WTAMU Alumni Association To Present Top Awards at Phoenix Banquet
The Alumni Association at West Texas A&M University will bestow its most prestigious awards during its 47th annual Phoenix Banquet at 7 p.m. Friday, April 30 at the Dr. Hazel Kelley Wilson Alumni Banquet Hall on campus.
Five individuals will be presented with Distinguished Alumnus Awards, and Dr. Don R. Topliff, associate dean for the College of Agriculture, Science and Engineering, will receive the association’s University Excellence Award. A recognition dinner with the Old Main Society follows.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is given to successful graduates who contribute time and support to the University and to humanitarian causes. The 2010 recipients are Gary Culp, Dr. J. Paul Matney, Dr. Travis McBride, Myrna Raffkind and Ronald M. Watts.
Gary Culp graduated from WTAMU in 1971 and currently serves as vice president of Global Animal Products in Amarillo. He is a big supporter of his alma mater and is actively involved in promoting the University. He works with the WT Ag Development Association and received one of the organization’s highest awards in 2009. Culp is a former letterman with the Buff baseball team and actively supports raising scholarships for student athletes. He also has been a member of the WT Alumni Association and can often be found helping with rush and chapter activities for the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
Dr. J. Paul Matney earned his master’s degree in communication from the University in 1973 and worked as an instructor and director of radio and television at the University until he joined the faculty at Amarillo College (AC) in 1979. In July 2009, Matney became AC’s 13th president. During his career, he has received numerous awards and honors, including Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Senior Fellow, Piper Professor, John F. Mead Faculty Excellence Award and Outstanding Educator of the Year by the 10th District of the American Advertising Federation. Matney also is an active member of the community and serves on the boards of numerous organizations including Amarillo Opera, Amarillo Museum of Art, Amarillo Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Panhandle Association of Broadcasters.
Dr. Travis McBride, professor emeritus of political science, earned both his bachelor’s (1957) and master’s (1958) degrees from WTAMU and his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma in 1967. He joined the WTAMU faculty in 1957, served as chair of the Department of Political Science from 1970-1986 and retired in 1991. During those years, he touched the lives of many students through his passion for teaching and through his endless support and generous contributions to the Travis McBride Scholarship. He opened his home and his heart to many students through the years, many of whom were able to realize their dreams because of McBride’s generous nature. He also contributed to the civic life of the Panhandle through numerous presentations as well as serving on boards and holding various positions in church and local organizations. He was recognized as a Graduate of Distinction in 2009 by the College of Education and Social Sciences, where he serves on its Advisory Council.
Myrna Raffkind earned two master’s degrees at WTAMU—a M.A. in psychology in 1988 and a M.A. in sociology in 1995—and served as a faculty member from 1985-1998. She just recently was granted the rank of emeritus from The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents. Raffkind is a strong supporter of the University, especially the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work and a strong advocate for West Texas Family and Community Services. She is a member of the WT Foundation board, Old Main Society and the WTAMU Women’s Council. She is actively involved in numerous organizations in the community and at WTAMU and is often seen at various functions to support causes dear to her heart. In 2009 Raffkind was recognized as a Graduate of Distinction by the College of Education and Social Sciences, where she serves on its Advisory Council.
Ronald M. Watts earned a B.B.A. from WTAMU in 1971. The skills he learned and developed at WTAMU have served him well as partner/vice president and chief operations officer for Elliott/Russell Office Supply and Hester’s Office Supply. His leadership as a businessman has earned him awards from the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau. He has been an active member of the Foundation Board and currently is a member of the President’s Circle, WTAMU Alumni Association and Panhandle-Plains Historical Society. Watts also is an active member of his church and his community commitments include Goodnight Circle, Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, National Association of Office Suppliers and Amarillo Botanical Gardens.
“Each year we receive dozens of outstanding nominations for these awards,” Becky Stogner, director of the Alumni Association, said. “It is always a pleasure to learn of our alumni successes, and how they are continuing their involvement with the University. This year’s Centennial honorees represent the best of West Texas A&M University, and we are proud to recognize them.”
The University Excellence Award is an accolade reserved for faculty, staff or administrative personnel who make significant contributions to higher education at WTAMU.
Dr. Don Topliff joined the WTAMU faculty in 1998 as head of the Division of Agriculture (now the Department of Agricultural Sciences) and in 2007, he was named the first associate dean for the College of Agriculture, Science and Engineering. He has an outstanding record of accomplishment and leadership in teaching, research and service. He has coached more than 200 undergraduate students on horse judging teams that have won 17 national titles. He took an active role in designing WTAMU’s Ph.D. program and works hard to increase enrollment in agricultural sciences. He also is active in the Equine Science Society, the American Quarter Horse Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Wheat Producers as well as various other committees and boards in the industry.
Reservations for the banquet are $50 per person and can be made by calling 806-651-2913.