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Wall of Honor 2008

Joann Dao
Joann Dao

Joann Dao’s life was one of sacrifice for those she loved.

Joann and her family survived 17 years of hardship in Vietnam before immigrating to the United States in 1992. They finally had freedom but little else. Joann and her siblings worked minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. She went to community college before transferring to the University of California at Davis in 2000.

Within two years, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree with honors. After marrying, she and her husband moved to Garland in 2002. Instead of pursuing a career in electrical engineering, Joann devoted herself to the newly created family business, the 2000 Auto Repair shop. She used her academic skills to oversee their inventory management processes and her diplomatic nature to bring family members together to build business success.

With the birth of her son in 2005, Joann embraced her new role of motherhood while still working with the family business. Soon after the baby’s birth, Joann’s son was diagnosed with severe allergies, especially to peanuts. Joann spent countless days and nights caring for her son, especially during sudden changes in weather or accidental exposure to peanuts.

Joann was infected with acute Hepatitis B during the seventh month of her second pregnancy. Joann’s foremost concern was the safety of her unborn daughter. She insisted on delaying any medical procedures and treatment for herself as long as possible so that her daughter could develop further. Despite being born two months prematurely, Joann delivered a healthy baby girl.

With the economic down turn in the fields of electronics and information technology, Joann sought to update her education. She started classes at Richland College to be a pharmacy technician. She had completed all of the coursework for the Community Pharmacy Technician certificate, and needed only to complete the clinical externship to receive her certificate. Unfortunately, Joann’s failing health prevented her from reaching that goal. She passed away before she could finish.

Joann was known on campus for her academic excellence as well as her friendliness. “Her sweet character and clever sense of humor were beloved by classmates and faculty alike,” says her nominator, Lianne Webster. “Her Richland College family rallied around her as she faced physical challenges and respected her courageous spirit and can-do attitude. Through it all, she never complained – she always remained positive, focusing on the joy and well being of those around her.”

Lauren Davis
Lauren Davis

Like thousands of others, Lauren Davis lost her home, her job and her beloved hometown when Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans in 2005. In the years since the tragedy, she’s been shaken. But one thing Lauren didn’t lose was her hope for the future.

Lauren was one of 25,000 people who made their way through the horror and devastation in the streets to take shelter in the New Orleans Convention Center. She later was evacuated to Corpus Christi. Even though her apartment in New Orleans was not flooded, the building where she worked was so badly damaged that it never reopened. Meanwhile, Lauren’s rent doubled, due to the lack of available housing in the city. Returning to New Orleans was no longer an option. So Lauren decided to make Texas her home.

She moved to Dallas but struggled to find employment in her field, which was bewildering after a 25-year career as hair stylist. Soon afterward Lauren was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “I didn’t know what would become of me,” she said. “I decided to reinvent myself out of necessity.”

She decided to try college again and started classes at Richland in January 2007. Since that time, Lauren has flourished, maintaining a 3.9 GPA. She was on the President’s Honor Roll for the Spring 2007 semester with a 4.0 GPA. With encouragement from Professor Young Eui Choi, Lauren entered an essay in the Literary Festival in March 2007 and won first place in the competition for Richland and the Dallas County Community College District. The essay was published in Parallax. And this year it won first place for a feature news story from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, along with first and second place in the feature photograph category for pictures Lauren took of the devastation in New Orleans.

After finishing an Associate of Arts degree in 2009, Lauren plans to attend SMU and earn a degree in History/Anthropology. She dreams of graduate school after SMU. She wants to teach a course on the history and culture of New Orleans, turning her experiences into something positive, while never forgetting what happened on August 29, 2005.

“Without the encouragement of Professor Choi, Professor Parker Nunley and all of the other professors I have had the privilege to study with at Richland, and my colleagues in the RLC Financial Aid Office, I don’t know what direction my life would have taken,” she said. “I feel blessed to have landed in such a stimulating and caring environment.”

Jennifer Foster
Jennifer Foster

Jennifer Foster’s life took an unexpected turn after high school &ndash. She became a mom. Jennifer credits her Christian faith, hard work and unwavering determination as the reasons she not only finished college in four years while raising her baby girl, she graduated with top honors.

Jennifer began her college career at Richland. During this time she went to school full-time; worked; cared for her daughter, Jayda; sang in church choir; and served as President of Phi Theta Kappa. She was a PTK Outstanding Chapter Officer. In May 2005, Jennifer completed an Associate of Science degree with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Recognizing her scholastic excellence, Jennifer was offered a full academic scholarship to Southern Methodist University. At SMU Jennifer was a member of the Mortar Board, an honor society for seniors; Mustang Corral; and the SMU Program Council as one of 25 students selected by faculty and administrators to advise the university president. She also was selected to participate in Leadershape, an intensive six-day leadership training program designed for future leaders. Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from SMU in 2007 with a 3.81 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

Jennifer’s accolades include Psi Chi Honor Society for Psychology; Who’s Who Among Students in American University and Colleges; SMU’s Honor Roll; National Scholars Honor Society; Chancellor’s List and National Dean’s List.

Even as a busy single parent, Jennifer makes time to give back to the community. She has volunteered at Genesis Women Shelter; AIDS Interfaith Network; Human Rights Campaign Black Tie Dinner; Hope Cottage Center for Pregnant Teens; Bryan’s House (organization for children with AIDS); and the Richardson Police Department.

Since graduating from SMU, Jennifer has been working for Forex Capital Markets, an online currency trading company, and raising Jayda, who is 5 years old.

Jennifer says her driving force to be a success is her daughter. “I knew I had to finish college for her, to secure a future for her in the long run,” she says. “I also wanted to finish just to beat the statistics and prove a lot of people wrong.”

Samie Sabet-Sarvestani
Samie Sabet-Sarvestani

For Samie Sabet-Sarvestani, education isn’t simply an opportunity – it’s a treasure.

Growing up in Iran as a member of a Baha’i family, Samie endured discrimination. His grandfather died in prison and his father was limited in his choice of occupation, all because of their Baha’i faith. In school Samie passed all the required tests but was not allowed to participate in a talented and gifted program. Samie’s parents realized they had to leave Iran if he was going to get a proper education and have a chance to go to college.

They sold all of their possessions and fled to Turkey. As refugees, his parents weren’t allowed to work, no one in the family spoke Turkish and they were emotionally exhausted from leaving behind everything they knew. But for the first time, they were allowed to openly practice their religion and to pursue learning.

During these months as a refugee, Samie studied hard and helped others. He was active in the Baha’i community in the new hometown, Kayseri. He started a class to teach English and organized a theater workshop for refugee children.

After being interviewed several times by the United Nations and the American Embassy, Samie and his family were allowed to immigrate to Dallas where he began his studies at Richland College in the spring of 2007.

Today, Samie’s dreams are coming true. He works a part-time job as a student assistant in the RLC Library and works another part-time job at night at Wal-Mart. On top of that, he’s completing a 96-hour internship in a CVS pharmacy. Despite this grueling schedule, Samie maintains a 3.8 GPA. He’s a member of Phi Theta Kappa student honor society and a recipient of a DCCCD scholarship.

This summer Samie completed Richland’s Pharmacy Technician program and passed the test to become a certified pharmacy technician. His future plans include pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medical technology and completing a graduate degree in pharmacy.

“Samie brings an attitude of joy to all that he pursues,” says Sharlee Jeser-Skaggs, Samie’s nominator. “He loves learning and takes pleasure in helping others learn. Samie exemplifies student success."

Tara Thompson

Tara Thompson

Helpful. Knowledgeable. Genuinely concerned. Loves her job. The best.

Sift through a stack of RLC Advising Evaluation Forms, and these are the kinds of comments you’ll find about Academic Advisor Tara Thompson.

