Category Archives: Breckenridge

TSTC Visionary Murray Watson Jr. Remembered for Service

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College mourned Wednesday the loss of former Texas legislator Murray Watson Jr., who filed legislation in 1969 to separate what was an arm of the Texas A&M University system into a stand-alone institution for technical education that would become TSTC.

“If there was ever a Mr. TSTC, it would be Murray Watson,” said Elton Stuckly Jr., TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief strategic relations officer.

Watson died Tuesday at age 86.

Watson was a state senator when he filed legislation to make the James Connally Technical Institute independent and rename it Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC). Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill’s final version in May 1969 in Austin.

At TSTC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in April 2015 in Austin, Watson was honored with a Founder’s Award.

Watson’s name is on TSTC’s student recreation center on Campus Drive. That factored into his wife, Greta, having been honored with the nearby Culinary Arts building being named for her.

“Murray and I walked out of the old (TSTC) system’s building, and we were about a million dollars short to build the new Culinary Arts Center,” Stuckly said. “I said, ‘Mr. Watson, I want you to think about something. Your name is on that (the recreation center) building. Wouldn’t it be nice for it (the new building) to be called the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center? If you give us a million dollars, you could look at each other forever.’ It wasn’t a couple of weeks later that he called and said he was going to do it.”

Stuckly said Watson was a mentor who would give him advice.

“He always stayed in contact with me by email,” Stuckly said. “He was always looking for ways and ideas of how to make TSTC a better college.”

Stuckly said he and Watson always found much to talk about.

“He grew up in Mart, and I was raised in Penelope,” Stuckly said. “He always wanted to ask about TSTC first, then talk about farm cattle and his feed store and what I used to do on the farm. He said, ‘Elton, there aren’t many people that I can talk to who relate to those times.’”

Verna Lastrapes, a TSTC college outreach specialist, grew up knowing the Watson family in Mart. She said Watson’s family owned the local feed store, which she would visit as a four-year-old with her father at least twice a week to catch up with residents.

“Murray Jr. was a senior at Mart High School then,” she said. “I knew him well because he and my sister, Barbara, were friends.”

Pete Rowe, TSTC’s vice president for institutional development, hauled hay for Watson when he was a teenager in Mart. Rowe also graduated from Mart High School.

“It’s a personal loss for me because I loved him so much,” Rowe said. “He was a great mentor to me. He and Mrs. Watson have always been very kind to me and have done a lot for me in my life and career.”

Lastrapes said residents in Mart thought Watson would be president one day.

“He did not become president, but he did become our state representative and our state senator,” she said. “As a teenager, I remember helping campaign for him. Just about everyone in Mart campaigned for him.”

The feed store factored into Watson’s law career.

“When he lost the campaign for U.S. representative and went into private law practice, he had his office in Waco and one in Mart above the feed store,” Lastrapes said. “For years that is where he conducted all legal transactions with my daddy and other rural area farmers and businessmen.”

Rowe said Watson raised cattle andis sure he must have encountered on his ranch some of what TSTC teaches today.

“Murray was a highly intelligent person,” he said. “He was way ahead of the curve in the education field. He really studied education. He knew what to do.”

Lastrapes worked several years at the Brazos Higher Education Service Corp. Inc., which financed student loans. Watson was one of the organization’s founders.

“He had his own time schedule,” she said. “We began to say, ‘The starting time is when Murray Watson gets there.’ That was for everything!”

John K. Hatchel, chair of the TSTC Board of Regents, worked with Watson as a member of the Brazos Higher Education Service’s board of directors.

“He was very quiet, but he was consistent,” Hatchel said. “If there was a person who needed something or help, he was the first in line to do his part. He did it not expecting any accolades or thank-you’s. He just did it as a person.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC Welding Provides Opportunities for Area Jobs

(BRECKENRIDGE) – One of Stephens County’s largest industries is oil and gas, and with that comes the need for qualified welders.

