Four Honored At Annual TJC Alumni Luncheon
By KELLY GOOCH
About 300 Tyler Junior College alumni and friends gathered at a homecoming luncheon Saturday to honor four former students.
During the luncheon, held in the Apache Rooms of Rogers Student Center, Carmin Marie Biggs received the Valuable Young Alumna Award, Tom and Heather Mensch received the Apache Spirit Award and Billie Boyd Hartley received the Distinguished Alumna Award.
Betty Briggs, director of alumni relations, said these individuals were chosen because they have made TJC proud with their many accomplishments.
Ms. Biggs graduated summa cum laude from TJC in 1999 with an associate's degree in fine arts. She was in Student Senate, Phi Theta Kappa, English Honor Society, Baptist Student Ministry and editor of Touchstone.
Ms. Biggs went on to receive a bachelor's degree in journalism at New York University. While at NYU, she worked as an intern at ABC Sports, World News Tonight, 20/20 and Primetime. She is a news producer at WABC-TV Channel 7 in New York City.
"She has always had a plan of someday attending NYU, living in New York and having some kind of journalism career," her former high school physics teacher Rick McDaniels said as he introduced her. "It's obvious that TJC is to be commended for preparing her."
Ms. Biggs said she remembers picking classes for her freshman year at TJC and how she thought about what would get her the success she wanted.
"As a TJC student, I had never been to New York. When I told teachers maybe I wanted to go to NYU, no one told me I couldn't do that," she said.
Ms. Biggs also thanked her parents for their support and the alumni association for the award.
The Mensches are band directors at TJC. Tom Mensch coordinates Apache Band and conducts the Wind Ensemble, Concert Band and Trombone Ensemble. He has served as director of bands at Robert E. Lee High School and performs with several musical groups.
Heather Mensch is a professor of jazz studies and applied low brass. She conducts TJC jazz ensembles. She was assistant band director at Moore MST Magnet School and Chapel Hill Middle School and assistant band/choir director at Lamar High School in Houston.
Dr. Cheryl Rogers, executive director of institutional effectiveness, planning and research, introduced the Mensches. She said the band had 60 members when they came but has since gotten "bigger and better."
"We're honored to be considered for this. We realize we were selected because of what our students produce, not what we do. We want to share this award with our students," Mrs. Mensch said.
She then introduced past and present drum majors, along with others who have been instrumental in the band program.
Tom Mensch recognized Ms. Rogers, the new department chair, and the late Dr. Edwin E. Fowler "for creating a precedent for the band."
Fowler "made a lasting impression on me because of his love for music," Mensch said.
Ms. Hartley, class of 1950, was in the Apache Belles and Phi Theta Kappa. After graduating from TJC, she earned a bachelor's degree in education and business from the University of North Texas.
She has held many leadership positions and has received numerous awards including, with her husband Bill Hartley, the T.B. Butler Award as Tyler's most outstanding citizen.
After the death of their son, Pat, the Hartleys established the Pat Hartley Soccer Complex on campus.
As TJC Board President Lonny Uzzell introduced Ms. Hartley, he said her life exemplifies the three promises at TJC: a quality education, a vibrant student life and community service.
TJC "transformed a naive country girl into a philanthropist, mother, outstanding citizen, hero and friend to TJC," he said.
Greeted with a standing ovation, Ms. Hartley said she was shocked when she found out she would be receiving the Distinguished Alumna Award.
"There are honors and then there are great honors, and this is a great honor," she said. "I don't feel like I deserve it, but I'll accept it."
Ms. Hartley said students typically rode the city bus, walked or were dropped off at TJC when she went there. She even remembered a friend who rode a horse across campus.
"We knew it (TJC) was a great destination. It's even more of an important destination today. I'm glad, at 17, I made TJC my course," she said.
TJC officials also gave reports on enrollment, the alumni association and the Tyler Junior College Foundation at Saturday's luncheon.
TJC President Dr. Mike Metke said enrollment at the college broke 11,000 for the first time in the school's history. He also expressed gratitude for the alumni association.
TJC is "unlike any other college. A good part of that is the active alumni group," he said. "You care deeply about the college and stay connected."
Amy Motes McCullough, president of the alumni association, reported that the alumni association has gone from less than 300 members to more than 1,500, including lifetime memberships. She encouraged attendees to stay involved with TJC through the alumni association.
Toward the end of the luncheon, TJC Foundation director Dr. Kimberly A. Russell highlighted this year's gifts to the foundation, and the 43rd Line of the Apache Belles gave a $1,000 check to support the Belle Heritage Endowment.
Attendees then sang the alma mater and some proceeded to other homecoming festivities.
"It's always nice to come back (to TJC)," Mike Murphy, class of 1987, said. "It (the college) was a good precursor to what I was going to face in my career."