NCTC Foundation Gala honors donors

Elizabeth F. Abu | Feb 24, 2020

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 Texas Motor Speedway and saw record attendance with nearly 500 guests.

The F.M. Hemphill Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor that can be granted to graduates and former students of NCTC. The NCTC Foundation established this award twenty-six 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 James “Jim” Cooksey.

Cooksey attended Cooke County Junior College, now NCTC, in 1968. He is originally from St. Jo, Texas where he still is an active rancher – working the same ranch he grew up working, which his great grandfather founded in 1873. Today, the ranch encompasses 2,000 acres and runs 300 head of cattle. He considers his great grandfather’s branding iron as one of his most prized possessions. 

After attending CCJC, he graduated from North Texas State University, now UNT, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and economics. He also completed coursework for a Master of Public Administration degree.

“There is an art to exceptional success and longevity in the real estate industry, and our recipient has honed that art to perfection,” said NCTC Foundation Board member Steve Schmitz.

An early innovator of corporate-focused real estate services, Cooksey founded the Dallas-based Jackson Cooksey Company in 1982, creating a firm known for its customer-centric corporate tenant focus and for providing best-in-class real estate strategies and solutions while maintaining the highest standards of honesty, integrity and commitment. Prior to its acquisition by Newmark Knight Frank in July 2018, Jackson Cooksey ranked among the largest commercial real estate brokerages in the Dallas and Houston areas with an impressive average broker tenure of 20 years. The company was named one of the Nation’s “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” in 2018, 2017 and 2016 by Best and Brightest.

Cooksey is a highly respected and long-established leader in the real estate industry, both locally and nationally. A veteran of the industry, Jim has been involved in transactions totaling more than 200 million square feet over the last two decades of his career. He has represented notable clients over the years, including various Fortune 500 companies.

His philosophy is “be aggressive, think outside the box and exceed the clients’ expectations every time,” an approach which is the cornerstone of his business. A true believer in the power of a positive attitude, he considers the challenges of real estate to be simply opportunities to learn. His indomitable competitive spirit paired with a determination to succeed has made him one of the country's most respected commercial real estate professionals.

Cooksey has been involved in numerous philanthropic organizations both professionally and personally; giving back to the community is a cornerstone of his business. His personal community involvement includes long term service on a variety of boards and supporting community initiatives.

The NCTC Foundation 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 Ed Wright Community Service Award for Cooke County was presented to CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates.

CASA provides volunteer advocates to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in protective foster care until each has a safe, loving and permanent home. This agency has been in operation since 1999 and its 222 advocates have looked out for the well-being of more than 2,000 children. The goal of every advocate is a safe, loving and permanent home for every child. 

In CASA’s first year, the program had 12 volunteers and served 33 children.  In 2019, it celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“We are truly blessed to have this organization that recruits, trains and gives support to everyday people who act as volunteer advocates for children,” said NCTC Foundation Board member Jim Goldsworthy. “Information provided by these advocates helps to ensure decisions made in each case take into account the child's best interests.”

The award for the Graham campus was presented to the Graham Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.

These two entities have worked closely with the NCTC Graham campus over the past ten years to help the community, and especially the businesses, know about the college and the services provided.  They were integrally involved with the Graham Workforce and Education Board with the passing of the branch campus maintenance tax to become a branch campus for NCTC. 

In addition, these entities have assisted with fundraising initiatives to help solicit sponsors for events, as well as obtained scholarships for specific industry certification programs such as certified nurse assistants, construction, HVAC and petroleum technology programs. The Graham Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau also promote the college by offering programs about the college, assisting with job fairs, and promoting the college to new businesses that are interested in coming to Graham.

The service award for Montague County went to the Bowie 4B Sales Tax Corporation.

Through the visionary leadership of community leaders and citizen support, the City of Bowie passed a 4B sales tax to construct the NCTC Bowie Campus. The vision and action of this committee is unique to the service area of NCTC, as well as within the state of Texas. 

The support of the citizens of Bowie has made it possible for local residents to further their education and gain marketable skills to meet the employers’ needs. In 2000, the new NCTC Bowie Campus was opened. Over the past twenty years, the 4B Sales Tax Corporation has continued to support this campus, in 2009 they expanded the original campus building to include a petroleum technology program and expanded library. In 2018, a new Industrial Technology Center was built to expand the technical programs offered on the Bowie campus.

The award for Flower Mound was awarded to the Argyle United Methodist Church Men’s Leadership Team for their work with Casting for a Cause.

Since 2017, this leadership team has organized and conducted Casting for a Cause, a children’s fishing tournament that has raised over $18,000 that has been donated primarily to NCTC student scholarships. The donations have funded a $10,000 endowed scholarship, $3,500 in paid scholarships with another $2,000 available for immediate scholarship needs.