“There is always a lot of demand in the oil industry for welders and they pay well also,” said Virgil Moore, executive director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corp. “There is always a shortage it seems like. Texas State Technical College fills that gap.”

And, there are plenty of jobs for TSTC’s Welding Technology graduates to consider.

The Abilene-Breckenridge area has more than 300 welding jobs open now, said Steve Collins, business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas in Abilene.

“There are so many welding jobs available right now that they can’t fill a lot of their positions,” he said.

Some jobs in welding in the Big Country do not involve oil and gas.

Southern Bleacher Co. in Graham has 35 welders among its 150 employees. The company produces bleachers, support structures, decking systems and coatings for school districts, universities, fairgrounds and event venues throughout the nation.

“We go through phases when a lot of people join the Southern Bleacher family, they do not leave,” said Sarah Lundgren, the company’s communications director. “Our turnover is pretty small.”

But, Lundgren said the company occasionally has hiring campaigns for welders. The company and TSTC have partnered together in the past.

“Our welders are not hired for specific jobs,” she said. “They work on all jobs. There are different welding areas of the shop and have different responsibilities.”

Stephen Hope, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor in Breckenridge, said students typically have jobs when they graduate. He said students have recently found work at ProFrac in Cisco and Tiger Manufacturing Co. in Abilene.

Jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers nationwide are expected to grow to more than 427,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A majority of these jobs are expected to be in manufacturing.

TSTC in Breckenridge offers a three-semester structural welding certificate which includes classes teaching blueprint reading, fabrication, layout and technical calculations.

Registration for fall classes is ongoing right now. For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC in Breckenridge to Host Registration Events This Summer

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College will have two Registration Rally events this summer in Breckenridge.

The events will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 19 and July 24 in Room 103 in the Breckenridge Center at 307 N. Breckenridge Ave. The events are part of an effort to make the registration process as easy as possible for incoming students planning to take classes in the fall semester.

“This is the best time for everyone to come and get everything done to get registered or check on what they are still needing,” said Cassandra Love, an enrollment specialist at TSTC in Breckenridge.

Visitors can take campus tours and learn about the four technical programs offered at TSTC in Breckenridge: Chemical Dependency Counseling, Environmental Technology, Vocational Nursing and Welding Technology.

People interested in enrolling should bring a copy of their driver’s license, high school transcript or GED, any college transcripts, proof of bacterial meningitis vaccination and TSI scores.

TSTC is having registration events at its 10 campuses throughout the state this summer. For information on the closest Registration Rally, log on to tstc.edu/rally.

For more information, contact TSTC in Breckenridge at 254-559-7700 or visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Alumnae at Eastland Memorial Hospital Work to Improve Local Health Care

(BRECKENRIDGE) — Northeast of the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Abilene is a hospital with a big heart. Eastland Memorial Hospital, the only hospital to serve the residents of Eastland County, is home to local heroes who answered the call to become health care providers.

Some of these professionals are graduates of Texas State Technical College’s nursing program.

“This is a rural community, and TSTC assists in providing a quality education and necessary service that is so important for this community,” said TSTC alumna Brandi Riley, a registered nurse who is manager of Outpatient/Surgery Services and Education at EMH.

Currently there are five TSTC graduates employed with EMH. Some students started their nursing careers at TSTC, while others studied online to further their education.

I graduated from TSTC with my LVN in 2010 from the Breckenridge campus, and I went back in 2016 to the associate degree in nursing LVN to RN bridge program at the Sweetwater campus,” said Megan Drake, EMH’s supervisor of Infection Control, Risk Management and Employee Health. “I chose TSTC because it is so much more affordable compared to larger universities where you get the same degree.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a rising demand for LVNs and RNs, and the employment growth rate in Texas is higher than the national average.

“We hire new RNs and LVNs and encourage students to do their clinicals with us to get their foot through the door,” Riley said. “We are working on a partnership with the Breckenridge campus to get LVNs and RNs doing clinicals here and recruit some new faces.”

