Navarro College Distinguished Alumni Recipients Announced

From Staff Reports

PRESS RELEASE: CORSICANA, TX – Navarro College is pleased to announce the return of Distinguished Alumni Awards and the tradition of honoring former Navarro College students who have attained distinction in professional achievements, made significant contributions to society, and demonstrated and upheld the core values of Navarro College.

“We are glad to be bringing this wonderful piece of history back to life as this award is a reflection of Navarro College and is a source of inspiration and encouragement for Navarro College students,” said Dr. Harold Housley, Vice President of Operations and Institutional Advancement.

This year’s recipients include Dr. Ed W. Childs, Byron Cook, H.M. Davenport, James Einwachter, Terry Fator, Helen Marguerite Reames Gray, Rusty Hitt, Barbara Kelley, Kevin Strength, Brent Thompson, Lowell Thompson, and Chad Walker.

“Throughout Navarro College’s 75 years, a number of individuals have helped to shape Navarro College’s history, traditions, legacy and values. Bulldog Pride is a result in part to the many alumni who have contributed while attending Navarro College and after leaving Navarro College through their personal and professional pursuits. The Distinguished Alumni Award provides Navarro College an opportunity to recognize those outstanding alumni,” said Dr. Kevin G. Fegan, District President.

Recipients will be honored at a special recognition and awards 6 p.m., Friday, Jan, 28, 2022 in the Cook Education Center. Honorees will receive a medallion and display case to commemorate this honor. A special Distinguished Alumni wall will be established on the Corsicana campus where all members past, present, and future will be commemorated.

We are pleased to introduce further the honorees, listed alphabetically by last name.

Dr. Ed W. Childs M.D. (1981-1983)
Dr. Childs, a Mexia native, is a 1983 graduate of Navarro College and received both the Caston and Graduate Caston Scholarships. He is a well-established research specialist, sought after speaker and published author, is currently chair and professor for Trauma and Critical Care at Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Childs is passionate about the institution’s commitment to the under-served communities of Georgia and the nation.

Byron Cook (1972-1974)
Byron Cook is a 1974 honor graduate of Navarro Junior College. He went on to become one of the pioneers in the video game industry, as one of the founders of the video game company, Tradewest. Byron was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2002 and served eight terms (2003-2017). While a member of the Texas House of Representatives Byron chaired three different committees, including four terms as Chairman of the powerful State Affairs Committee. He was recognized twice by Texas Monthly magazine as one of the 10 best legislators, including his last term where he was referred to as “the conscience of the House”. Byron has been honored twice with the Tom White Citizen of the Year Award for Navarro County and the city of Corsicana.

H.M. Davenport (1966-1968)
H.M. Davenport graduated from Navarro College in 1968 with his Associate of Science and went on to finish his education at Stephen F Austin State University in 1970 with a Bachelor of Business degree. H.M. joined his father’s excavation business full-time. He eventually bought the business from his father and then sold it after he was elected to the office of Navarro County Judge in 2006. He was the first Navarro County Republican elected in a county wide election. Judge Davenport has a love for music and has played drums in various bands and musicals in Dallas and at the Warehouse Living Arts Theatre in Corsicana, as well as First Baptist Church, for the past 30+ years.

James Einwachter (1967-1969)
James Einwachter was a Who’s Who while attending Navarro. Mr. Einwachter is a professional engineer that provides professional engineering advice and counsel to prospective Department of Defense contractors in submission of proposals to Army and Air Force installations encompassing facilities engineering, facilities operations, and maintenance. Mr. Einwachter has been a consistent financial backer of the Navarro College Foundation.

Terry Fator (1983)
Terry Fator is an American ventriloquist, impressionist, stand-up comedian, and singer. He developed an interest in ventriloquism from a young age, developing both this and a talent for singing. After initially performing with two bands, Fator eventually conducted solo performances, combining ventriloquism and singing with comedy. He gained national recognition for his talent when he won the second season of America’s Got Talent, which boosted his career. He was awarded an honorary degree from Navarro College in 2018 and donated several performances benefiting the Navarro College Foundation.

Helen Marguerite Reames Gray (1963-1965)
Helen Marguerite Reames Gray was one of the first non-traditional students of Navarro College. Ms.Gray was anxious to earn a college degree before her only child began high school, and reluctant to attend college alone she talked her dear friend, Lola Langston, into attending with her. Helen’s niece was a freshman at Navarro College and warned her not to tell anyone they were related and to not associate with her on campus. Going back to college after 23 years of being out of school was not easy, but Ms. Gray forged ahead. Other students quickly realized these two older students attended every class, took careful notes and completed each assignment and the two became tutors and led study groups. After graduation from Navarro College Helen was hired as Executive Director of Family Service Association where she helped families and individuals with food, clothing, and medical expenses. Helen moved to Tyler and enrolled in the Early Childhood program at University of Texas at Tyler. She joined the staff of First Baptist Church of Tyler’s Child Development Center as a part-time infant care giver and retired as Director after 20 years. Ms. Gray served as President of the Tyler Association for the Education of Young Children and was also active in the state association.

Rusty Hitt (1985)
Rusty Hitt attended Navarro College in 1985 and is the Chief Executive Officer of Community National Bank & Trust in Corsicana. He has nearly 25 years of banking experience. Dedicated to his community, he serves as a board member of the Navarro College Foundation. He has served in various other positions throughout the community, including the Corsicana Area Chamber of Commerce. He graduated from Texas State University and Southern Methodist University. Under his leadership, Community National Bank & Trust has become a corporate sponsor of the Navarro College Foundation and have contributed to many events including Dancing For Our Stars, Brilliance. Rusty assisted in expanding educational experiences for students by seeking funding through Community National Bank & Trust for hi-fidelity simulation labs in Health Care Professions as well as esports facilities.

