NCTC Foundation honors donors

Elizabeth F. Abu | Mar 7, 2019

The North Central Texas College Foundation held its annual Starlite Gala Friday, honoring individuals and organizations that have given of their time and resources to further NCTC and their local communities.

The Starlite Gala was held at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Denton and over 400 guests were in attendance.

The F.M. Hemphill Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor that can be granted to graduates and former students of NCTC. The NCTC Alumni and Friends established this award twenty-five years ago, fittingly named in honor of the college’s distinguished president of the Class of 1926. This year’s F.M. Hemphill Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to the late Lieutenant Colonel Thadd Harrison Blanton in memoriam. Steve Gordon, who conducted the research on Blanton and submitted his nomination, was present to accept the award.  

Blanton attended Gainesville Junior College, now North Central Texas College, from 1936 to 1939.

He was born in Windthorst, Texas, and at the age of one, he and his mother moved to Myra, Texas and he attended elementary and middle school there. He later attended high school in Valley View and then graduated from Gainesville High School in 1936.  After attending Gainesville Junior College, he attended North Texas State Teachers College, now the University of North Texas, in 1939.

In 1940, he joined the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet and trained as a pilot at the West Coast Army Air Corps Training Center in Sunnyvale, California. He received his wings and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force at Moffett Field, California on July 11, 1941.

He served in the U.S. Army until 1960. He had a courageous and highly decorated military career. One of his most dangerous missions, he served as a co-pilot during the October 18, 1942 Jimmy Doolittle Raid on Japan. He was one of sixteen army B-25 medium bombers that were launched from the Navy Aircraft Carrier – the Hornet. The raid had been requested by President Roosevelt as retaliation for the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. He was one of eighty airmen who had volunteered for a highly secret and dangerous mission. They deported from the aircraft carrier in extreme weather conditions knowing that they did not have enough fuel to get through Japan and to safety in free China. He was decorated by the U.S. and Chinese government for this mission. Throughout his military career, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, the Chinese Army, Navy and Air Corps Medal Class A, 1st Grade and the Chinese Order of the Cloud Banner, 5th Class.

In 1945, he married Sarah Helen Weed. In 1960, he was medically retired from his military services. Blanton died on September 27, 1961 at the Orlando Base Hospital in Florida. He is survived by his wife and two children, Cassandra and Thadd.

The NCTC Alumni and Friends Association established the Ed Wright Community Service Award to recognize individuals, organizations, and/or businesses for meritorious service to the college and/or the community. 

The award for the Graham campus was presented to Richard Ligon.

Ligon has a lifetime of giving back to the communities he has lived and worked in. When he and his wife returned to Young County from the Plainview/Lubbock area, they came to retire from “work”, and they became involved. They are active in the First United Methodist Church, serving on numerous committees and have served as traveling caregivers to visit people in the hospital and ill at home. He has also been active in the Graham Rotary Club and is a great example of the “service above self” philosophy. Throughout his lifetime, he has had a strong interest in young people, hiring them at McDonalds and working with them to improve their leadership skills, he was actively involved in the 4-H programs while in Young County and has sat on several scholarship committees in Graham.

Since the inception of the NCTC Graham Campus, he has served on the NCTC Foundation Board. He has supported the Foundation financially, actively involved in student activities and assisting with various fundraising and awareness events. He is someone that wants to be involved with projects and groups that will provide a better future. He has been and continues to be generous with his time, talent and resources. 

The service award for Montague County went to Jerry “JR” Rogers.

Rogers is very involved both personally and professionally in the Bowie community. He works with his employees to participate and coordinate many local and countywide community service projects. He is active in the Bowie Rotary community activities including serving as a dictionary sponsor and volunteer, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, collecting food for the Bowie Mission and the blood drives. He also serves as a Leadership Montague County mentor for business leaders. He has been instrumental in the annual golf tournament as a scholarship fundraiser. He also participated in the very first Dancing to the Stars event hosted by the NCTC Foundation and the Bowie Rotary Club and he actually won the People’s Choice Award. This event raises scholarship funds for NCTC students.  

The Ed Wright Community Service Award for the Cooke County was presented to VISTO – Volunteers in Service to Others. VISTO Director Bekki Jones was present to accept the award.

VISTO’s mission is to “help people in times of crisis to get back on their feet”. This organization provides four main support services including a food pantry. In 2018; this organization distributed over 186,000 lbs. of food and served over 15,000 individuals. Another support service is backpack buddies, which provides nutritionally dense mini-meals for children on the weekends serves 863 children. VISTO also provides financial assistance to those who qualify to help keep people in their homes, keep the heat and lights on, vouchers for clothes, life sustaining medical prescriptions, and transportation assistance to medical appointments or job interviews. Finally, VISTO provides the pathways program as their response to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through education, referral information, and non-discriminatory support. 

All of this is done with one full time director, 3 ¾ time employees, 14 board members, and an army of Volunteers in Service to Others to the tune of 5,054 volunteer hours.

This organization does what they do because they believe that collectively we can make a difference. The efforts we make today, affect the future of our community.

The service award for Flower Mound was awarded to Keep Flower Mound Beautiful. Marilyn Lawson, Misty Adams, Angie Cox, and Pat Lawson accepted the award.

Keep Flower Mound Beautiful is well known in the Flower Mound community for their volunteerism and service in the community. This organization was established in 2003 as part of the town of Flower Mound. In 2005, it became a 501(c)(3) organization and later separated from the town. Until 2017, it was operated as a grassroots, totally volunteer organization with a board of 20 members. The town of Flower Mound now provides a part-time person to assist with programs and administration. This organization provide town wide trash events, environmental education opportunities and maintains the town’s Adopt-a-Spot program.

