Joyous tears and grateful laughter marked an emotional evening as a community swelled with pride over successful leaders returned home to a hero’s reunion.
The Killeen Independent School District honored six alumni who graduated from high school locally and moved on to lead in a variety of career fields and community roles during a ceremony Thursday at Central Texas College.
The KISD Education Foundation and Alumni Association named its 2014 distinguished alumni and made investment in the future, awarding 21 high school seniors with college scholarships. Honored alumni this year are Dr. Mark Adickes, Annie Roe Buckley, K. Wade Burton, retired Sgt. Maj. Scott Denson, Alex Gonzales and Jim Yeonopolus.
Dr. Mark Adickes
Adickes, Killeen High School graduate of 1979, played NFL football and is an orthopedic surgeon. Unable to attend the ceremony due to a scheduled surgery he was performing, Adickes responded by email. He thanked KHS coaches for teaching him the value of hard work and teamwork.
Annie Roe Buckley
In one of several heartening moments, Buckley, a 1933 Killeen High School graduate, retired from a 40-year Killeen ISD teaching career, received flowers and a serenade on her 98th birthday.
Erin Buckley, her great-granddaughter and an Ellison High School senior and scholarship recipient, presented her with a bouquet as students led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday.”
Buckley’s grandson, Brad Buckley noted in a nomination that many of Annie Roe Buckley’s former students continue to call on her today for advice and counsel.
Seated on the distinguished alumni stage, Buckley told the audience she began her career in rural schools, including Mountain View and later in Killeen ISD, at East Ward Elementary School and then Bellaire Elementary School because it boasted the unique feature of air conditioning.
K. Wade Burton
Burton, a 1986 Ellison High School graduate, is a technical services veterinarian. Choking back tears, the honoree thanked family and educators for supporting his education. He named teachers from Clifton Park Elementary School through Ellison High School, particularly his band directors for teaching him work ethic.
Sgt. Maj. Scott Denson
Denson, a 1985 Ellison graduate, recently retired from the Army and an instructor at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, also thanked family and friends. He named one of his Ellison history teachers by name and held a unit coin to present to him.
He said he was an average Ellison student who lived for the Friday pep rallies and football games and found his way in the Army. Denson credited a history teacher for challenging him to consider his future.
Gonzales, a 1971 Killeen High School graduate, is an attorney and managing shareholder of Winstead PC, Austin. He directed much of his comments to the students receiving scholarships, assuring them that Killeen produces strong sons and daughters.
Gonzales said his parents arrived at Fort Hood in 1959, where they raised six children. He and his siblings graduated from Killeen High and continued at Central Texas College. “They never gave up and never let me give up,” he said of his KHS teachers. “I may have left Killeen but Killeen never left me.”
Yeonopolus, a 1963 Killeen High School graduate and president of Continental and International Campus at Central Texas, recounted the simpler days of his schooling days.
Claiming he did the minimum to get out of high school, he assured the scholarship recipients they have the talent and support to be future distinguished alumni. “Your opportunities are endless,” he said.
“You fill us with pride and with hope for the future,” Killeen ISD Superintendent Robert Muller said, speaking to the honored alumni and the scholarship recipients.
KISD Education Foundation director Joyce Hodson said the organization’s scholarship committee reviewed 290 applications to choose 21 recipients, up from seven scholarships given a year ago. Increased giving allowed the surge in scholarships. The alumni association awarded these 21 scholarships totaling nearly $40,000:
- Alumni Association Scholarships: Andrew Loughran, Harker Heights; Nathan Diederich, Ellison; Vae Roberts, Killeen and Mitchell Telles, Shoemaker.
- Central Texas College Scholarships: Jennifer Kenebrew, Shoemaker; Londae Brinson, Ellison; Alexis Cox, Harker Heights; Jamal Mosley, Killeen; and Johnattan Rivera-Rodriguez, Pathways Academy.
- Vicky Cooke Johnson Emerald Academic Scholarship: Erin Buckley, Ellison.
- Norma Gray Memorial Scholarship: Karlie Clark, Ellison.
- Hargus Family Scholarship: Sateevia Wade, Ellison.
- Jim & Nancy Hawkins Scholarship: Kyle Carruthers, Shoemaker.
- James K. Hubert Memorial Scholarship: Matthew Sluss, Harker Heights.
- Teresa Young Memorial Scholarship/Exchange Club of Killeen: Josiah Rivera, Killeen.
- The Chapman Scholarship: Denise Zamora, Career Center.
- Cleaver Family Endowed Scholarship: Onecimo Mancilla, Killeen.
- John & Gladys Driver Endowed Scholarship: Itzel Perez-Mejia, Ellison.
- Harriet C. Jackson Endowed Scholarship: Kajal Bhakta, Ellison.
- Brad Pfiester Memorial Endowed Scholarship: Sarah Brown, Shoemaker.
- Gary and Helen Purser Family Endowed Scholarship: Davaishamon Jiles, KISD Career Center.