Why students love Tara is no mystery – she cares enough to hold them to high standards and helps them believe they can accomplish their dreams. A shining example is when Tara implemented the Suspension-to-Probation Program, which has helped hundreds of students get back on track toward their educational goals.

“Your encouragement made the difference from me being on academic suspension to finally receiving what I dreamed countless nights for, my diploma and degree,” wrote one student on an evaluation form about Tara. “True, there were other people that helped, too, but you personally communicated with my instructors to check my progress. You have given me the courage and confidence to move on and complete my bachelor’s. If you ever wonder if you are making a positive difference, you have a believer in me.”

Tara has shared her passion for the Suspension-to-Probation Program in writing in the National Academic Advising Association’s quarterly electronic publication, and she’s presented information on the program many times, including at the 2006 DCCCD Conference Day.

Tara’s colleagues and administrators have recognized her excellence. She was the 2007-08 recipient of the Jean Sharon Griffith award for Student Development Leadership. She also was nominated as a member of the Suspension Advising Team for the 2006-07 Jean Sharon Griffith award. She was the 1999-2000 Professional Support Staff Association Part-Time Employee of the Year; and the March 2000 Employee of the Month.

Tara’s love of Richland College began with her own education. She earned a stellar 4.0 GPA and an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree from RLC. She was named to President’s Honor Roll three times. She went on to graduate summa cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She also earned a Master of Arts in Counseling from Amber University.

Elizabeth Haddon
Elizabeth Haddon

Elizabeth Haddon knew by age 5 that she wanted to work in healthcare. Ironically, it was her health that almost kept her from realizing that dream.

Elizabeth was a wife and mother of five children when she started college. Her youngest child was a senior in high school when she enrolled in college to pursue her dream of being a nurse. Just as Elizabeth was accepted to nursing school and began taking classes in the early 1990s, she was diagnosed with lupus. Undeterred, Elizabeth continued the rigorous nursing coursework.

Elizabeth was in her last year of nursing school when she went through a difficult divorce and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a type of lymphoma. She had completed the nursing coursework but not the clinical requirements and she wasn’t able to continue. She was devastated.

Elizabeth’s nursing classmates graduated in May 2005. Even though they recognized her at the graduation ceremony, everyday Elizabeth was overwhelmed with a sense of loss as the chemotherapy treatments began.

In May 2007, the cancer was in remission and Elizabeth applied to the Medical Assisting Program at Richland College. Elizabeth was nervous about returning to college as she was having some memory loss due to the chemotherapy treatments. With encouragement from her instructors, specifically Amber Reedy, Elizabeth persevered.

During Elizabeth’s clinical externship, a PET scan indicated a “hot” spot and she had to have another minor surgery. Elizabeth started to worry that she wouldn’t be able to finish and that her dream would once again slip through her grasp.

With the support of program administrator Shannon Ydoyaga to complete the externships, Elizabeth completed the program in January 2008 and soon after was offered a full-time Medical Assisting position with an internal medicine physician in Plano.

“Getting to this point in my life has taken many years of waiting, been full of sadness for losing my way to my dreams, and yet, I have found my dream again. It is living and breathing,” Elizabeth says. “In every downturn in life, if one looks and listens, he or she will see something good happening.”

Babs King
Babs King

Barbara “Babs” King has lived a life of service: She’s served her family, her country, Richland College and the community.

As a student, Babs worked hard to excel in her classes at Richland College, maintaining a 3.53 GPA. This was no small feat, as Babs became a single mother to her two sons in 1980. In 1981, she was hired as a secretary in the Facilities Department at Richland College. With the dream of one day becoming a teacher, Babs started taking classes at Richland in 1983 as a part-time student and continued taking classes until 1993, all while raising her boys.

Babs served her country by joining the United States Navy as a reservist. She served in a Public Affairs Unit and earned certification with honors in Journalism. She had the opportunity to work at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., for the Chief of Naval Operations.

Babs has served the community by teaching craft classes on a volunteer basis at the Garland Senior Center, the Wales House in Dallas, and for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She also has participated in projects such as providing a quilt panel for the AIDS quilt displayed in Washington, D.C., Race for the Cure events, and recently providing lap quilts for the Castle Manor Nursing Home project “Blankets of Comfort” sponsored by the Garland News. Babs continues to help her fellow Thunderducks, most recently co-chairing a silent auction which raised money to assist a co-worker seriously injured in a car accident. Currently, she volunteers as the editor for the Dallas Community College District’s Retiree’s Association newsletter, RET-Express.

She has taught craft classes and English as a Second Language classes at Richland for Continuing Education. Babs retired from Richland College in 2003, but continues to work part-time as Coordinator of Institutional Research. In this capacity, she supported Richland’s efforts in earning the 2005 Texas Award for Performance Excellence and the 2005 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Babs was named the 2003-04 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient for CE/Adjunct Teaching, and the 2006-07 Part-time Professional Support Staff Employee of the Year. She also is a recipient of the NISOD award.

Kyle A. Milberger
Kyle A. Milberger

Kyle A. Milberger success as a student, pharmacist, teacher, father and husband lies in his ability to find a balance in life.

“While many young men work their way through school, Kyle has done an outstanding job of combining his extremely demanding school curriculum with working constantly at a pharmacy and maintaining a loving relationship with his wife and baby daughter,” says his Wall of Honor nominator, Kyra Ayres.

Kyle attended Richland in 1996 and 1997, and returned in 2000 while simultaneously taking coursework at the University of Texas at Dallas. He finished his undergraduate studies in 2003 and then earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of New Mexico (UNM) in May 2007.

He currently is a Pharmacy Practice resident at the UNM Hospital, and teaches classes for third-year professional pharmacy students. Kyle also is a part-time pharmacist at Walgreen’s in Albuquerque.

Despite his busy schedule, Kyle serves as a Board of Trustees Member of the American Heart Association and New Mexico Society of Health-System Pharmacists; and as a committee member of the American Diabetes Association, New Mexico Department of Health’s Diabetes Advisory Council, and the Diabetes Advisory Council Healthy Lifestyles Action Team.

Kyle’s accolades include making many professional presentations in New Mexico, as well as Cuernavaca, Mexico. He has worked on special projects for the University of New Mexico’s College of Pharmacy and done extensive research. He is a member of the Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Organization and has received the UNM PhaA-ASP Mortar and Pestle Professionalism Award; Roche Pharmacy Communications Award; was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, the University of New Mexico PLS Chapter Member of the Year, and Richland College President’s Honor List.

Keome Rowe
Keome Rowe

Keome Rowe is the kind of student who actively participates in class discussions and always excels on tests, even in the most demanding courses. His model scholarship is surprising since he is the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college.

“I had the opportunity to take a learning community course in government and history with Keome,” says his nominator, Lizbeth Garcia. “He is a prime example of the all-around student.”

Keome is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa and was recently elected the regional Vice President for Phi Theta Kappa. Because of his leadership, the Phi Kappa Theta chapter at Vernon College was named the most improved chapter at the organization’s recent regional convention. Keome was singularly responsible for reactivating this chapter and getting them to participate in district and regional events. He was also inducted into the Regional Hall of Honor. Keome is also a candidate for PTK International President.

He has been named to the President’s Honor Roll, Vice President’s List, and the National Dean’s List. His other honors and awards include being named the 2007 Richland College Student of the Year and an R. Jan LeCroy Scholar, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal, the President’s Volunteer Service Award, and Big Brother of the Year Award.

Keome’s admirable qualities extend beyond the classroom. He regularly volunteers for the Family Gateway, the Salvation Army, Keep Dallas Beautiful and Big Brothers Big Sisters. During Spring Break 2007, Keome joined the United Way’s relief effort in New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana, to help with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and Rita. More than two years after the hurricanes, many parts of southwest Louisiana are still devastated by debris, mold, and unsanitary conditions. Keome and others helped by cleaning up as well as by spreading hope and kindness.

