Wall of Honor 2010
By the early 1980s, Louise Rogers Keim had already graduated from Kilgore College, where she was named to the dean’s list, and moved to Dallas due to an economic recession in East Texas.
Louise had worked her way up the ladder to a respected position in the business community but an injury at work changed everything. She was temporally paralyzed on the left side of her body and lost the bulk of her memory.
After five years of rehabilitation, she was released for work as a disabled person but Louise suddenly found herself unable to provide for herself or to apply for a good job. She couldn’t remember the skills and knowledge that made her a successful worker.
After several years of small jobs, Louise finally felt like she had healed enough that she could go back to college. She took a position at Richland College’s on-campus bookstore so that it would be easier to go to class and work full time.
In her classes at Richland, she wasn’t trying to make an A – Louise just wanted to learn, so she was surprised and honored when her grade point average was good enough to join Phi Theta Kappa in 2004.
Louise has taken a break from classes but looks forward to continuing her Richland studies in the spring of 2011. She feels fortunate that Richland encourages its employees to further their education.
“I consider my injury to have been one of the biggest blessings in my life because it brought me to Richland,” Louise says. “I love being a part of this community as I continue to learn, laugh and grow.”
In her work at the bookstore, Louise helps students get their books but she also offers advice on classes and clubs they might want to consider. Like many professionals at Richland, she sees herself as a student advocate and supports them in every way she can.
Outside of Richland, Louise volunteers as crisis counselor, has worked with the Protective Animal League (PAL) and serves at the church she attends.
Alex Opoku knows how to play to win – whether in soccer or in life.
The former Thunderduck immigrated from the West African country of Ghana to the United States in 1994. He attended Berkner High School in Richardson. After graduating in 1996, he enrolled at Richland College in the fall of 1997.
At Richland, Alex was a two-year starter for the men’s soccer team, and made a major contribution in helping the Thunderducks achieve one of their best records ever of 17 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie (in 1997). Alex scored more than 30 goals in the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
In 1999, Alex transferred to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls where he played soccer for two years. He scored 27 goals with Midwestern State and was named an All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
In July 2010, Alex was named into the National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame – the first soccer player at Richland to have achieved that honor.
“Alex is a model citizen,” says his nominator, RLC Men’s Soccer Coach Sean Worley. “He was a great leader and was always willing to help where was needed.”
Today, Alex can still be found working out in the Richland gym and helping Thunderduck soccer players with one-on-one skills.
Alex is married to Waded Boadi, who also is a former Richland College student. The couple lives in Richardson and has two little girls. Alex works for the Richardson Surgery Center.
Paige Justice-Reno didn’t anticipate being on the 13-year plan in her journey to earn a college degree, but she has been a little busy. Even though challenges threatened to derail her, the mother of three never lost sight of her dream.
Paige dropped out of high school in 1989. Very soon afterward, she got married. In 1997, the marriage ended in divorce and Paige found herself a single mother of three children with no high school diploma. She reached out to Bill Witten, a counselor at Richardson High School, who encouraged her to enroll in the dual credit program at Richland College. Paige lacked only a half credit of PE and a half credit of English to graduate.
It wasn’t going to be easy to return to the classroom. The loving encouragement of her English professor, Rica Garcia, made the difference. “You are a wonderful writer, Paige,” Professor Garcia wrote on Paige’s first paper. “I am amazed you thought you were weak in this area. I think you are in for a big, big surprise.” Paige completed her high school diploma and graduated in 1998. “After nine years, I was no longer a high school dropout, divorced with three little ones, but rather a budding new college student on my way to a college degree, of whom my whole family would be proud,” Paige says.
Paige is proud that during her college career, she didn’t take out a loan or borrow money for classes or books. If she had the money and time, she attended; if not, she picked up a temporary second job, saved and waited. Carol Castillo of RLC’s Working Wonders program was instrumental in helping Paige borrow textbooks. College was often challenging for Paige, as it meant time away from her children and participating without some of the resources other students had.
“Professor Taylor, my developmental math instructor, watched in awe one evening as I graphed algebra problems without the aid of a calculator,” Paige says. “He approached me and asked the whereabouts of the math aid. I replied, ‘Professor Taylor, if I had the money for a graphing calculator, I would have the money to buy my little ones a second pair of shoes.’ I persevered and excelled without the graphing calculator, and treated him to homemade enchiladas as a thank you for his patience.”
Despite the obstacles in her way, Paige has excelled. She was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa in 2009 and graduated from RLC in May 2010 with honors. Today, she works in the pathology department at the Medical Center of Plano. She’s most proud of the example she’s set for her children, now ages 19, 17 and 15.