In addition, their efforts have generated almost $3,000 in donations to the Denton Wesley Foundation’s Shiloh Food Pantry which provides free food and reduces food insecurity for all college students in the North Texas area. This team has worked tirelessly to create, organize and run this annual event with plans for continued future growth. This year, the Casting for the Cause event will be held on Saturday, March 28. 

For the Corinth Campus, the award was presented to Mollie Avelino, Associate Principal at Lake Dallas High School.

In October 2015, a group representing Lake Dallas ISD, NCTC, City of Corinth, and the Lake Cities Fire Department set out to develop a dual credit fire program. The results were a High School Fire Academy where juniors entered the program and by the fall break of their senior year would sit for their Texas Fire Certification. In addition, the students would receive 18 college credits from NCTC for their successful participation in the program. The program fell under the purview of Mollie Avelino.

NCTC provides the lead instructor as well as the skills instructors for the course which are attended at the Lake Dallas High School Campus. According to John Bryant, lead fire instructor at Lake Dallas, “Alongside her normal responsibilities, Mollie extends her time and effort beyond what would be expected, and it is her dedication to this program that makes it the success it is.”

The Denton service award was presented to Serve Denton. In 2012, the organization formed to create a one-stop-shop for humanity. Its mission is to partner with nonprofits to help make their services more accessible for people in need. In 2019, this organization completed its 5-acre, 48,000 square foot campus providing a home to 18 nonprofit organizations focused on health and human services. In the process, it has become the second largest center in the state. 

In its first year of operation, it will serve over 16,000 people and save the nonprofit partners over $450,000 annually. Nonprofit partners provide 15 different services including utility and rent assistance, behavior health, health care, food, justice and therapy to the children who have suffered severe physical and sexual abuse. Serve Denton is a place for healing, compassion and care; designed to be a warm, welcoming place where people can find the help they need. Serve Denton co-founder and CEO Pat Smith was present to accept the award.

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: Sherry D. Smith, Claud and Carol Fry Scholarship, D.A. Davidson & Co., Dr. Bruce King, iOffice, Denton County Transportation Authority, Graham Economic Improvement Corporation, Bryan Insurance Agency, Thomas W. Bass, Brad Cozart, Erica Thompson, Brad Isbell, Kay Schroeder, James C. Cooksey, Dr. Larry Gilbert, Crown 3 Equine Veterinary Services, Leeton Phillips, Sheldon and Shelly Connell, Roy Culberson, Toni Deweber, Kristen Weinzapfel, Jamie Kemp, Sivells Bend United Methodist Church, Vesta Lin Stacy, City of Corinth, James B. Goldsworthy State Farm Insurance, Retail Commercial Specialty Flooring, Lone Star Coaches, Inc., and the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce.

Inductees into the Benefactors Honor Circle, who have given between $5,000 and $9,999, included: North Texas Medical Center Auxiliary, Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Hullett, PC, Medal of Honor Host City Program, Gainesville Kiwanis, Karon & Larry Sullivant, and Jo Ann Pettus.

The Founders Honors Circle, including inductees who have given between $10,000 and $19,999, included: Dr. Rochelle Gregory, Doug Anderle Memorial Scholarship, Lynn Peters, Graham Rotary Club Scholarship, and Trident Process System.

Bronze Honors Circle inductees, who provided gifts between $20,000 and $29,999, included: Summit Club of Flower Mound, Dr. Brent Wallace for the establishment of the Reverend Garland and Patricia Wallace Scholarship, and Dick and Patty Haayen.

Inducted into the Sterling Silver Honors Circle for gifts between $30,000 and $39,999 were the First State Bank for their establishment of the First State Bank Scholarship and Jackie Pitcock.

Inducted into the Pure Gold Honors Circle for gifts between $40,000 and $49,000 were Axis Realty Group and Frank and Dorothy Knapp.

Inducted into the White Diamond Honors Circle for gifts between $50,000 and $99,000 were Dr. Pat Ledbetter for establishing a memorial scholarship for her husband Dr. Bill Ledbetter, Ralph and Dorothy Lewis and Shirley Lewis Weems for the establishment of the Garreth E. Lewis Scholarship, and William Bill Adams for his contribution to the Empower the Future campaign.

Inducted into the Blue Chip Honors Circle for gifts over $100,000 was the Jan Parsons Estate. For over twenty years, Jan and her husband supported the NCTC scholarship program through the establishment of two endowed scholarships, benefiting the industrial technology programs and the music programs as NCTC. Through her estate she has continued her support of NCTC students by adding additional funds to these scholarships.

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 our students in their race to success.”

NCTC scholarship recipients also spoke about the impact the scholarship they received has made on their lives. Krish Dhanam, one of only two executive coaches personally trained by Zig Ziglar, was the guest speaker for the evening.

The NCTC Wind Ensemble played 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 Association, contact Debbie Sharp by email:



The F.M. Hemphill Distinguished Alumni award was presented to James Cooksey at the NCTC FOundation Starlite Gala Friday night. 


Click here for a full gallery of photos from the event.