TJC Alumni Awards Dinner honors five outstanding individuals

Feb 29, 2016 by

TJC honored five outstanding individuals at the annual Alumni Awards Dinner held during 2015 Homecoming Week activities.

The awards program recognizes outstanding alumni and friends of the college for achievements in their industry, profession, life’s work or service to TJC.

The 2015 honorees were: Barbara Bass ’81, Distinguished Alumna Award; Gene Branum, retired TJC professor, Special Recognition Award; Eleanor Cameron, philanthropist, Black and Gold Award; Carmen Carpenter ’02, Valuable Young Alumna Award; and State Sen. Kevin Eltife, Apache Spirit Award.

Barbara Bass, ’81

Distinguished Alumna

The Distinguished Alumna Award is the most prestigious award given by TJC. It recognizes a former student for distinguished professional achievement and distinctive contributions to society and, by doing so, has brought honor to the college.

Barbara Bass

Barbara Bass

Barbara Bass was part of the core group that opened the doors of the Gollob Morgan Peddy accounting firm in 1982. She has more than 35 years of experience in public accounting and is responsible for a variety of tax clients and provides consultation for small businesses.

A graduate of Leadership Tyler’s inaugural class, she is extremely involved in the Tyler community and has contributed her time and services to Tyler for many years. She was elected mayor of Tyler in May 2008 and completed her allowable terms in May 2014.

Bass graduated from Texas A&M University-Commerce with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting.

In addition to her service as mayor, her professional associations and activities include: member of the Tyler Economic Development Council Board; foundation treasurer of Pollard United Methodist Church; past chairman of Hospice of East Texas; past chairman of Pollard United Methodist Church Administrative Board; past chairman of Tyler Economic Development Council; past chairman of Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce; past chairman of Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas; past president of East Texas Chapter of the Texas Society of CPAs; and past board member of Texas Society of CPAs.

She was one of the first benefactors of the new Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences Center at TJC.

“Tyler Junior College is a critical component in our community,” Bass said. “Our world-class community college provides a qualified workforce that meets the needs of area employers. TJC is the best investment we can make in our community to insure a better quality of life for our neighbors. With the medical industry being the No. 1 job-provider in Tyler, my husband and I were excited to join many very generous donors in support of the Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences Center.

“As the former mayor of Tyler and as a CPA, I see an enormous economic impact since these are high-paying jobs with benefits,” she said. “These students, their current or future families, and our entire community will benefit for years to come.”

Gene Branum

Special Recognition Award

This award recognizes an individual for outstanding professional achievements, contributions to society, and/or service to their community thus bringing honor to the college.

Howard E. (Gene) Branum retired in 2015 as a TJC physics professor and department chair of engineering and physical sciences earlier this year, after 45 years of service.

Gene Branum

Gene Branum

“My time at TJC has been a true delight,” Branum said. “The most positive thing is my relationship with the students, faculty, administration and staff. Watching students mature academically and socially has always been fun.

“The time I have spent with students outside of class doing service projects, providing physics demonstrations for youth groups, going on field trips, taking them to physics conferences, advising them, encouraging them to do their very best, and then hearing from them after they have become successful in their field has always given me a sense of pride. Having my son as a student was also enjoyable.”

Branum completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Stephen F. Austin State University and enrolled in graduate studies at the College of William and Mary, Rutgers, Yale, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M-Commerce.

His students tell TJC administrators they will always remember Branum as engaging, kind, soft-spoken and as someone who had a genuine interest in their success.

Branum is a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Texas Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Texas Community College Teachers Association and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

He received the Watson W. Wise Foundation Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence Award in 2004 and was named Outstanding Instructor for the Division of Science and Mathematics in 1991.

He is an elder and trustee at Glenwood Church of Christ, a member of the East Texas Joint Engineers Banquet Committee, served on the advisory and exhibits committees for Discovery Science Place and was a member of the board of visitors for the Department of Physics at Abilene Christian University.

Branum and his wife, Marion, have a son, Gene D. Branum, M.D., and two daughters, Lucy and Evelyn.

Eleanor Cameron

Black and Gold Award

This award recognizes outstanding devotion to Tyler Junior College by an individual who is not a former student but volunteers time and effort to promote the mission and goals of the college.

Eleanor Cameron’s love of art began when she was a college freshman, and though she served in various capacities in finance and social work as the wife of a busy physician, she continued to give of her time and resources to art and art education.

The wife of Harold Cameron, M.D., Mrs. Cameron also developed a deep respect and interest in the nursing profession.

“The nursing profession was a major part of Harold’s life,” she said recently. “When he first came to Tyler, it was very demanding. The role of the nurse in his work was very important.”

When she learned of the planned Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences Center on TJC’s main campus, she was quick to lend generous support.

“The center will be nationally known,” she said. “It will draw students from all over because it is the best facility they can go to. You have to realize how much this is going to mean to the doctors in Tyler.”

