April 8 was a day full of fun, friends, recognitions and remembrances for Texas Tech University's College of Media & Communication (CoMC). It marked the college's annual Scholarship Luncheon, an event that recognizes the donors whose generous giving alleviates some financial burdens of CoMC students, and the Outstanding Alumni Awards, which honors alumni who have impacted their communities and spread Texas Tech's and CoMC's banners far and wide.
Donors and scholarship recipients gathered to recognize the generous giving spirit of the donors and the impact they have on students. The luncheon began with a video that honored the legacy of C.R. “Choc” Hutcheson, a CoMC alumni and longtime donor who died on Nov. 19, 2020.
Hutcheson graduated from Texas Tech (then-known as Texas Technological College) in 1948 with a degree in journalism. He became the first news/sports director for KCBD-TV and was elected president of the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Association. Although journalism was his calling, Hutcheson indulged his love and knowledge of sports by taking positions at the Texas Baseball League in Fort Worth and as general manager of the Lubbock Hubber Baseball Club.
Across his lifetime, Hutcheson was a champion of CoMC, supporting it in the transition from a department to a school to a college. In 1990, he established his first scholarship in CoMC, the Hutcheson Scholarship in Journalism. More than 30 years later, the college is still awarding this scholarship to CoMC students, along with countless others Hutcheson established and supported. In the last decade, his scholarships have directly impacted more than 500 students.
Lizette Montero, a creative media industries major from Greenville and a recipient of one of Hutcheson's scholarships, spoke on the impact Hutcheson's generosity has made in her life.
“Receiving the C.R. ‘Choc' Hutcheson Endowed Scholarship in Mass Communication felt like a reward for all my hard work and motivated me to work even harder,” Montero said. “It made a big difference in my life and alleviated stress on how I would afford my education. From that point on, I've had many classes in the college I have loved and learned so much from. I'm very thankful for the scholarships I received at Texas Tech and for Choc. His commitment to our college has greatly impacted my life like many other students in my position.”
Recognizing those retiring
Early in the evening, a cocktail hour was held to honor retiring faculty members as well as remembering the life of Bolanle Olaniran, a professor of communication studies who died on June 17, 2021, and had 30 years of service at the university.
Mark Gring, chair of the communication studies department, gave remarks on the impact Olaniran had not only as a professor, but as a man.
“So, what is the worth of a person?” Gring asked. “Ultimately, it is not what you do or the things you leave behind, it is the lives you touch. In the Phaedrus, Plato talks about communication as moving the soul of the individual audience member.
“‘Moving the soul' is what we shared with Bolanle, even if we were not alike in background, experience, research ideas or methods, religious convictions or other life experiences. We shared the common ground of seeking to move the souls of our students, family and friends towards the good, the true and the beautiful.”
Retiring faculty members who were recognized were Ida Ovalle with 23 years of service; Randy Reddick with 25 years of service; Roger Saathoff with 35 years of service; and Bill Dean with 57 years of service.
Outstanding Alumni Awards
After the cocktail hour, guests made their way to the Frazier Alumni Pavilion for the final dinner. As they entered, they were greeted with the musical stylings of Country music artist and CoMC graduate Jenni Dale Lord.
After catching up with old friends and making new ones, Perlmutter began the ceremony. He greeted the crowd and introduced the first of five award recipients.
Public Service Award
A special award for the CoMC, the Public Service Award recognizes an individual who has made exemplary contributions to the common good through public service. The college was thrilled to honor Meredith Imes.
Imes is the associate managing director of Emergency Management for Texas Tech. In this position, Imes served as the COVID-19 coordinator and helped lead the COVID-19 response and management for the university during the 2020-2021 academic year. Her role in emergency management includes streamlining emergency response plans for the university, collaborating with various stakeholders for emergency planning, developing training resources, and marketing and communication.
“Meredith is a shining example of servant leadership,” said Lawrence Schovanec, president of Texas Tech. “Her years of dedication not only to Texas Tech but also the Lubbock community is unparalleled. The university and the College of Media & Communication are honored to recognize Meredith and her numerous achievements.”