Barbara Kelley (1991)
Barbara Kelley attended Navarro College and majored in the Radio/Television program with hopes of one day becoming the next “Iola Johnson” (a local D-FW news anchor), but instead was drawn to Criminal Justice. Ms. Kelley became a reserve police officer and was hired full-time as a Police Telecommunicator with the Corsicana Police Department. She has been in the public safety field for over 30 years and is truly thankful to Navarro College for allowing her to gain law enforcement knowledge through the Criminal Justice Program. Since then Ms. Kelley has dedicated herself to working with area young people from different schools throughout the community. She is a member of the Corsicana ISD Board of Trustees and CISD Educational Foundation; she also serves on the Advisory Council for the Navarro County Boys and Girls Club, NAACP and Navarro Council of Arts Board of Directors.

Kevin Strength (1987)
Kevin Strength attended evening courses at Navarro College while working as a firefighter for Waxahachie Fire Department. Mr. Strength graduated from Waxahachie High School in 1981 and continued to work for a local appliance store, C.A. Wilson, where he had worked since age 14. In 1986, he attended Texas A&M Fire Academy and was hired by Waxahachie Fire Department in 1987, where he worked until 1993. Mr. Strength then worked in a variety of fields including medical billing, computer networking and building homes. In 2010 he was elected to Waxahachie City Council and in 2014 he was appointed Mayor and served for 5 years. During his 10 years on City Council, he was a tremendous advocate for Navarro College and helped foster growth between the College and Baylor Scott & White Hospital.

Brent Thompson (1990-1991; 1997)
Brent Thompson grew up in Corsicana, graduated from Corsicana High School and then completed the Navarro College Police Academy in 1997. Brent served in the U.S. Marine Corps. From 2004-2008 he worked as an international police liaison officer for the private military contractor DynCorp. He led a team of American police officers who trained and mentored the Iraqi Police and Afghanistan. In both countries he mentored and taught Iraqi/Afghan police democratic policing and assisted in the establishment of the police departments in those countries. Officer Thompson taught at the Navarro College Police Academy from 2001-2004. Officer Thompson worked as a police officer for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) from 2009 until his death. On July 7, 2016 Officer Thompson was one of the five police officers killed by snipers in the 2016 Dallas Police Protest Shooting. Officer Thompson was the first DART officer to ever be killed in the line of duty.

Lowell Thompson (1988-1990)
Lowell Thompson is a Navarro County native, who graduated from Corsicana High School and was awarded a Collins Scholarship. Lowell credited that scholarship for allowing him to attend Navarro College, Baylor University, and law school at Texas Tech University. Mr. Thompson served as municipal judge prior to winning the seat for Navarro County District Attorney, where he served for eleven years. He served his community in many ways including, as a Lions Club member (and past president), board member at Child Advocacy Center, and volunteered for numerous charitable events and organizations.

Chad Walker (1999-2003)
Trooper Chad Walker graduated from the Navarro College Police Academy in May 2003 and went on to serve as a Highway Patrolman in the State of Texas as Department of Public Safety in 2015. On March 23, 2021, Trooper Walker sustained two gunshot wounds while attempting to assist a supposed stranded motorist. Trooper Walker ultimately succumbed to his injuries on March 31, 2021. Even in his passing, Trooper Walker’s desire was to help his fellow man and provide the gift of life through organ donation.

The Distinguished Alumni Award Selection Committee includes a member of the Navarro College Foundation Board of Directors, President of the Alumni Association, two Navarro College employees (active or retired) and the Executive Director of the Foundation.

The first Distinguished Alumni award was given in 1958 to Ted Spencer. The tradition continued through 1994 and honored one alumnus each year, except for 1980 and 1981 when multiple recipients were awarded. We are excited to bring this piece of our history, tradition, and legacy back to the College.

The 41 recipients who have previously received the Distinguished Alumni award are:

  • 1958 Ted Spencer
  • 1959 Jack Baggett
  • 1960 Charles Skelton
  • 1961 J.B. Carrington
  • 1962 Richard Neil Gay
  • 1963 Joe Breithaupt
  • 1964 Kenneth Douglas, J.D.
  • 1965 Beverly Henson
  • 1966 Billy J. Moore, J.D.
  • 1967 Edna Innerarity Rawlings
  • 1968 Bonnie Binford Langly
  • 1969 Dr. Wendell Cook, DVM
  • 1970 Betty Jo Bell
  • 1971 Ray Hildebrand
  • 1972 Dr. Derrell Bulls
  • 1973 Daniel McAfee
  • 1974 Billie Morris Carroll
  • 1975 Euin Frank
  • 1976 Grady Donald Rains
  • 1977 Dr. Robert N. McGhee
  • 1978 Dr. Donald Robert Fowler
  • 1979 J.P. Davis, J.D.
  • 1980 Jim Bob Ivey
  • 1980 Dr. Lary L. Reed
  • 1980 Dr. Judy N. Freeman
  • 1980 Tony Sadberry
  • 1981 Rodney Albright
  • 1981 Kim Wyatt
  • 1982 Dr. Carlos W. Moore
  • 1983 Gary Bennett, J.D.
  • 1984 Dr. Ralph Tillman Ferrell
  • 1985 Jerry Worsham
  • 1986 Bill O’Neal
  • 1987 George Barfield
  • 1988 Michael Heiskell, J.D.
  • 1989 Nedum Muns
  • 1990 Ricky W. Griffin
  • 1991 Dr. Don C. Green
  • 1992 Donald Deskin
  • 1993 Homer Gene Wasson
  • 1994 Dr. Jane Watson Walker

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Categories: Community