Eleanor Cameron

Eleanor Cameron

Mrs. Cameron graduated from Troup High School, studied at Stephens College then attended Southern Methodist University, where a friend introduced her to Harold. The couple married in 1942, the same year she began working as Tyler’s only caseworker for the Texas Department of Public Welfare.

World War II, a hospital internship and three years of residency for Dr. Cameron kept the couple moving until they decided to call Tyler their permanent home in 1949 – choosing the Rose City over Amarillo. Immediately, Mrs. Cameron became involved in the community, serving as a Picture Lady – delivering art history studies to school children – and as the first president of what would later become known as the Junior League of Tyler. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Tyler Museum of Art and the couple worked with friend Julietta Jarvis to establish the Cameron-J. Jarvis Library in Troup, a facility she continues to support and the hub of Troup community activities.

During his career, Dr. Cameron delivered approximately 10,000 babies, including the first baby delivered at East Texas Medical Center in 1951. He also is credited with delivering several babies who went on to become notable Tyler physicians. Since his death in 2013, Mrs. Cameron has continued to give of her time and resources to the Tyler Museum of Art, the Junior League of Tyler and other charitable causes through the Julietta Jarvis Foundation, which is managed by her son, Hal.

Carmen Carpenter ’02

Valuable Young Alumna

This award recognizes an individual of integrity and stature for distinguished achievement in a business, profession or life work, or through outstanding service to Tyler Junior College.

Carmen Carpenter was born in Tyler and has resided here for two years. She and her husband, Matt, have been married for nine years and are the parents of Emma-Claire, 6.

Carmen Carpenter

Carmen Carpenter

She is a graduate of J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson and spent two years at TJC before transferring to Texas Christian University, to earn her bachelor’s degree in business, majoring in entrepreneurial management. The Carpenters are active members of Marvin United Methodist Church.

“My husband and I are happy to call Tyler home,” she said. “The decision to relocate to Tyler to raise our family, while growing our careers, has proven to be perfect timing. Having lived in a larger community, we have a greater appreciation of Tyler and what it has to offer its citizens.”

Outside of her role as an assistant vice president of lending with Texas Bank and Trust in Tyler, Mrs. Carpenter is a member of the board of directors for Goodwill Industries of East Texas, a member of the Women’s Board for Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, a Tyler Rotary Club member, a member of the Contact Club for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, chairman for the Tyler Young Professionals Network, and also serves as the bank liaison for the Good Cents financial literacy program at TJC, sponsored by Texas Bank and Trust.

The two years that Mrs. Carpenter spent at TJC were influential in her transitioning to a private university. She studied pre-business while on a music scholarship and she performed with Harmony & Understanding all four semesters at TJC, and was cast in the annual TJC musicals, “Footloose” and “Crazy For You.”

Mrs. Carpenter is the current chairman for the Tyler Young Professionals Network (TYPN), a non-profit group directly affiliated with the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. This organization is made of up of emerging Tyler business people who meet regularly to network and work hand in hand with established business and community leaders to shape local economic development. She enjoys volunteering her time to assist aspiring young professionals. Her goal is to provide them with the opportunity to advance their careers, develop stronger interpersonal skills, and make an impact on the community, all while creating a network of peers that can serve as a resource now and in the future.

State Sen. Kevin Eltife

Apache Spirit Award

This award recognizes any person or group who has shown spirit and motivation through the contribution of time and energy to a program or activity that measurably benefited Tyler Junior College.

Kevin P. Eltife was sworn in as District 1 State Senator on March 5, 2004, after serving three terms as mayor of Tyler.

Kevin Eltife

Kevin Eltife

During his tenure as mayor, he put the city on a “pay-as-you-go” plan to reduce general obligation bond debt while cutting the city property tax rate by 50 percent. In 1997, Eltife was appointed by then-Gov. George W. Bush to serve on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Among the recognitions he has received for public service, the Texas Junior Chamber of Commerce selected him as one of Five Outstanding Young Texans in 1998.

Active in his community, Eltife has volunteered with a variety of organizations including the East Texas Food Bank, Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and Hospice of East Texas.

During the 84th Legislative session, Eltife introduced legislation to allow TJC to offer a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. As a companion to a bill by State Rep. Travis Clardy, Eltife’s bill made it through the Legislature and became law on June 21. It was the only
such degree-related bill to pass during
the session.

At the close of the session, Eltife was elected as the Texas Senate’s President pro tempore.

A Tyler native, Senator Eltife is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. He is the owner of Eltife Properties and resides in Tyler with his wife, Kelly, and sons, Walker and Jack.

Eltife has received the “Freedom to Teach” award by the Association of Texas Professional Educators and was named a “Champion for Free Enterprise” by the Texas Association of Business. In 2007, the Texas Municipal League named him “Legislator of the Year.” The Texas Association of Realtors gave him a “Hall of Fame” award in 2011. Also in 2011, he received an “Honorable Mention” from Texas Monthly magazine, which also recognized him in 2007 for being “tough, pragmatic, independent and a problem-solver.” In 2014, the Texas Press Association gave Eltife the “Friend of the First Amendment” award.


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