For those at Eastland, the hospital is a community and an opportunity to hone new skills.  

“Eastland is smaller, but I feel that I get a broader range of skills rather than working in a larger hospital, where I’d have to focus on one specific department,” Drake said.

Many of the staff employed by Eastland have earned their RN degrees through TSTC’s online program while working full time as an LVN.  

“I was working for Eastland already as an LVN, and they helped to pay for me to go to TSTC to become an RN. And that’s when I earned the position I’m in now,” Riley said.

For others, like registered nurse Belinda Williams, TSTC is a family affair. Williams earned her associate degree in nursing, her daughter graduated from the Chemical Dependency Counseling program in Breckenridge, and her husband earned his commercial driver’s license after completing TSTC’s professional driver training in Sweetwater.

“I love that you go and learn what it is that you are pursuing career-wise, and it’s cheaper than regular college. It’s a great place to get an education, and it’s a fun school that cares about its students,” said Williams, RN case manager/utilization review and quality manager at EMH.

As the need for qualified nurses rises, Riley reminds potential students to think of why they chose to pursue a career in nursing.

“You have to have a love for nursing. It’s not about the income, but caring for patients and giving the best patient care possible,” Riley said.

Registration for fall classes at TSTC is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC West Texas Campuses Seeking Welding Instructors

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College is looking for motivational people who can put a spark in the lives of Welding Technology students.

TSTC’s campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge and Brownwood are seeking three qualified welding instructors with a combination of professional and teaching experience.

“We are always looking for awesome people to join our TSTC team,” said Rhiannon Hastings, lead statewide recruiter in TSTC Human Resources. “We truly value hands-on experience in industry to provide the best learning experiences possible for our students at TSTC.”

Starting this fall, TSTC in Abilene will offer the Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology and two certificates.

TSTC in Breckenridge offers a three-semester certificate in structural welding and accepts up to 20 students each semester.

“If you like small-town living, a great place to raise a family and a place where everybody knows everybody, it can work for you,” said Debbie Karl, executive director of the Breckenridge campus.

TSTC in Brownwood can accommodate 28 structural welding certificate students.

“We need someone with experience,” said Raquel Mata, executive director of the Brownwood campus. “We would like to have someone well known to the businesses and can meet and greet and have moments with them to get to know them. We want someone to be a good fit for our students and be a good leader.”

Applicants need to have current American Welding Society certifications and  experience in shielded metal arc, flux-cored arc, gas metal arc and gas tungsten arc welding processes, along with fabrication, layout and pipe welding. Applicants having an associate degree in welding are preferred.

TSTC is a state institution offering Health Select of Texas administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, paid vacation days, sick leave and state holidays, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, flexible spending accounts and retirement. The technical college also offers employee development and employee appreciation events as part of its overarching goal to make TSTC a great place to work.

For more information on employment at Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu/about/employment.

TSTC Holds Spring 2018 Commencement in Abilene

(ABILENE) – More than 80 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Spring 2018 Commencement held Friday, April 27, at the Abilene Convention Center.

Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, began the ceremony with a tribute to TSTC President Emeritus Homer K. Taylor of Sweetwater, who died earlier in the day at age 83.

“He would be extremely happy for you to celebrate the success of the students,” Denbow told the audience.

Texas Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, was the keynote speaker. He told those gathered about his first job as a 9-year-old washing windshields at his father’s full-service filling station. He said it was a great experience in public relations.

“You can’t replace kindness in the world,” Lambert said.

Lambert said for graduates to be successful, they need to do four things: have something to do, someone to love, something to believe in and something to hope for.

“What do you hope is the next chapter in life?” Lambert asked the graduates.

Lambert advised graduates to be honest, read the Bible, do the right things in life, have a good attitude and not to hold grudges.

“It’s important at this time to have a positive attitude,” he said.