Its mission is to partner with Flower Mound citizens to beautify the community and preserve our unique natural environment. In order to fulfill their mission, they host the Spring Trash-Off, Fall Trash Bash, Spring and Fall Festival, monthly trash clean up days, Adopt-a-Spot and the Lend A Hand Community Enhancement Initiative. This organization has spent thousands of volunteer hours, collected thousands of pounds of trash to help beautify the town of Flower Mound and has assisted hundreds of needy individuals. In addition, they provide environmental educational programs to all second graders in Flower Mound.

The Ed Wright Community Service Award for the Corinth Campus was awarded to Chuck Carpenter.

Carpenter has been an icon in the city of Denton since 1982. Through his leadership, the Chamber of Commerce established the Leadership Denton program.  Participating in this leadership program over the years include a current State Representative, two former mayors, two present city council members and the head of the Denton ISD Board of Trustees among its nearly 600 graduates.

Through his leadership, the Economic Development Partnership with the City of Denton was established resulting in major corporate relocations such as Target, U.S. Cold Storage, Winco Foods and the Peterbilt Division headquarters. 

His leadership helped to establish the partnership with North Central Texas College to operate the Small Business Development Center in 1987, providing free counseling to existing and potential entrepreneurs.

Due to his leadership, the Denton Chamber is one of less than 200 in the entire nation to maintain its Accreditation consistently through the U.S. Chamber, an extensive internal and external evaluation that must be carried out every five years to compare and assure current best practices.

Carpenter helped to organize the Denton Convention & Visitor Bureau as an affiliate of the Denton Chamber in 1976, and served as the first staff director.

NCTC Foundation Board President Ryan Morris, along with NCTC Chancellor Dr. Brent Wallace and NCTC Board of Regents Chair Karla Metzler recognized inductees into the NCTC Foundation Honor Circle.

Members of the Patrons Honors Circle who have given between $1,000 and $4,999 included: Allar Company, Jennifer Beal, Rickey and Denise Cason, Cindy Conrady Berend Scholarship, Jessica Carlile, Michelle Cunningham, Dr. Roxanne DelRio, Dr. Andrew and Shauna Fisher, Debbie Huffman, Alice Hupp, Links Construction, Peter and Sheila McCleskey, Chris and Kaylee McLaughlin, Larry and Kay Slack, Isabel Smith and Talus, Inc., Kate Richardson, Texas Woman’s University, Trident Process Systems, Pam and Tommy VanHook.

Inductees into the Benefactors Honor Circle, who have given between $5,000 and $9,999, included: Aubrey Education Foundation, Casting for a Cause Scholarship, Sanger Education Foundation, First State Bank Retirees Scholarship, Travis and LaMarylis Fore Scholarship, and Bundy, Young, Simms, and Potter, Inc..

The Founders Honors Circle, including inductees who have given between $10,000 and $19,999, included: Graham First United Methodist Church Peggy Graham Nursing Scholarship, Eikon Consulting, and Megan Turbeville Memorial Scholarship.

Bronze Honors Circle inductees, who provided gifts between $20,000 and $29,999, included: Frank and Dorothy Knapp and the Betty Kirby Budlong Scholarship.

Inducted into the Sterling Silver Honors Club for gifts between $30,000 and $39,999 were the Pilot Point Educational Foundation, Axis Realty Group, and J. Lee Stansbury Trust.

Inducted into the White Diamond Honors Circle for gifts between $50,000 and $99,000 were the Janelle Kupper Memorial Scholarship and Ike and Suzanne Stevens.

Inducted into the Blue Chip Honor Circle for gifts over $100,000 were Catholic Charities, Diocese of Fort Worth, Mark Merki with Merki and Associates, and B29 Investments.

Finally, inducted into the Randolph Lee Clark Bequest Society were Bud and Lynn Peters. Already major contributors to the NCTC Foundation through their scholarship programs, the Peters’ recently established the Bud & Lynn Peters Success Fund to assist students in need of extra assistance to stay in school. They have also selected the NCTC Foundation as a beneficiary as part of their estate planning.

Denton County Foundation Board Vice President Mark Merki spoke about the Foundation’s Empower the Future campaign, announcing that the Foundation had exceeded their initial $4 million goal and reached their challenge goal of $5 million raised in support of education and scholarships. Through this campaign, the Foundation was able to raise over $1 million for the new First State Bank Exchange at North Central Texas College in downtown Denton.

First State Bank was inducted into the Platinum Honors Circle for gifts of $1 million dollars. First State Bank CEO Ryan Morris and his wife Christy Morris accepted the award on behalf of the bank. 

Wallace thanked those in attendance for their support of the college and the NCTC Foundation.

“I want you to know this is an exciting evening in the life of NCTC,” Wallace said. “Each of you joining us tonight are helping to empower the future of our students.”

NCTC scholarship recipients also spoke about the impact the scholarship they received has made on their lives.

The NCTC Wind Ensemble played pieces from the 1950’s while guests were arriving and the NCTC College Ensemble provided entertainment during dinner.

For more information about helping provide scholarships through donations to the NCTC Foundation or about membership in the NCTC Alumni and Friends Association, contact Debbie Sharp by email:




DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD— The F.M. Hemphill Distinguished Alumni award was presented to the late Lieutenant Colonel Thadd Harrison Blanton. Steve Gordon (pictured) was present to accept the award.



COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD— VISTO – Volunteers in Service to Others was presented the Ed Wright Community Service award for Cooke County at the NCTC Starlite Gala Friday. Director Bekki Jones (right) accepted the award on stage from NCTC Chancellor Dr. Brent Wallace and NCTC Board Chair Karla Metzler.


Click here for more pictures from the NCTC Starlite Gala.