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CANYON, Texas — Four West Texas A&M University alumni and a respected, recently retired faculty member will be honored along with a prominent Amarillo company by WT’s Department of Communication.
The department’s Hall of Fame ceremony will be conducted via Zoom at 6 p.m. Oct. 22. The event is free, but donations will be accepted for the Trudy L. Hanson Write Your Own Story Scholarship.
The success of these alumni and others reflect WT’s principle of being a learner-centered University, as outlined in WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. That long-range plan is being fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Dr. Trudy Hanson will be recognized with the Eternal Flame Award for non-alumni who make a big impact on the department. Alumni Katie Kirkpatrick and Stefanie Rodarte-Suto will be recognized as this year’s Hall of Fame inductees. Alumni Dr. Jennifer Harker and Hope Stokes were selected as the 2021 Rising Star Award winners. And Pak-A-Sak Convenience Stores will be recognized as the Community Partner of the Year.
After 31 years at WT, Hanson retired from the position of department head of the Department of Communication in January.
“When I think of the history of our university’s Eternal Flame, I’m reminded of the people that didn’t let challenges destroy hopes and dreams but instead turned burning embers into a strong light for education,” said Paula Schlegel, associate lecturer of communication. “Dr. Trudy Hanson has been a burning ember that successfully provided guiding light for our department, the field of communication and most importantly our students’ success.”
Kirkpatrick, a 2000 graduate originally from Waxahachie, is vice president of digital commerce, North America for Bacardi.
“Katie has had a meteoric career in digital commerce for some of America’s most iconic brands,” said Mary Coyne, owner of MCMC. “Katie is an energetic, enthusiastic and effective powerhouse.”
Rodarte-Suto, a 2003 graduate originally from Guymon, Okla., serves as the assistant director of community development with the City of Amarillo. Her current role allows her to create opportunities that alleviate the impact of poverty in the area.
“Stefanie definitely uses what she learned at WT to excel in her professional life,” said Mellessa Denny, a 2018 Communication Hall of Fame inductee. “She is a person you can count on as a planner, communicator, and advocate.”
Harker, an Amarillo native who earned her master’s from WT in 2015, is a technical writer and editor at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham, N.C., where she translates the intramural and extramural environmental research conducted by NIEHS to the public.
“Dr. Jennifer Harker is a definite rising star,” said Dr. Kristina Drumheller, head of the Department of Communication. “She is just a rock star in our field.”
Stokes, an Amarillo native who graduated with honors in 2020, is the director of marketing for the Amarillo Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“As a student, Hope was a dynamic executive director of 1910 PR and ideal mentor to other students,” said Kimberly Bruce, associate lecturer in the Department of Communication. “Today, she is a fantastic young community leader who serves Amarillo and its visitors with her enthusiasm, creativity and organization.”
Pak-A-Sak Convenience Stores, founded in 1978 and headquartered in Amarillo, remains family-owned and operated and employs more than 350 people. Pak-A-Sak strives to be a respected, multiservice convenience store leader and a trusted brand that is differentiated by their excellent employees and cleanliness standards.
“Pak-A-Sak has been a staple in the Panhandle community for over 40 years, and during that time, has steadfastly given back to the community at large and to WTAMU, and more specifically, to the Department of Communication,” said Dr. Mary Liz Brooks, the Jenny Lind Porter Professor of Communication and assistant professor of media communication. “Pak-A-Sak projects a sense of pride, selflessness, generosity, and loyalty which are character traits representative of a what it means to be named as a community partner.”
The Communication Hall of Fame became an annual event in 2013 but was paused last year due to COVID-19. The 2021 event will shift online to honor this year’s awardees.
Because of the goal to endow the Hanson scholarship, donation levels have been named with titles fitting her storytelling passion and the name of the scholarship itself: Legend ($500), Performance ($300) and Storyteller ($100). Donations to the scholarship may be made here.
“During her career at WT, Dr. Hanson encouraged students to use their voice effectively as they wrote and continue to write their own stories and blaze their own paths,” Schlegel said. “She had the unique ability to make rhetoric theories come alive. Dr. Hanson cared about our students’ success, and she cared about our students. They knew that and didn’t want to disappoint her. They held themselves to a higher standard because she expected nothing less. She truly is a light to those that were lucky enough to learn from her and work with her.”
About the WTAMU Department of Communication
The WTAMU Department of Communication houses two undergraduate programs: Communication Studies and Media Communication, with three areas of emphasis in each program as well as the option to seek teacher certification in speech or journalism. The master’s program offers two areas of emphasis: one in Communication and one in Media Management. Both can be completed online. For more information on the department, visit wtamu.edu/academics/college-fine-arts-humanities/department-communication/index.html.
About West Texas A&M University
WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 60 undergraduate degree programs, 40 master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.