Keome is an intern for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and in the fall of 2008, Keome plans to transfer to the University of Texas to pursue a degree in political science.

Alhaji F. Saccoh
Alhaji F. Saccoh

Growing up during the civil war in Sierra Leone, the idea of getting a college education was an impossible dream, but Alhaji F. Saccoh likes to dream big.

He was able to escape his war-torn West African homeland and immigrate to the United States in 2004 to pursue his dream. When he started taking classes at Richland in the summer of 2004, Alhaji had to start with college prep courses. He worked diligently for almost two years and finally enrolled in his first credit class in the spring of 2006.

Alhaji continues to work hard to earn a degree in conflict resolution and international studies. He has a new dream that some might consider impossible: peace.

“This degree will help me to understand more about conflicts, how they are averted and how to secure a peaceful resolution,” Alhaji says. “It is my goal to help secure a sustainable society for Africans, one without war, hunger, disease and abject poverty.”

Fittingly, Alhaji is the co- founder of the Peace and Justice Club of Richland College. He also is an honor student at RLC and an officer the Phi Theta Kappa Honor society. He was the 2007 Annual Student Success Award Recipient, and was Richland’s representative to the 2007 Diversity Luncheon.

Volunteering for the International Rescue Committee, an organization that resettles refugees from around the world in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is dear to Alhaji’s heart as he was once a refugee. He also is a member of the United Nations Association of USA, and is an alumnus of the LeaderShape Institute and Leadership Richland.


Wall of Honor 2007

Hsiang K. "Frank" Fei
Hsiang "Frank" Fei
Hsiang K. "Frank" Fei was born in Hua-Lien, a small east-coast town in Taiwan facing the Pacific ocean. Frank spent the first four years of elementary education in Hua-Lien. But his father’s job relocated the family to Taipei when he was in fifth grade. The new school in Taipei posed a big challenge for him in the beginning because the academic standards there were much higher than that of the schools in Hua-lien. He did poorly at his new school, but was able to gradually catch up and eventually finish high school.

After high school, Frank attended college and majored in automatic control engineering. After graduation, he served in the Taiwanese army and later worked in an electrical component company. He then decided to come to the U.S. to enter a master’s degree program. After completing a master’s degree in Mobile, Alabama, Frank was offered a job in Dallas.

While everything in Frank’s life seemed exciting and promising, he was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1998. Over the next few years, Frank experienced a physical and emotional battle with all of the treatments, drugs, and tests he had to undergo. On top of that, he was laid off from work twice.

In 2002, a doctor from Baylor Hospital approached him with the possibility of having a bone marrow transplant (BMT). After some research, Frank decided to have the transplant as his last resort to survive. His sister graciously donated stem cells to him. Following the transplant, Frank spent 3 months in the hospital and struggled with several complications from the procedure.

After recovering, Frank decided to make a career change to a health-related profession, hoping to help others who experience similar events in life. For the past two years, he has taken 10 classes at Richland, making straight A’s.

Frank finds learning to be very rewarding loves to help my fellow classmates with what he has learned. His new career path allows him to offer encouragement and support to others who are receiving chemotherapy or are recovering from BMT. Frank’s ultimate goal is to contribute to the prevention and treatment of cancers.

Ervin "Koe" Jones
Ervin "Koe" Jones
Ervin "Koe" Jones often reflects on a quote he once heard in a human development course here at Richland by motivational speaker Les Brown: "If you can look up, you can get up." And Koe has done just that.

At an early stage, Koe began experiencing a variety of unfortunate events and tumultuous home life. He ran away from home at age 10 and began living a life on the streets. By 13, he entered the juvenile court system and lived the majority of his childhood in the foster care system.

At age 11, he developed a relationship with a woman he calls "Grandma". She ran a shelter for displaced teens. He was originally drawn to her shelter because he thought it was a drug house. It turned out to be "his sanctuary" and his "go-to place".

While Koe was living a life on the streets, "Grandma" encouraged him to go back to school and get an education. Despite the odds against him, Koe completed high school and later came to Richland College to play basketball. But there was one problem, he couldn’t read.

Koe struggled his first year, having to start with fundamental courses. But Koe pushed on to complete two years here, all while playing basketball, and left with a 3.4 GPA.

After leaving Richland, Koe earned a basketball scholarship to Peru State in Nebraska but the struggle continued. "Grandma" died due to injuries sustained in a car accident during his time there. But Koe continued to persevere, and later received his degree in sports management.

Koe returned to Dallas in July of 2006. He currently works for the U.S. Postal Service, serves as a youth minister at the Mount Olive Church of Plano, and serves as the strength and conditioning coach for the Thunderduck basketball team.

Gloria Reckner
Gloria Reckner

Gloria Reckner is a life-long student who loves being a teacher at Richland College. Her Emeritus students consistently appreciate Gloria’s enthusiasm and patience as they learn the latest in computer technology.

“When my students learn a new skill, it lights me up as much as it does them,” Gloria said. “I never stop looking for more effective ways to communicate whatever I’m teaching.”

Since 2003, the Richland adjunct faculty member has used her love for technology to teach senior students how to understand and use computer programs such as Photoshop Elements, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. In addition, Gloria has organized and written course materials for classes in Digital Photo Galleries, Advanced PowerPoint and Photoshop’s Organizer workspace.

Having first learned word processing on a memory typewriter with a read-out panel “about the size of an address label,” Gloria now has 30 years of computer experience to share with her students.

When Richland College opened in 1972, Gloria was among the first student body to earn an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree. Over the years, she has been a single parent for her two children and a surrogate parent for two of their teenage friends. By working days and taking night classes at Richland, Gloria also earned a Technical Writing Certification. She is an award-winning poet, a photographer and a SCUBA diver.

Gloria considers keeping up with the ever-changing world of technology one of her highest priorities. “For me, keeping up with technology is a passion,” she said. “I’m fascinated by the age we live in because there are so many interesting things to learn.”

Jasmine Deshone Thomas
Jasmine Deshone Thomas

Every day Jasmine Deshone Thomas wakes up at around 5:30 a.m. to catch the bus to Richland. Since transferring from Town View Magnet Center in August 2006, Richland Collegiate High School student Jasmine has already completed 52 course hours at Richland College, all while maintaining a 2.5 GPA. She takes 18 to 19 hours per semester, and works close to six days a week as a restaurant hostess to support her family.

Since starting college, Jasmine has displayed determination and commitment by taking on a full load and choosing to spend her summer here at Richland taking developmental courses so she could start in college-level classes in the fall of 2006.

Upon graduation in May 2008, Jasmine will earn both an associate’s degree from Richland and a high school diploma from RCHS, making her a first generation college graduate. Jasmine plans to transfer to the University of Texas at Arlington and major in psychology. Her ultimate goal is to become a forensic psychologist so that she can help others who are in need. Jasmine also plans to open her own practice.

RCHS principal Krystn Edny says, “Jasmine arrives to school every day with a huge smile on her face and a willingness to help others. Jasmine’s ability to persevere through difficult times is a true testament to her character. She is a strong, independent, joyful, and thoughtful individual with a servant’s heart.”

Rick Walker
Rick Walker

When an accident pierced Rick Walker’s left eye as a child, doctors said he would be blind in that eye, and probably would lose most of his sight in the right eye because of an infection. However, his sight remained intact and he now has a successful career in television and radio.

The Richland adjunct journalism faculty member of 10 years earned an associate’s degree in applied arts/ science from Richland College in 1986 and a bachelor’s degree in radio, TV, and film from the University of North Texas in 1991. Rick also earned a master’s degree from Southern Methodist University in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in communication.