Lambert said he admired how West Texas residents came together for the TSTC in Sweetwater students affected by the Bluebonnet Inn dormitory fire earlier this year.

Several of Friday’s graduates already have jobs.

Johnathan McCarthy, 28, of Abilene graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology. He is already working as a wind technician at Invenergy LLC in Nolan.

“I got out of the Marine Corps and needed an exciting job that is stable,” McCarthy said. “Wind Energy Technology was new and different, but I knew I could do it.”

Some graduates are job searching.

Cameron Hartgraves, 26, of Abilene was a Phi Theta Kappa graduate who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration. He wants to stay in the area for employment.

But, this was not Hartgraves’ first college graduation. He already has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hardin-Simmons University.

“I more or less figured out that I could fix computers better than people,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the ADN Pinning Ceremony for TSTC in Sweetwater nursing graduates took place at an Abilene church.

For more information, log on to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC Names Rick Denbow Provost

(WEST TEXAS) – Texas State Technical College has named Rick Denbow as the Provost over its four West Texas campuses. Denbow served as Interim Provost for the campuses since May.

Along with functioning as Interim Provost, Denbow was also the Senior Field Development Officer for The TSTC Foundation, an instrumental role in supporting the efforts of TSTC’s new technology center in Abilene. Denbow began working for TSTC in 2009 as the director of the Welding and Transportation Technology Division.

Denbow said he is honored to have been selected.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, but I’m very excited also,” he said. “In my tenure with TSTC, I’ve spent my time in West Texas working with the four campuses and I’ve come to know the programs and the faculty and staff. I’m really excited about going forward. Some of the things the college has done, like the most recent reorganization, have really positioned us to be successful.”

The West Texas community is one of Denbow’s favorite things about his job.

“The communities at each of the four locations are very supportive of TSTC and what we’re trying to do, and that makes our job a little bit easier,” he said. “Also, the faculty and staff are just awesome. They’re always willing to go that extra mile and I’m honored to be able to work with them.”

Denbow has lofty goals for TSTC in West Texas.

“As the Chancellor stated in an email to employees a few weeks back, there’s one word and that’s growth,” Denbow said. “That can have different meanings depending on the campus. Is it growing enrollment? Is it growing capacity? Is it growing placement? I would submit it’s all of the above. Each campus in West Texas is unique and one of my goals is to make sure we grow at each of our four campuses.”

TSTC Vice Chancellor & Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Kilgore said he is excited to welcome Denbow in the role.

“Through his experiences, Rick has a really good sense of the communities and needs of industry in the West Texas Region,” Kilgore said.

Denbow graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Texas at Austin.

“I come from the business world,” Denbow said. “With Chancellor Reeser’s focus on making TSTC a little more entrepreneurial, a little more business-like, that fits very well with my background. I think I can add value to the West Texas campuses in the provost role.”

Denbow added that TSTC’s new Industrial Technology Center in Abilene is ahead of the construction schedule. They hope to start moving employees in on Aug. 1, and classes will begin in the building in the fall. Denbow says the campus signifies a new beginning for TSTC in Abilene.

“That campus, the design and how it’s laid out, the Abilene community has never seen anything like that from TSTC,” he said. “The Abilene campus has been housed in an old hospital and we didn’t really have an opportunity to put any heavy equipment and industrial trades in there. This is a new start.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, visit tstc.edu.

Prospective Students Attend TSTC Open House

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College in Breckenridge hosted more than 400 high school students for Open House on Friday, March 2.

The visitors were treated to talks with instructors in TSTC programs in Chemical Dependency Counseling, Environmental Technology, Vocational Nursing and Welding Technology. Faculty members from TSTC in Abilene, Brownwood and Sweetwater also attended to talk about some of their programs.

“I’m ecstatic at the turnout,” TSTC in Breckenridge Executive Director Debbie Karl said. “This was the largest open house for a TSTC campus in West Texas ever. I wanted the students to learn more about TSTC and what we offer.”

