Blood Services, Council Chair for the Department of Rehabilitative Services for the state of Texas, past Board member El Paso Chamber of Commerce and several more.
What is the best advice your colleagues have given you?
Believe in what you are doing and know you are making a difference in peoples’ lives. Job training must meet the demands of the market. Know what type of training is going to be needed to serve the El Paso area and provide the best training you can. Success is not measured in quantity, but in quality. Make sure that the quality of education a student receives is going to help them by finding the right kind of job and that job will help that student in the pursuit of happiness.
What are the biggest challenges facing IBC – the students, the crew?
Increasing enrollment is our biggest challenge. There are so many job openings and not enough qualified people to meet the demand. The job market is ever changing and people need to have the best training and skills to help El Paso grow. That is the key element to El Paso’s successful future. We want to keep our skilled people here in El Paso…. we need a trained workforce!
What makes IBC different from the rest of such business schools?
IBC has been around for more than 100 years. You can see photos of the founders and the first students on our walls as you enter the building. We offer stability. We offer experience. We are ready to train students in the needs of today’s business. We do this with a caring, devoted, highly trained faculty and staff. No one is just a number. Here, every student counts. We make it our business to see that every student graduates and gets the job he/she wants and is trained to do.
How does IBC change the community?
We provide the training to change people’s lives. The goal of IBC is to make each graduate a vital part of this community. We host community activities designed to teach every student the importance of community involvement. By working with organizations such as the Shelter for Battered Women, the Lee and Beulah Moor Childrens’ home, the Child Crisis Center and other community based organizations, we instill a sense of belonging to a greater need and the importance of being a part of the community involvement.
What is the future of IBC, your vision?
The future of IBC is to remain a vital partner in El Paso’s future growth by supplying enough trained graduates to meet the demands of business for the next 100 years and more. I want International Business College to be known as the premier business college in the nation!
People make a company successful. How do you/IBC handle clients/crew?
Each student and staff member is handled with respect and dignity. Each person has different needs and needs to be handled individually. The secret is to listen. You cannot be a part of a winning team unless you create a team spirit and let everyone be heard, face challenges together and come up with agreed upon solutions.
What has made your job easier?
The great students, staff, faculty of International Business College…IBC has an unbelievable team that go above and beyond to make this place our home.
What do you like about your job?
Graduation! Seeing everyone come together – family members, staff, faculty and the smiles on all faces in the biggest evening of a student’s life. As each student goes on stage, his/her family is right up there with them. Every student had a support system that deserves recognition and graduation is the recognition of the support team as well as the graduate on graduation night. That is what this is all about.
Would a felony in their backgroud deny a potential student access to an IBC education?
No. A felony would not keep a potential student from an IBC education, but the field they choose to study/future employers may have restrictions making employment more difficult. Default on a loan may keep a student out of any accredited school to complete the education they need to be successful. Out graduation rate is in the 90 per cent range…Our goal is to make it 100 per cent.
For more information: Lee Chayes, CEO, International Business College
5700 Cromo – West
El Paso, Texas 79912
1155 North Zaragoza – East
El Paso, Texas 79907