Rick is a recipient of 34 national, regional, and local awards for “Excellence in Broadcasting.” He also has extensive public speaking experience, which started when he was 13 and traveled to Indonesia to speak to village churches for three months. Overall, Rick’s public speaking experience includes international travel – addressing crowds as large as 250,000.

Professionally, he is represented by the Thomas Agency as an actor and has appeared in dozens of commercials and TV shows. Rick currently hosts two cable TV broadcasts called “College Television” and “Richland Television.” He also hosts and produces Powertalk on 89.7 FM in the Dallas/Fort Worth market.

For the past eight years, Rick has been the youth director at New Life Fellowship Church and has done mission work in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Indonesia. He’s also a member of the Advisory Board for Livingway Church in Garland, TX.

Barbara Goldstein
Barbara Goldstein

An education did not come easy for Richland College graduate Barbara Goldstein. And starting her education as a mother of three small children wasn’t the half of it. Her first day of class was also the day her mother began a two-year fight of breast cancer. Not only did she juggle college courses and a busy home life, but also assumed the role of primary caregiver to her ill mother.

Despite these challenges, Goldstein persevered and earned an Associate of Science in Biology and Chemistry in 1978. During her college career, she maintained a 3.9 GPA and earned a coveted spot as a member of Phi Theta Kappa and Beta Beta Beta, the national honor society for biology.

After graduating from Richland, Goldstein transferred to Texas Woman’s University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology/Chemistry. She continued on to make great contributions as a long-time volunteer at the Northwood Hills Elementary library, a deed that earned her a lifetime membership of the school’s PTA. She also served as the Vice President of the Jewish Women’s Organization of Dallas, where she coordinated large speaking events and developed and facilitated an adult education curriculum. Additionally, Goldstein served as a library volunteer at the Sherith Israel Synagogue and has supported a variety of events for senior citizens.

Her determination and attitude of service has touched many lives and continues to be an inspiration.

Jamie Chaney
Jamie Chaney

Jamie is a woman who had the courage to turn a negative situation into a positive one. She persevered through domestic violence and sought shelter at the Family Place in the Spring of 1998.

With no time to waste, Jamie joined Richland College in the summer of 1998. She worked as a student assistant on campus and was hired full-time as a Secretary in the World Languages Division in June of 2001.

Jamie balanced full-time work and school, and received an Associates of Applied Science from Richland in 2004.

Her triumphs through difficult circumstances have given Jamie a compassion and understanding for potential students’ needs. Today, Jamie is the Admissions Coordinator for Health Professions at Richland.

She uses advising sessions to mentor students and cultivate positive relationships. Jamie is a survivor and a strong voice for the women seeking assistance from domestic violence in our community.

Jamie is on the Board of Directors for the Family Place, an organization for women who have been abused and are seeking a safe haven. Having the strength to support other women, she also speaks publicly about her past for fund raising events, television shows and press conferences to increase awareness regarding domestic violence issues.

Jamie is bilingual and extends her expertise to offer services to the Hispanic community. She dedicates time to Los Patos Listos, which focuses on marketing and recruiting in what she considers an underserved population.

Now happily married, Jamie is an ideal former student and faculty member for Richland and the community.

Eddie Mercado
Eddie Mercado

The quality about Eddie Mercado that others find so special is his great sense of humor, with a touch of humility due to hard work.

Eddie started at Richland College in 1989. He began as a mediocre student and progressed into the early 1990’s as his grades got stronger. After he left Richland, he worked his GPA up to a 3.23 and transferred to Texas A&M, where he hit the cold wall of reality, finding the courses tougher than he thought they would be. The original plan of pursuing a pre-med major began to change.

Eventually, he received his Bachelor of Science degree, which renewed his interest in health professions. He had been working at a grocery store as a pharmacy technician for years. He decided to get serious about becoming a pharmacist.

In 2000, he transferred to Texas Tech University to become a full-time student in order to get into their pharmacy school. He was accepted, went through with excellent grades including some honors, and graduated in summer of 2006 with a doctorate in pharmacy.

At Texas Tech, Eddie is well-known for his contributions in service learning. He volunteers by calling students as a recruiter for the pharmacy program, as well as serving on interview panels for prospective pharmacy students.

He speaks to classes at Richland about the reality of pharmacy school and mentors eager students.

At present, he is working at Children’s hospital in the Emergency Room in a new program where pharmacists are placed in the E.R. along with doctors. New pharmacy graduates are almost never offered this position, however Eddie’s clinical rotations at Children’s made them aware of his wonderful work ethic, and offered the position that few are chosen for.

Eddie is currently married and now has a son. His path to success started at Richland, where he now graciously gives back, engaging in the lives of current students.

Jane Shelton Merz
Jane Shelton Merz

In 1972-1974, Richland College provided the setting for Jane Shelton Merz to begin her education, but the faculty and staff provided the encouragement and motivation for her continuation.

Jane came to Richland as a single mother of two young children and many times felt she would not be able to succeed, but with the encouragement of faculty and staff she persevered.

She struggled to support her children by working at various part-time jobs at the Richardson Library, a hospital emergency room, and playing organ for Arapaho Methodist Church.

Following a successful experience at Richland, Jane continued her education and earned a Bachelor’s degree in English, and a Master’s Degree in Library Science at the University of North Texas.

Currently, Jane is the Director of the Richardson Public Library and supports a variety of literacy projects in the community. At the library, she hosts the Murder Mystery each year, which benefits the Richardson Adult Literacy Center.

She was instrumental in establishing the Richardson Reads One Book Project, which has brought outstanding authors to the community. She is secretary of Altrusa International of Richardson, serves on the board of the Richardson Adult Literacy Board and is a member of the Richardson Woman’s Club.

Jane is a graduate of Leadership Richardson and former member of the Richardson Symphony Board and Chamber Music International.

Her commitment to the community proves that Richland students are carrying out the mission that Richland holds dear — Teaching, Learning and Community Building.

Andy Pang
Andy Pang

Andy Pang is a lifelong learner with a remarkable story. Born to illiterate parents in Hong Kong he is the fifth of seven children – the only one to earn a college degree. He spent the first three and one half years of his life living on a houseboat in Hong Kong Harbor. Despite growing up in primitive living conditions, no electricity, no running water and no bathroom, Andy says he had a happy childhood. He helped his family make ends meet by making plastic flowers at home. Pang says, "I kept wondering who were buying these millions of silly plastic things. Imagine my surprise and joy when I first stepped into a K-mart in 1989 in Dallas and saw the darn thing on sale!" At the age of 14 Pang determined he would head ‘west’ to pursue higher education. After high school and two years of Business College, Pang worked for five years to save money towards this goal. He left Hong Kong with just enough money for one year’s tuition.

Pang attended Richland College 1990-1993. With a 4.0 GPA and a full scholarship, he transferred to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island where he majored in Marketing. There he graduated Summa Cum Laude completing the 4 year degree program in 2 years and 3 months while working at least 20 hours a week throughout the entire program. Pang also holds an MBA in International Business from UTA. He earned this degree while holding a fulltime job.

Pang has spent years tutoring and mentoring underprivileged children and adults here and around the world. From October 2004 through September 2005 he took a sabbatical from his successful career in the computer industry. He traveled around the world spending half of the time in Costa Rica teaching English and Computer Applications as a volunteer for different organizations. His sights and experiences are published in his book, Life’s Scenic Lookout.

On his personal website Pang describes himself this way, "In a nutshell, I am one of the most blessed people in this world and often times I envy myself."


Wall of Honor 2006

Eileen Albert
Eileen AlbertThe most extraordinary thing about Eileen Albert’s life is that she considers it ordinary.

Eileen struggled with reading all through school and as a freshman in college, tested at the bottom 2 percent of her class. But Eileen didn’t give up and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1958 with a degree in Home Economics Education.