Students who visited Environmental Technology tried on hazmat suits and saw a rat play in a maze. Those who stopped by the table staffed by Culinary Arts, which is offered in Abilene, sampled food.

Vocational Nursing students showed visitors how simulated patient mannequins function. Jenny Wingate, a program instructor, said the pregnancy baby suit was popular with students.

“I hope it sparks their interest in nursing,” she said about the event.

Annette Collins, veteran programs officer for TSTC in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, told students they could be eligible for education benefits if their parents, or any other relatives who they have lived with and been raised by for at least five years, served in the military.

Some of the school districts that sent students to the event include Albany, Boyd, Breckenridge, Eastland, Ranger and Throckmorton.

Zachary Canada, 17, a senior at Olney High School in Young County, saw the Breckenridge campus for the first time at the event.

“I want to check out Wind Energy Technology and see what they have,” Canada said. “I have family that are in it. They said it was a good thing to look at.”

All of Breckenridge High School’s students walked to the campus at scheduled times throughout the morning to visit the event.

“We are always talking about what you are going to do,” Breckenridge High School Principal Bryan Dieterich said. “We want the students to know every opportunity.”

Dieterich said the high school was fortunate to have TSTC so close for students to visit.

“A lot of schools our size don’t have this opportunity,” he said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC to Host Open House at Breckenridge Campus

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College in Breckenridge will hold its annual Open House from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, March 2. This event is designed for prospective students who want to learn more about the college, but it is also open to their parents, families and friends.

Visitors can tour the campus and speak with instructors about the programs offered, including Chemical Dependency Counseling, Environmental Technology, Vocational Nursing and Welding.

Faculty from the Business Management Technology (Brownwood), Culinary Arts (Abilene), Wind Energy Technology (Sweetwater) and Health Information Technology (online) programs will be available to meet with students and answer questions about their programs.

Students will also be able to meet with Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Support Services, Veteran Services and success coaches, among others, to help guide them through the college enrollment process.

The college expects over 400 students from the local area to visit.

Interested persons should register online at tstc.edu/openhouse. For more information, call 940-447-7714.

Local Ladies Group Votes to Give TSTC Scholarships

(BRECKENRIDGE) – The Stephens Memorial Hospital “Pink Ladies” auxiliary club of Breckenridge has voted to give two $500 scholarships to Vocational Nursing students at Texas State Technical College.

The group gave their first TSTC scholarship last year, and this year they have expanded it to two scholarships.

“Many of our past students are employed at the hospital, clinics and home health agencies in our community, so helping with scholarships spreads goodwill,” said TSTC nursing instructor Marchelle Taylor. “In doubling the scholarship, two students may receive benefits, and that generosity filters out into the community.”

Donna Pardee, president of the Pink Ladies, said the group loves doing things to help the hospital, and that is why they chose to give the scholarship to nursing students.

“We love doing things for the hospital and the community,” Pardee said. “Every penny we make through fundraising goes right back to the hospital. We don’t keep any of it. This scholarship seemed to be the best way to help a local nursing student in need.”

The scholarships will help students with financial hardships.

“Many of our students live in the surrounding rural areas, so gas and transportation may be an issue,” Taylor said. “Our clinicals are also up to 60 miles away twice a week, so gas money can become an issue. Scholarships may also help students with child care, meals, books and scrubs.”

The group will give one scholarship in the fall and the other in the spring.

“We are hoping to expand the amount next year,” Pardee said. “We realize that it costs a lot to go to college and some of these kids don’t get any help, so we are hoping to help the community.”

Students interested in applying for the scholarships can contact Taylor at marchelle.taylor@tstc.edu.

The deadline to apply for TSTC’s nursing program is approaching soon. Students interested in starting the program this fall must apply to the school online and send in their program application packet by Monday, April 2.

To apply, or for more information on the program, visit tstc.edu.