“I have squeezed in, survived and succeeded in class work, and motherhood,” Paige says. “I think I have provided an excellent role model by attending college while they have been growing up. They are active and try to excel in their own educational experiences.”
Since 1972, Richland College has been a part of Marilyn Stacy’s life. She was a member of Richland’s very first graduating class in 1974. She went on to earn a BS in Counseling (summa cum laude) from North Texas State University (known today as the University of North Texas) and then an MA in Psychology from Texas Woman’s University.
She returned to Richland in 1976 as a career counselor and then became a faculty counselor from 1978-1991. Marilyn has raised five children, all of whom attended RLC.
Marilyn is an accomplished poet. Her first poems were published in 1997 in Voices From Within, UNT Press. Since then her poetry has appeared in many books and journals including A Galaxy of Verse, Half Tones to Jubilee, The Southwest Journal of Aging, The Texas Poetry Calendar, Generation to Generation, Swimming for the Moon and every Poetry Society of Texas Book of the Year since 1998.
The road hasn’t always been smooth for Marilyn. In 2006, she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. From the start, Marilyn promised she would use the experience to help others. That help took the form of a book of poetry entitled Sometimes You Have to Laugh: A Poet’s Look at Cancer, which includes the following poem, “Fuzz.”
Soft white fuzz
is growing on my head.
I cheer it on,
massage my scalp
and wonder when
will be long enough
to insulate and protect
my bare head,
when I’ll look like a woman again,
not a futuristic extra-terrestrial.
Next month I can finally fly
to visit my new great-granddaughter
for the first time. I’m told the fuzz
on her head is light brown.
A snapshot shows her
wearing the same kind of soft,
pink knit cap I wear to bed.
I know we’ll bond.
Marilyn has published two other books of poetry: Along the Path, and Dreams … and other altered states of consciousness. In addition to writing poetry, Marilyn has a successful private counseling practice and teaches Human Development part time for Richland.
After immigrating to the United States from Hungary, Zoltan Szabo had many jobs. He sold T-shirts, parked cars and worked as a chauffeur – all to finance his dream of earning a college degree.
He started working toward an associate’s degree at Richland in 1991, and in 1998, he was hired as a student assistant. He earned an AAS and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. Zoltan was hired full time by Richland’s Information Technology department. He earned two degrees all while learning a new language and working full time.
Zoltan worked for RLC as an IT support specialist, then advanced to a network systems specialist. Zoltan began working on a master’s degree from the University of Tulsa while employed full time at Richland. He commuted to Tulsa and completed the degree in nine months.
Zoltan returned to Richland, developed curriculum and started Richland’s Digital Forensics program, which teaches students to recreate missing or deleted files form digital media. Zoltan’s students say his industry knowledge is second to none.
“He has the experience to be able to teach us from both the corporate and the law enforcement angles of this business,” one student says. “I feel privileged that someone with this type of experience is teaching at a community college. He has given me a different perspective many times and made me think instead of assume.”
Since starting the Digital Forensics program, Zoltan and his students placed 11th in the international competition of the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center Challenge in 2009. He has also applied for and received the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS) National Standards 4011 courseware certification for his curriculum. Zoltan also was instrumental in negotiating and completing an articulation agreement in 2009 for the Digital Forensics Information Assurance degree with Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.
Jude Ayozie knows the power of seeing the potential in oneself and others.
He was almost two years old when his mother died in childbirth. When his father remarried a year and a half later, Jude’s hopes of having a loving mother once again were crushed. For the rest of his childhood, he suffered brutal, vicious, and continual violence at his stepmother’s hands, including sleep deprivation, physical attacks, and emotional abuse.
“I was always reminded how stupid and useless I was with a fist to my head,” Jude said. “It was an abuse brutal and cruel beyond human imagination.”
Jude woke up on Feb. 11, 1993, and could only see a very faint light from the corner of his left eye. All else was darkness. Doctors confirmed that trauma to his brain from beatings had left him blind. Multiple surgeries could not correct the condition. Rather than be consumed by bitterness, Jude chose to overcome.
“There has always been a part of me that refused give in. And that was my resolution to make a success story out of misfortunes,” he said. “Rather than being put down by the degrading words of my stepmother who always told me that I will never become anything worthwhile in life, I let those words become my stepping stone to greater heights. I drew from her hateful words the passionate fires of determination to be the best of what I am meant to be. And also my belief in God to help make that happen for me never wavered for once. No matter how bad it got, I promised myself that I would never give up my academic goal in life.”