After cancer left her unable to have children, Eileen adopted three children: two boys and a girl. Then the unthinkable happened six years ago: Eileen’s oldest son, David, was murdered.

David had made it through Special Education classes in school and was doing very well when his life was tragically cut short. Eileen was devastated. She resigned from her job and started taking classes full time at Richland. She had taken Continuing Education classes at Richland off and on since 1976, so she knew she would find healing and support among her classmates and professors at Richland.

Eileen chose the credit Pharmacy Technician Program and threw herself into the daily routine of going to class and studying. “I knew it would take time to heal,” Eileen says. “It was a good distraction.”

At age 67, Eileen read an article about a triathlon for seniors and asked herself, “Why not try?” The day of the triathlon, CBS News was doing a feature for their CBS Sunday Morning show and sent a reporter to follow Eileen. Her goal was simply to finish, but she ended up placing first in her age category. Eileen gives credit to Richland’s P.E. Dept. through the Emeritus Program for being able to do so well.

Eileen applies her inspiring energy to volunteer work too. She delivers Meals on Wheels and serves beverages at the Stewpot, a soup kitchen for the homeless. She volunteers with the Dallas Arboretum’s education department. And she works with Neighborhood Crime Watch and volunteers at her church.

In all that Eileen gives back, one of the most important is her story of courage and determination.

“I am just an ordinary person,” Eileen says. “When bumps come along, face them and then go around them and move forward – sometimes in a different direction.”

Zabdi Hernandez
Zabdi Hernandez
Zabdi Hernandez has come a long way from the little girl who silently hoped that everyday at school, the teacher wouldn’t ask her to read out loud.

Today, Zabdi is an Assistant Principal in the Garland Independent School District, and a role model for Spanish-speaking students and their parents.

When Zabdi was 10 years old, her family came to the United States with only a suitcase of clothes and hope of a better education for their children. At first elementary school she attended, Zabdi was one of five Hispanic children. She recalls crying every day and being very embarrassed when called on to read aloud because she only knew a few English words.

Zabdi vowed to become a good student in spite of the insults she endured from some classmates. She quickly learned English and regularly began making the Honor Roll.

She graduated from Garland High School in 1998, and followed in her older brother’s footsteps of working full time during the day and attending Richland College at night. Zabdi completed an Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences Degree with a 3.8 GPA from the Educational Personnel Program with the Bilingual Education specialization.

Zabdi then went to Texas Woman’s University on a full scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Bilingual Education in 2002. She began teaching and working on her Master’s Degree in Education Administration simultaneously. She completed the Master’s Degree with a Principal Certification at Texas A&M-Commerce, Magna Cum Laude, in 2005.

Ms. Hernandez has served as a mentor for Region X first-year teachers. She has also served as a mentor to students from the Richland College Teacher Preparation Program and served as a guest speaker for the future teachers student organization, Educators of America. Zabdi has also taught English as a Second Language to parents of Garland ISD students through the Parent Study Night Center.

Zabdi was the Teacher of the Month in November 2002, the Teacher of the Year for Caldwell Elementary in 2004, a Disney Teacher of the Year Nominee for 2006 and won the Garland Association for Hispanic Affairs’ GANAS Award in 2004.

Zabdi is the proud mother of a bilingual daughter.

Barry Lee Horn
Barry Lee Horn
Barry Lee Horn’s passion for teaching and learning began at Richland College.

He holds four college degrees and has dedicated his career to education, for which he’s been recognized and rewarded. But what honors Barry most is helping others.

Barry is assistant principal at Bullock Elementary School in Garland, which has about 70 percent Hispanic students and 20 percent Vietnamese students. To assist the diverse community Bullock Elementary serves, Barry facilitates programming that helps students and their parents understand the American education system. He actively seeks out educational partnerships, develops enrichment programs, and mentors parents – many of whom are recent immigrants.

Barry’s desire to help others isn’t limited to students and their parents. While working as an assistant principal at Lister Elementary, Barry filled in for the principal – doing both jobs during the principal’s extended leave of absence.

Barry also serves the community by volunteering. He has served as U.I.L. coordinator, president of the Dallas Metro North Phi Delta Kappa organization, and co-director of Odyssey of the Mind (Outer Metro Region of North Texas).

He was honored as Employee of the Year at Austin Academy in 1993; Exemplary Dissertation at UNT in 1992; Kappan of the Year in 1992; and Teacher of the Year for the Richardson Independent School District in 1982.

Barry earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in 1974 from Richland College. He went on to the University of North Texas, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 1975, a Master of Education degree in 1982, and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration in 1991. He also did graduate studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, the American College of Switzerland and the University of Texas at Austin.

Steve Park
Steve Park
Steve Park suffered a massive stroke at the age of 31 that seriously affected his speech and motor abilities. He decided to return to college and chose Richland College, even though a counselor at Texas Rehabilitation Commission told him the only job he would ever hold again was as “a parking lot attendant.”

He earned an Associate of Arts Degree from Richland in 1997 with a 4.0 GPA, won first prize in the Literary Contest and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa. He continued his education at SMU on a full scholarship, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. At SMU he was the student representative of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Needs of Persons with Disabilities, was named the Outstanding Adult Student Learner in 1998, and received the Dorothy Amann Award in 1999. Steve went on to UNT on the RAS Scholar Fellowship, where he earned a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.

The same man from Texas Rehabilitation Commission who told him he would never work again, hired him as a full-time rehabilitation counselor. He counseled groups and individuals who have head injuries. Steve worked a writer for “Stroke on the Web,” a column for the American Stroke Association’s Stroke Connection magazine from 2000 to 2002. He was a North Texas Stroke Survivors volunteer from 1995 to 2002.

Steve now works as a marketing and development specialist for LifePath Systems MHMR Services, Strategic Training and Recruitment Resources.

Steve’s powerful story of courage and perseverance deeply inspires others. Rica Garcia, one of Steve’s professors at Richland says, “In class, he did not let his disability in any way affect his work and turned every single assignment in on time doing exemplary work. He was a wonderful teacher to us all.”

Ms. Garcia also tells of a wellness conference in which she and Steve did a reader’s theatre performance of a piece Steve wrote describing his stroke and its aftermath. “I can’t tell you how powerful his words are and how many people he has helped by finding the courage to write and speak them.”

Richard Wills
Richard Wills
From an early age, Richard Wills was clearly aware that learning how to read was a major source of pressure and frustration. He often had to read through assignments three or four times for full comprehension. Studying was laborious, time consuming and discouraging.

Richard grew up in the 1940s and ’50s – a time when little was known about learning disabilities. Help wasn’t available, so Richard did his best to survive, focusing on math, science and other subjects that were less reading-intensive.

He did survive and went on to college at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He graduated with a degree in mathematics, and went on to do graduate work in computer science, math and instructional technology at Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California.

The pivotal point in his career was the day he noticed an odd-looking “typewriter” in the business office of the Chicago high school where he taught math. It actually was an IBM computer terminal, and Richard’s curiosity led him to ask if he could use it. The computer came with a manual, so Richard taught himself Fortran, the computer’s language. The manual also contained IBM’s phone number, so Richard called and asked for a job! He finished the school year and then started a 27-year career with IBM as a systems engineer.

After retiring from IBM, Richard started a freelance editing and proofreading business. He says his reading disability “makes it very easy to edit because it takes extra care.”

Richard says it’s important that people understand that a learning disability is not “cured” – it is overcome through sheer determination. “It never goes away,” he says. “It’s just a matter of not letting it hold you back.”

In addition to his business, Richard has worked in the volunteer tutoring programs at Children’s Medical Center and Scottish Rite Hospital. He also volunteers for a number of area performing arts groups. And he works with students studying for their GED, and tutors at Richland’s Center for Teaching and Learning Connections.