Outstanding Alumni Award
The Outstanding Alumni Award was created to recognize alumni who have achieved a certain level of professionalism, won other awards in their area of expertise, achieved a high level of position within their careers, and who have sustained their success over a lengthy period of time. Alumni must have graduated from the College of Media & Communication at least 10 years ago.
T.J. Turner, a 2001 public relations graduate, current partner at Cain & Skarnulis LLP and who serves as the CoMC National Advisory Board chair, introduced the three winners.
With more than 20 years of C-level and senior executive experience in the software, technology and communications industries, Beck has achieved success in both launching high-growth start-ups as well as leading large organizations within multibillion corporations. He is an expert at initiating and expanding business in both turn-around and high-growth environments, and has established a track record of growing profits, increasing market share, and building brand equity for some of America's most recognized brands.
“Monte exemplifies what a strategic communications and management professional should be,” said Bo Blackburn, Beck's business partner and co-founder of Sellers Shield. “He has an almost unique ability to analyze complex issues across all business disciplines and break them down into easily understood messages. Monte's ability to communicate is one of the reasons he is such an outstanding leader. He makes me proud to be a Red Raider.”
Gilmore leads the corporate citizenship enterprise community strategy for Northrop Grumman Corporation, a technology company of 90,000 employees focused on global security and human discovery. The company's pioneering solutions equip its customers with the capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Gilmore is responsible for providing strategic direction, developing and implementing philanthropy and volunteer programs in the company's focus areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) K-12 education, military and veterans, health and human services and the environment in 80 Northrop Grumman communities across the U.S.
“Lynn is an incredible partner to many within and outside of Northrop Grumman,” said Kymberlee Dwinell, director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Northrop Grumman. “After hiring her into the company 25 years ago, I have seen her make significant contributions in the fields of human resources, communications and corporate citizenship. She has designed and developed communications and community programs that have been adopted across the enterprise. Her community leadership, reputation, and engagement in building programs lives on and has been recognized in the communities where we live and work.”
Gray graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor's degree in advertising. After graduation, he served as deputy press secretary for U.S. Senator Pete Domenici in Washington, D.C., before parlaying his policy and communications experience into a career with international public relations firms Fleishman-Hillard and Weber Shandwick, managing high-profile accounts for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurial startups. He later entered the nonprofit sector, serving as chief marketing officer of the North Texas Food Bank before forming Brett Gray Public Relations LLC five years ago.
“Brett is the ultimate, first-rate professional who exemplifies what it means to be a proud Red Raider and an exceptional friend,” said Chris Wallace, president and CEO of North Texas Commission and a CoMC graduate.
Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame Award was created to recognize people who have made the highest level of contributions that affect the quality of education we provide to students. This could be in the form of service activities, financial donations, and/or extraordinary activities that benefit students or faculty. They may or may not be alumni of the program. Anyone employed by Texas Tech should have been separated from the university for at least five years before they can receive this award.
This year's recipient is Chris Traylor. He has been involved in public service and virtually every aspect of healthcare and social services for more than a quarter of a century. His experience and expertise put him at the forefront of legislative innovation, reform and regulation and today he is a respected healthcare expert and leader.
Traylor served in the top health care positions both for both state and federal governments, having been appointed to these roles by two Texas Governors and the President of the United States. He led both the state's Medicaid program, and the Medicaid program nationally.
His resume includes work as key legislative staffer in both the Texas House and Senate as well as in Washington, D.C., where he worked on staff for different members in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Currently, Traylor owns and leads health care consulting firms, serving clients in multiple states on managed care, hospital operations, long-term care and bio-health.
Chino Chapa, a 1982 journalism graduate, 2005 CoMC Hall of Fame inductee and classmate of Traylor, introduced Traylor.
“Chris exemplifies the quality and caliber of professionals the College of Media & Communication educates,” Chapa said. “He reached the pinnacle of success in his field by combining his innate abilities with his college preparedness and a dedicated career of hard work and passion. He is smart and skilled yet humble and down-to-earth, which is the epitome of a Red Raider graduate.”
April 8, thus summed up, as CoMC Dean David D. Perlmutter “the honored past, the exciting present, and the amazing future of the college and all its programs, students, staff, faculty and alumni.”