The Bryan ISD Education Foundation Hall of Honor achieved its ultimate goal as it returned to the Miramont Country Club for its 10th event on Saturday night.
The night included a silent and live auction that helped raise more than $26,000 and honored eight Bryan School graduates who made contributions at the local, state, national and international levels. The Bryan ISD Education Foundation supports Bryan teachers and students as well as district initiatives.
The 2020 and 2021 events have been canceled due to COVID-19.
“We’re just excited because our last event was in 2019,” said Doug Lyles, President of the Board of Directors of the Education Foundation. “The crowd that we have here and the support from our sponsors, Bryan families, families that are in the area, it all brings together and supports Bryan schools. Everyone here supports excellence and achievement.”
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Additions to this year’s event included student ambassadors welcoming guests and performances by students in a string quartet and the mariachi band Los Vikingos.
The top item during the live auction was grant naming rights, which allowed winners to create a one-time or recurring grant. A bidding war ended with two winners at $6,600 each. Judge Rick Hill, a member of the College Station ISD Education Foundation, agreed to share the article with the Waller family if he could tell the audience about his nieces and nephews, who together have taught at Bryan for 71 years and who the scholarship’s namesake is will be.
At the conclusion of the evening, eight graduates from the Bryan School District were recognized and inducted into the Hall of Honor for their contributions. This year’s honorees were Ethel Gibbs Batten, Kemp High School class of 1965; Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Jones, class of 1976 at Bryan High School; Roy E. Lopez, class of 1977 at Bryan High School; Paul Madison Sr., Kemp High School class of 1965; Louis M. Newman, class of 1962 at Stephen F. Austin High School; Mervin Peters, class of 1960 at Stephen F. Austin High School; Karen Smith, class of 1965 at Stephen F. Austin High School; and Dana Wells, class of 1989 at Bryan High School.
Batten, who recently retired as vice president of human resources at Alcatel-Lucent in New Jersey and is a civil rights expert and employment agency specialist, said her favorite subjects are English and American literature.
Emcee Mike Wright referenced the Four Tops song “I Can’t Help Myself” to highlight an additional story that told Batten that one of her fondest memories of Kemp was going to prom with fellow actress Paul Madison Sr.
Jones joined the US Army after graduating from Texas A&M and retired in 2012 to serve as a general officer in the Army Reserve. According to his bio, he deployed to Southwest Asia three times between 2004 and 2016, commanding more than 10,000 military personnel and contractors on his last deployment to restore logistics bases.
Jones said many teachers influenced his life by challenging him and pushing him to do better.
Lopez is a Financial Aid and Admissions Advisor at Texas A&M and Founder and CEO of the annual Fiestas Patrias Mexicanas event, which has provided more than $300,000 in scholarships for students over the past 30 years.
He was a Jefferson Award nominee and is the second Hispanic to receive Texas A&M’s John J. Koldus Award for student support. He also supports Make the Magic Camp Kesem, which helps children through and after a parent’s cancer diagnosis.
Madison, who faced football legend “Mean” Joe Greene while at Kemp High School, was a member of Bryan City Council from 2001-2006 and 2007-2013, representing single-member District 2. His son Prentiss is currently in the same office role.
Madison chose three teachers that caught his eye: his first grade teacher, who told him he had the potential to help others; his fourth-grade teacher, who taught him about life and encouraged him to go to college; and his eighth grade teacher, who encouraged him to be versatile and keep going to college.
Newman joined the US Marine Corps after graduating from Texas A&M in 1966 and served as a combat officer in Vietnam for two and a half years. He received two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross, as well as more than 50 awards for bravery.
He retired from the Marine Corps as a captain and flew for Marsh Aviation and Tenneco Oil and Gas in Houston before returning to Bryan in 1972. He was part of the committee charged with bringing the George HW Bush Presidential Library to Texas A&M.
Newman recently celebrated 50 years with the Newman Printing Company, which he still serves as CEO on a daily basis.
Peters, for whom Mervin’s Run is named, has served as chairman and president of nearly a dozen regional organizations, including the United Way of the Brazos Valley and the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber voted him Citizen of the Year in 1997.
Karen Smith, who was unable to attend but was represented by her daughter, Heather Barron, is President and CEO of Smith Dairy Queens, which employs 700 people.
She and her late husband Terry met in Pops Miller’s history class when they accidentally received a copy of a Mark Twain book. They began a 43-year relationship after giving each other books back.
Her bio states that Smith supports local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Health for All, Pink Alliance, Brazos Valley Food Bank, Unlimited Potential, Voice for Children and the Girl Scouts.
“I love this community and it is close to my heart to help those in need and to see young lives develop and prepare them for success in life,” she writes in her bio.
Wells is CEO and director of Dana Wells and Associates in Houston and a recognized corporate transformation strategist and advisor to energy executives.
She is a 2021 Leadership Council Representative for the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M and a 2030 Aggie Woman Trailblazer.
One of the most compelling stories Wells had about her time at Bryan schools was when she decided where to attend college, saying she wanted to attend a historically black college or university. One of her favorite teachers, Imogene Vetters, told her that Texas A&M was a gateway to anything she wanted to do. Wells described it as a life-changing conversation.
Wells called it an honor to be recognized for her accomplishments.
“What was infused into me from the community, from my parents, from our Christian values, from our upbringing; for me this is just sowing the harvest. It is,” she said. “It’s an honor to be able to come back, give back and be recognized. When they talk about the things I’ve done, it’s because of the time and education that has been put into me. That’s what I’m about here.”
Imogene Vetters, who called Wells one of her favorite teachers from Bryan High School, said she enjoys seeing the leadership her former students have gained from their time in the school district.
“Of course I know they’ve moved on to other things, but just the idea of giving back to the community. It does my heart good just to see that,” she said.
Vetters served on the Education Foundation’s board of directors for three years and was a teacher at Bryan schools for 39 years – most of that time spent at Bryan High School – before retiring in 2006.
Regarding the impact of teachers, Harry Francis, Executive Director of the Bryan ISD Education Foundation, said: “You don’t know who this kid is in this square and where he’s going to be. And one day they’ll be here again, and you’re a part of it, just like Imogene Vetters was with Dr. Wells was.”
Jones said the values he has used throughout his career have been instilled in teachers, community leaders and Texas A&M.
“These teachers need to understand that they are affecting people in ways that they may not fully understand,” he said.
Bryan Superintendent Ginger Carrabine, who served as the evening’s keynote speaker and kept the audience updated on what was happening in the school district, said the education endowment is “vitally important” to the district.
“The best way I can describe it is when we serve our students, we must serve and support our staff. This is where the Education Foundation really comes into play for us by supporting our initiatives and our teacher grants,” she said.