He continues his lifelong love of learning by attending community events, and taking courses at SMU and in the Emeritus Program at Richland College. Many of the courses he takes at Richland are in performing arts – his passion. He recently received the Richland College Emeritus Program Certificate in Arts and Letters.

Richard’s greatest sources of joy are his sons, Darren and Rob.

Cipriano Gonzalez
Cipriano Gonzales
Cipriano Gonzalez’s distinguished career in healthcare started at Richland College. He took most of his undergraduate courses at Richland, maintaining a 3.8 GPA, while preparing to enter the physician assistant program at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern).

His professors at Richland said Cipriano was “a joy to have as a student – inquisitive, friendly, helpful, optimistic.” But his educational goals were not attained easily. Cipriano’s first application to the physician assistant (PA) program at UT Southwestern was rejected.

Undeterred, Cipriano went all out to maximize his chances for the next year’s admissions. He volunteered, rewrote his personal essays, and sought the advice of PA students.His determination paid off and he was admitted the second time.

After finishing the program at UT Southwestern, Cipriano was board certified and went on to work in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a world renowned facility.

In January 2005, Cipriano was named M.D. Anderson’s outstanding employee of the month. His colleagues recognized him for the dedication and care he showed to patients facing the terrible and frightening diagnosis of cancer.

In his work with critical-care patients at M.D. Anderson, Cipriano’s job was to ease the fears of patients, family members and caregivers by providing important information about available treatments and side effects, clinical trials and quality-of-life issues. One colleague said, “Cipriano realizes anxiety levels are high, especially while waiting for pathology and radiology results. It’s not uncommon for him to stay late to find out the lab results and communicate them to the patients.”

Cipriano said, “The best part of my job is getting to know each patient and being there for them. It’s like reading a story, each with its own tragedies and victories.”

Cipriano continues to show the same compassion and dedication in his new job in the Division of Medical Oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Washington.

Jobickson Modi
Jobickson Modi
Jobickson Modi spent much of his childhood fleeing civil war in his home country of Sudan and in the neighboring countries where he tried to take refuge. Then when Jobickson was 11, his mother died. Unbelievably, Jobickson’s father died two years later, leaving him to be raised by various relatives throughout East Africa.

Jobickson’s hopes for an education had all but vanished when a man in his community gave him a job at at his small restaurant. With his wages and other money he earned from sewing clothes, Jobickson was able to return to school and pay for his books and school clothes.

Jobickson moved back to Sudan in 1979 to escape the perils of war-torn Uganda. There he got married and had his first child. He also finally finished high school. But it wasn’t long before Jobickson and his new family were on the run again as civil war erupted in Sudan in 1983. They fled to Uganda and then to Kenya in 1989, where they met up with Jobickson’s brother. At that time, Jobickson and his family filed for refugee and resettlement status in the United States. They arrived in 1992 and settled in Dallas.

Tragedy wasn’t far behind, though. Jobickson’s first-born son died of pneumonia in 2000. Jobickson and his family grieved as they made a new life in America.

Determined to further his education, Jobickson enrolled at Richland College and earned an associate’s degree in Business Administration. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2005. Of his 15 brothers and sisters, Jobickson is the only one who went to college.

Jobickson is the father of five children who range in age from 14 to 22, two of whom are now college students. One attends the University of Oklahoma, and the other attends University of North Texas.

In addition to his full-time job as an accountant at RLC, Jobickson voluntarily serves as treasurer of RLC’s Professional Support Staff Association, treasurer of Help the Needy People of the Sudan in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area, deputy treasurer of Equatorian Sudan Community Association in the United States of America, and the interim president of Equatorian Sudanese Mutual Assistance Association in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

When Jobickson looks back on his life, he says “I see that all that has happened can befall any human. As long as I live, my eyes will never forsake what the Lord has in store for me”.

Sherry Hadley Nunn
Sherry Hadley Nunn
Sherry Nunn didn’t let the fact she’s deaf or that she was starting college 10 to 20 years later than most of the other students keep her from pursuing higher education.

Through Richland College’s Office Computer Technology and Support program, Sherry earned an Office Assistant Certificate, Software Application Specialist Certificate, and Administrative Support Certificate.

In May, she will graduate with an Executive Assistant Associate’s Degree from Richland College.

The path to reaching these goals was not an easy one. Sherry has had to rely on an interpreter in each class session to understand what the instructor and the other students are saying. And while a student at Richland, fire ravaged Sherry’s apartment, destroying all of her belongings.

Still Sherry persevered. With very little computer experience, Sherry tackled coursework on the Microsoft Office Suite, mastering Microsoft Access, one of the most challenging of the Office suite. She received an A in Access class and uses her skills to help others at her part-time job in RLC’s Disability Services office.

Throughout her academic career, Sherry has maintained a 3.5 GPA or better, and made the Vice President’s Honor Roll. Sherry’s achievements at Richland also earned her a Dallas Area Rehabilitation Association scholarship.

Sherry is a model Thunderduck, persistently encouraging others to continue their education no matter what the obstacles.


Angelica Sandoval
While it is not entirely uncommon for students to be athletically and academically talented, these skills typically take years to develop. Yet, it was only four years ago that Angelica Sandoval arrived from Mexico speaking no English and never having played soccer.

Today, Angelica earned an associate’s degree from Richland with a 4.0 GPA and transferred her credits to Dallas Baptist University, where she was offered a full scholarship after leading the Lady Thunderducks to a National Junior College Athletic Association Soccer National Championship in 2005.

To acquire and master a second language is difficult, but imagine also developing all new athletic skills to the point of earning national recognition for your achievement, all while adjusting to life in a new country.

Angelica said a friend encouraged her to play soccer. “Soccer is big in Mexico, but mostly it’s a man’s game,” she said. “I never played as a little girl or anything. I was willing to try it because I thought it would be fun. I never thought I would play at this level.”

Angelica dedicated as much time to soccer as to academics, and she excelled at both. This motivation has helped her in the classroom and on the field. Angelica was an active member of Richland’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students, and of Richland’s Connections Club.

The lessons that Angelica learned on and off the field are an asset to her as she pursues a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Dallas Baptist University.

Angelica’s work ethic, bilingual skills, positive outlook and intelligence make her a model athlete, student and global citizen.

Brenda Welcome
Brenda Welcome
Brenda Welcome believes so deeply that education changes lives that she was worried about the strength of her own educational background. She already had two associate’s degrees under her belt, but believed that she would have a stronger educational testimony, especially to her young son, Adonis, if she had a bachelor’s degree.

With associate’s degrees from McNeese State University in Louisiana in 1990 and Richland College in 2002, Brenda pursued her dream by transferring coursework to the University of Phoenix (Dallas location). She reached her goal and completed a Bachelor of Science in Management degree in 2005 – all while shouldering the responsibility of being a single mom; attending her son’s swimming lessons, science fairs, basketball and baseball games; going to PTA meetings; working a full-time job; serving in her church; and volunteering in the community.

Brenda truly is a Richland College success story – not only as a student, but also as an employee. Her career with the Dallas County Community College District started in the Chancellor/Board of Trustees’ office. She later came to Richland as a student services specialist and academic advisor.

Today, Brenda is the DCCCD’s only Curriculum Management Web Specialist in the Vice Chancellor of Educational Affairs/Curriculum Management office. She manages the production of the DCCCD’s Web and print catalogs.

Brenda’s hard work and can-do attitude has paid off: She was part of the team that won the DCCCD’s 2005-06 Innovation of the Year award, and part of the team that won a national award for Web design. She was named the DCCCD’s Administration Office’s Employee of the Year for 2003-04 and Employee of the Month (twice); nominated for Richland College’s Advisor of the Year; named Employee of the Month at Word of Faith Ministries.