Jude triumphed. He enrolled at Richland and earned a 3.15 GPA and an associate’s degree in 2000. He went on to complete a B.A. in psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas and a Master’s of Education in counseling from the University of North Texas in 2004.
“He never allowed his lack of sight to limit his drive or dreams,” said Jude’s nominator, Aliene Pylant. “Imagine having limited vision and still making As in algebra and trig. Jude did it!”
Today he is a role model and mentor for the students at Richland Collegiate High School, where he is employed as an instructional specialist.
“Jude is an amazing example for our students,” said RCHS Principal Kristyn Edney. “He is a living testament to the Richland College ThunderValues because he lives them every day.”
Judith Cayle Dumont’s students in developmental writing know they have a professor who can really relate. Judith was once a starving college student – sometimes donating blood for cash during her first two years in college to be able to eat.
Judith’s life experiences make her an excellent teacher, said her nominator, John Millemon
“Judith has turned the difficulties of her own childhood and youth into a resource on which she can draw to understand many of the problems which young people are facing today,” John said. “She can speak honestly with students about the hardships, rebellion, and anger that often make it difficult for young people to prepare for a meaningful life.”
For Judith, it was difficult from the start. When she was born, her father was in prison. Later, her parents divorced and she grew up with three siblings in a household constantly short of money. At age 17, Judith was on her own, financially and emotionally. College didn’t seem possible, but at the last minute, she was able to enroll at Oklahoma State University.
She attended Oklahoma State University for two semesters. At age 19, she came to Dallas with a friend, got a job as a waitress and started putting herself through college.
Judith found her voice and vocation at Richland College, where she took core classes from 1999 to 2001. She transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies. She went on to complete a Master of Education degree in counseling and psychotherapy from the University of North Texas.
Today, Judith is an adjunct professor of developmental writing at Richland. She has consistently won recognition from her department and the college for the high rate of student achievement in her developmental writing classes.
“Judith has a special gift for relating to students, helping them to learn more about themselves and the ways that they can interact positively with others,” John said. “Students may not always agree with Judith, and at times she may be tough with them, but they always trust her.”
Most college students don’t think about how they will be remembered. Landon Gregory isn’t most college students.
At age 3, Landon was diagnosed with leukemia. He endured six years of medications, surgeries and chemotherapy at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Battling the illness has given Landon a perspective most young people don’t have, said his nominator and mom, Angel Gregory.
“Landon realizes each day is a gift and he enjoys each and everyday. He knows what a privilege it is to attend school and that with an education he can become all that he is meant to be,” she said. “At the end of life, Landon has told me that he plans on looking back and being able to see where he made a difference in others lives.”
Landon started attending Richland College in the fall of 2009 in the dual credit program. He’s finishing his senior year in high school while earning college credits.
His other accolades and activities have included being awarded the bronze presidential star for volunteerism through Americrew. Landon volunteers for many organizations including American Cancer Society, Texas Stampede, Children’s Medical Center Hospital, Saturn Road Church of Christ, and Mimosa Lane Baptist Church.
Landon was chosen in 2009 to attend Camp Ryla, a leadership camp by the Mesquite Rotary Club and he was asked to be a Model Ambassador for Prestige Photography. Landon received scholarships to further his education from the American Cancer Society, Keep Mesquite Beautiful, Rotary Club of Mesquite, and Resource Once Credit Union.
Angel said, “Through the devastation of cancer and the fight to overcome that disease something great came out of it and it was the compassion and kindness that Landon shows others, the dedication to succeed, the passion to help others.”
If Jeffrey Qualls could write his story, it would be one of triumph and tragedy.
In the late 1990s, Jeffrey was involved in a very serious automobile accident and suffered for many years with injuries stemming from that accident. Through the years, he overcame many obstacles related to the wreck.
Despite these circumstances, Jeffrey was an outstanding student at Richland College. While studying at the college in 2007-08, his passion was writing, but he was successful in all the courses he took. Jeffrey was an excellent math student though this was not his real interest. He earned high praise from professors on his work ethic and attention to detail.
Armed with a stellar 3.9 GPA, Jeffrey transferred from Richland to the University of Texas at Dallas where he continued to excel. He was accepted into a master’s program at UTD upon completion of his bachelor’s degree.
Jeffrey’s dream of continuing his education wasn’t meant to be. He unexpectedly passed away during the summer of 2009 from unknown causes.
Those who knew and loved Jeffrey remember his involvement in animal rescue and his wide range of other interests, and of course, his passion for writing. Jeffrey’s legacy lives on through the words he wrote. At the time of his death, several of his works had been accepted for publication.