Homecoming Weekend, despite what students may think, is more than a football game. It is also the time of the year when tradition is remembered and when people who have done great things alongside or with TJC are honored.
The Alumni Awards, an annual homecoming event that began in 1962, will be held the morning of Sep. 17 and 18.
Betty Briggs, Director of Alumni Relations, has an office that is telling of her efforts to coordinate the weekend. There are unfinished plaques, past championship banners and paperwork across her desk.
“The awards this year consist of four different awards that are chosen by a committee who review the files of nominees,” said Briggs.
The biggest prize of the night is the Distinguished Alumni award, which is being given to Dr. Bob Peters for his “distinctive contribution to society,” according to the awards program. Peters went to TJC in 1959 and 1960, giving him unique perspective on the weekend considering there is also a 50-year reunion of the 1960 class.
“When people who have known you for 50 years decide to award you, despite the fact that they know you so well, it’s really the best thing that can happen to you,” said Peters.
His accomplishments include publishing eight government and two history textbooks, serving on six state agencies underneath six Texas governors, and broadcasting Tyler’s weather for over 48 years. He is also one of three TJC professors to be honored with a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor of the Year Award.
“Supporting my family was the biggest reason to do everything I did,” said Peters. “We haven’t ever had any second houses or anything but we’ve always had what we needed.”
The way Peters started doing weather is, in his own words, ” funny,” and it was not simply by choice.
“I was working for a newspaper at the time, in ’62, and Texas didn’t start doing daylights savings time till ’68,” said Peters. “We were getting weather reports an hour late because of this and we needed a way, during that part of the year, to accurately forecast the weather. We simply sat down and decided who ever was least ignorant of those sorts of things would do it, and my fellow workers decided that was me”.
After that Peters bought two meteorology textbooks and read them thoroughly. He then began studying the weather with his grandfather who worked for Delta airlines. The newspapers at the time owned the radio stations and he realized if he did it for the paper he would have to do it for the radio as well.
What is more unconventional than the way he got into the weather is the affliction he battled throughout his life. Although born with bad vision, he received an injury during a high school basketball game that, after two unsuccessful surgeries, left him blind.
“I eventually realized the surgeries weren’t working, so I decided to just go to the school of the blind and learn how to read Braille,” he said. “The worst part of it all was that it was sure as hell expensive. I spent about 10,000 dollars on the surgeries, and this was way back then.”
Peters says that he owes his success to being “born into the depression and being taught when your young the meaning of hard work, as well as growing up with the economy and I think if not for all that I may not have been as successful.”
Peters was also a member of TJC’s branch of Phi Theta Kappa (a national honors society for two-year schools), Alpha Omicron.
They are up for the Apache Spirit Award after a run last year that TJC president Mike Metke called “something that felt like winning the national championship of academics.”
Pre-Nursing major Luke Bazil was honored as one of twenty All-USA Phi Theta Kappa members. In April, at the international Phi Theta Kappa convention in Orlando, Alpha Omicron was awarded a service hallmark for having service programs and initiatives ranked top 25 in the nation among Junior Colleges and top 100 among all Colleges.
The direct recipients of the award will be Dr. Alan Barnes, Gigi Delk, and Shannon Cross.
“We have one award that does not require that you be an alumni,” said Briggs. “And that is the Black and Gold award. That one really is about being a strong community member and helping TJC with their resources.”
This award is going to Virginia H. Gatewood and to her late husband James (Jim) Gatewood who have given a total of sixty-seven scholarships and have raised with the “Promises to Keep” scholarship campaign 350,000 dollars.
Mitch Andrews, who will be giving out the awards and is the Director of Principal Gifts, said “Virginia is very humbled by receiving this award because she feels she is winning for her late husband and that it’s an extension of her husbands legacy.”
The final award being given is also not going a TJC alumni but to someone who has, according to Briggs, “sent more students to TJC than anyone else.” Bill Giles, who is the Director of Counseling at Van High School, is receiving the Special Recognition Award.
Giles has been with Van High School for 50 years, and has been so fervent of a TJC supporter that he has been honored with “50 years of service” by TJC as well, despite never actually working there.
“Of all the colleges I’ve worked with, TJC has been my favorite and that is because I know no other college does as much to prepare their kids for a four-year university. The teachers are just very hands on,” said Giles.
Some of the events taking place within the weekend include the 1960 reunion, which will also bring about a ring ceremony for our national championship football team.
This leads up to the big event: the Homecoming game. The Queen presentation will take place at 6 p.m. followed by the game at 7 p.m. The Apaches will face off against the Navarro Bulldogs,