She serves the community with the same zeal. She is a volunteer for the Dallas area’s African American Read-In, Upward Basketball in Garland, and Girls and Boys Club of America in Mesquite. She is a member of Disciples of Faith Worship Center in Arlington.

Brenda said her student experience at Richland marked a turning point in her life and has given her the competitive edge she needed professionally.

For all of Brenda’s academic and professional accomplishements and so much more, Adonis can be proud of his mom – Richland College is.


Wall of Honor 2005

Samuel Meyers
Samuel Meyers

That Samuel could even be a Richland College student, much less an exemplary one, is in itself a miracle. He sustained a head injury while playing football for his high school in Troup, Texas. The injury ruptured an artery in his brain. He was unconscious for 10 to 15 seconds at the time of his original accident, but a week later was re-injured when a football hit his face mask causing another ruptured artery, resulting in a Second Impact Syndrome.

The second injury put Samuel in a coma for four months and hospitalized him for a total of 599 days. He eventually went to the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas for 10 months then was transferred to the Transitional Learning Center (TLC) at Galveston for another 10 months. He was able to complete his high school degree while at TLC through Galveston Ball High School.

Samuel came to Richland to continue the long journey of putting his life back together. He completed courses at Richland College in 1998 with a GPA of 3.38, which he transferred to the University of North Texas. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling with a GPA of 3.49. He went on to earn a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Texas at Austin with a GPA of 3.48.

Samuel made it his profesional goal to helps others with disabilities. He now works for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and is the only Independent Living Services Counselor in the Houston area. He also is a member of the Board of the Will Benson Foundation on Sport Safety and has been asked to be the organization’s next president. He is a board member of the Brain Injury Association of Texas and the Texas Rehabilitation Action Network.

In Samuel’s words, “As a survivor of a life-threatening disability, I have dedicated my professional career to serving individuals with disabilities, advocating for their rights and informing the general public of the rights that individuals with disabilities are entitled to. Now looking back, I have begun to see a glimpse of what God has in store for my life, and the way that He is going to use me in changing other people’s lives.”

Karen RobbinsKaren RobbinsKaren and her four siblings were raised by their mother in a small oil and steel community the foothills of Pennsylvania. Karen’s prospects for going to college did not exist. It was never discussed or even imagined, she says.

It was Karen’s husband, who she met and married once she came to Texas, who always asked her why she never went to college. She said, “People like me don’t go to college.”

But with her husband’s support and encouragement, she did go. In 1991, Karen started classes at Richland College. She graduated with honors in 1993. She went on to the University of Texas Southwest Medical School gerontology program and earned a degree in 1995. Karen says her biggest challenge was being a middle-aged woman starting out in college.

With her background in dance and fitness and a degree in gerontology, Karen designed a fitness program for seniors that allows participants to remain seated. Karen perfected the chair exercise program with the Richland Silver Ducks, part of the Emeritus program. Karen served on the Emeritus board while she worked for a local retirement community.

In 2004, Karen returned to Richland to join the first co-hort in the Alternative Teacher Certification program. She was certified in special education and now is teaching 11th grade English at South Garland High School.

Karen uses her life experience and victory over obstacles to inspire her students to pursue education. She teaches that obstacles of any kind are just stepping stones. The difference, she says, is a person’s determination.

Natalie Salazar
Natalie Salazar
At 17 years old, Natalie was all set up to be a statistic – another teenage mother who wouldn’t finish high school or go to college. She proved everyone wrong by graduating from high school, getting married and, while raising her first son, enrolling at Richland College.

In three short years, Natalie had graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of North Texas (UNT) while pregnant with her second son. A little more than a year later, Natalie completed the coursework for a master’s degree in education at UNT and did her student teaching while pregnant with her third son. She graduated cum laude with a master’s degree just four years after having her first baby.

Natalie’s honors include the National Dean’s List in 2000-01 and 2001-02; the UNT President’s Honor Roll in Fall 2001 and Spring 2002; Sigma Delta Pi (National Hispanic Collegiate Honor Society) at UNT, 2001-02; President of Sigma Delta Pi at UNT, 2002-03; and Kappa Delta Pi (Educators Honor Society) at UNT, 2002-03.

Even while raising a young family and pursuing her education, Natalie has always given back to the community. She coached a YWCA volleyball team, was an assistant leader for a Girl Scout troop, helped with a Christmas toy drive for low-income Hispanic families and is an active member of several committees with the Bowie Elementary School PTA.

For now, Natalie is a stay-at-home mom raising her three young boys. She started her own photography business in April 2005, but Natalie plans to teach Spanish on the community college level someday. She credits Richland College with nurturing the foundation that led her to believe she could succeed.

Lori Ann Stephens
Lori Stephens
If it hadn’t have been for the inexpensive classes offered at Richland, Lori Ann might never have attended college. Her parents didn’t go to college, and with four children, they didn’t have funds to provide a higher education for their children. Lori Ann paid her way through college by working full time as a clerk.

She began her college career at Richland and quickly realized that she wanted to become a college English professor after taking several courses in literature and Creative Writing. After completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) in 1993 and teaching for five years at public and private schools, she returned to UTD to earn a master’s degree in 1999 in Studies in Literature. She then set her sights on a Ph.D. in Aesthetic Studies. Her goal was to complete her Ph.D. before the birth of her second child. In 2003, she walked across the stage in her cap and gown – nine months pregnant.

Lori Ann now teaches Rhetoric and Creative Writing to adults of all ages including sections in the English credit program at Richland College. She also teaches the art of the short story for The Writer’s Garret, a non-profit organization in Dallas that provides a forum for non-professional writers at a substantially reduced rate compared to local colleges and universities. She teaches in the 10-week series as a contribution to her community, to give back to those writers who may not be able (for financial or scheduling reasons) to attend a writing class at a university. Lori Ann also organized a group called the Teacher Appreciation Committee at her son’s day care, which honors teachers of the very young.

Lori Ann has published several short stories over the past few years. Her story, “Horse Heavy” has been anthologized in a collection of fiction called “Sudden Fiction.” In 2003, she placed second in a national fiction competition, and her story, “We Cry For Us,” was subsequently published in 2004 in the magazine Glimmer Train Stories. She has recently finished her first novel, now in her agent’s hands, and is embarking on a second novel.

Tom Tyree
Tom Tyree
Tom never let his disability, caused by Cerebral Palsy, or his lifelong confinement to a wheelchair limit him. He spent his life inspiring others, taking every opportunity and overcoming challenges with courage and pride.

In the early 1980’s, Tom enrolled in Richland College. While he was a Thunderduck for two years, he managed the state championship wrestling team. Tom worked closely with Coach Bill Neal, who encouraged Tom to keep pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Tom reached that goal and earned a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Texas at Austin in 1986. He later pursued a master’s degree in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Tom was a valued member of the Texas disability community. He was a staff member of the University of Texas as a community liaison for the UT Affiliated Program, Texas Assistive Technology Partnership. His passion was to educate the public about issues for people with disabilities, such as the need for community-based programs, services, and adaptive equipment to improve people’s lives at home, school and work.

Tom helped develop Adventure Camp for UCP of Texas. He also served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Rehabilitation Advisory committee of the Texas Rehabilitation Commission. Tom worked closely with former Texas Governor Ann Richards, former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson and members of the Texas House of Representatives on disability rights issues. Tom was asked by disabilities activist Justin Dart to share in the honor of the Medal of Freedom that Mr. Dart received from President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Tom’s life was cut short by a rare form of liver cancer. He died on Sept. 6, 2000. He was 38 years old. Tom is remembered by friends and family as someone who dedicated himself to personal excellence and to advocacy for the rights and dignity of others.

Karen Johnson
Karen Johnson
In May 2000, after more than 20 years of service, Karen Johnson was laid off due to organizational changes and workforce adjustments. She knew she must update her knowledge and skills to be competitive in the ever-changing information technology world. Thus, she enrolled at Richland College.

In August 2000, she was officially accepted and enrolled in Richland’s Cisco Systems Networking Academy Program. At the same time, she entered an Information Technology Specialist Program offered through the Richland Skills Training Center (RSTC). She attended the RSTC during the day, 5 days a week, and the Cisco Systems Networking Academy Program at night, 2 nights a week.

After completing her training at the RSTC in February 2001, Karen continued to job search and gain hands-on experience. She served as a voluntary intern and assisted students in the RSTC G.E.D program with their basic computer skills. In addition, she tutored a group of Sudanese students. In July 2001, she completed her studies and became a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

During her academic career, Karen was a Richland College student leader and ambassador and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa International Academic Honor Society (November 2001). She was also selected to the 2001-2002 National Dean’s List and to the 2002 Texas All-State Academic Team.

Next, Karen became a part-time employee for Richland ‘s Continuing Education Department as an Instructional Assistant in December 2001. Then, in January 2003, she was asked to teach an Introduction to Networking class. Karen says, “This gave me my first opportunity to teach what I knew to others, and I decided that if I could not get a job using what I knew, then I could possibly teach others to do what I knew how to do. This would allow me give back what had been given to me.”

This opportunity also allowed Karen to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her mother, Mary E. Easley, served as professor of sociology and social work education and assistant dean of students at Bishop College, Park College, and Texas Woman’s University. Karen realized, “We never know what life may hold, but we must remember sunshine will wait at the end, if we just believe.”

Marty G. Nichols
Marty Nichols
After finishing his high school education at South Garland High School, Marty received his A.A.S. degree from Richland College in 1977 and his B.S. from Cameron University in 1979, earning his Texas Teacher Certification in eight subjects.

Marty was an excellent basketball player for all four years of his college tenure and knew that he wanted to continue his connection with the sport after graduation. During his outstanding career, Marty has directed basketball teams to 370 overall wins (varsity and junior varsity), four Final Fours, and one state title. In addition, he has served as assistant in 252 wins and three consecutive state titles. He was twice selected District Coach of the Year, named All-Star Game Coach, and voted TAPPS 5A State Coach of the Year. Not limiting himself to one sport, Marty also headed up two varsity golf state-championship teams.

In addition to his in-school accomplishments, Marty has made outstanding contributions to his profession and to his community at large. He has worked hard as an active member of the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Board of Directors, the Texas High School Coaches Association, and the North Texas High School Golf Coaches Association. He is also a member of the Prestonwood Baptist Church and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Marty Nichols has faced his share of difficulties, however. “I grew up in an alcoholic home; my father was/is an alcohol and has served jail time for DWI. My parents divorced while I was in college.” Through it all, Marty persevered and became the first member of his family to be graduated from college.

Obviously, Marty has done well. He is admired and respected by all who know him, not only for his considerable professional accomplishments, but also for his exemplary personal qualities and high moral values. His enjoyment and skill in working with young people has made him an invaluable asset to his community, and the Dallas area is better off because of him. Stated simply, Marty Nichols is definitely a winner!

Roxie Pillow
Roxie Pillow
In 1994, Roxie Pillow was in a life-altering automobile accident that led her to a journey of recovery. In 1997, she enrolled at Richland as a returning adult student. Although she was hampered by the physical limitations of her injuries, her ability to succeed knew no limits. Rather than giving up and giving in to her physical pain, Roxie remained actively involved in campus programs. In addition to serving on the Phi Theta Kappa Leadership Team, Roxie also served as a Student Ambassador and worked as a student assistant in the Multimedia Learning Center . At the same time, she maintained an A average in her academic studies and was named Richland ‘s 1999-2000 Student Leader of the Year. In May 2003, she was graduated from Richland and will be graduated from Texas A&M University in Commerce in May 2005.

Because of her varied roles as wife, caretaker for elderly in-laws, and student, Roxie understood the demands on today’s community college students, and she recognized the value of participating in campus organizations and community-service activities. As a result, she sought ways to help students participate in community-service activities even when their time was limited. She urged Phi Theta Kappa to adopt service projects that allowed flexible involvement and included both family and friends. For example, entire families were busy during the holidays collecting and delivering donations for Adopt-a-Family Projects. Their tireless efforts have provided gifts, food, and other essentials to more than 200 families during the past five years.

Roxie led by example, donating more than 300 hours of volunteer service to these endeavors. By encouraging students to involve their families in their activities, Roxie helped others teach their children the value and rewards of participating in community-service projects. In addition, these activities brought children onto campus, allowing them to imagine themselves as Richland College students someday.

Roxie Pillow was an outstanding student and leader during her years at Richland College . Her honors and contributions definitely qualify her for recognition on the Richland College Student Wall of Honor!

Mike Springer
Mike Springer
Lewisville-native Mike Springer attended Richland College from September 1986 to May 1988 to study music. His concentration in piano led him to classes taught by Jerry Wallace and Gena Canon. With their help and guidance, he won the Alice B. Jones Scholarship in 1987.

Michael says his time at Richland “provided me a fantastic foundation, and enabled me to gain confidence, save money, and prepare for a four-year university.”

Today, Mike maintains an active schedule as a pianist, teacher, composer/arranger, and adjudicator in the Dallas, Texas area. His students have won top prizes in many competitions in the fields of performance and composition. Mike has composed and arranged extensively for piano, electronic media (MIDI), vocal ensemble, and wind ensemble. He has arranged music and performed on national television commercials and documentaries.

Mike is an accomplished performer in classical and jazz idioms. He has produced and performed on two of his own CDs as well as those of other performing artists and has performed in the United States, South America, and Europe. He is currently the pianist at Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church in Flower Mound, Texas. Mike was graduated from the University of North Texas, where he earned his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Piano Performance.

Richland College is most proud of this gifted musician!

Martha Timberlake
Martha Timberlake
Martha Timberlake epitomizes the Richland College spirit. Her passion is and always has been to enable the student success through tutoring and leadership building.

While a high school student, Martha married and then became a mother when she was 19 years old. She thought motherhood had put additional education temporarily on hold, but a tip at a “Tupperware party” changed her life. At that party, an adjunct instructor talked about a new community college where financial aid and student job opportunities were available. Not only did she tell Martha about Richland , but she also invited Martha to meet her at the college for a tour, introductions, and information. A few weeks later, Martha registered for classes and began work as a student assistant in Developmental Writing that sparked her success and has fired her passion for helping students ever since.

Martha continued her education by working full-time at Richland and taking classes part-time at UTD. In 1980 she transferred to East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University at Commerce) as a full-time student and completed 37 hours of academic work between June and December to graduate that fall. In 1986, she earned her master’s degree from Amberton University with academic distinction.

Through the years, Martha has been a determined advocate for students and now serves as associate dean for the Center for Tutoring and Learning Connections (CTLC). In fact, she worked diligently to transform Richland’s early tutoring center with a two-person staff into the Center for Tutoring and Learning Connections (CTLC) with a 10 full-time employees and 60 part-time employees. In 2003-2004, two programs that stemmed from the CTLC efforts were selected as Richland College Innovation of the Year.

Martha, an advisor for Phi Theta Kappa, has received numerous awards, including the Continued Excellence Award for Chapter Advisors, Mosal Leadership Award, and Giles Distinguished Advisor Award. She is also listed in Who’s Who in American Education , Who’s Who in America , Who’s Who in the South and Southwest , Who’s Who Registry of Rising Young Americans, and Outstanding Young Women of America. Martha Timberlake has been a wonderful credit to Richland College —as both student and educator!