School News
Austin College recognizes 2023 Distinguished Alumni and Service awardees
By Austin College
Nov 14, 2023
Print this page
Email this article

Sherman, Texas — Austin College recognized its 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award and Service Award recipients at an award dinner on Friday, November 3. These honorees have distinguished themselves in their professions and in their communities, exemplifying leadership and ethical standards in their interactions. Throughout their lives, they model the spirit of service and broad-mindedness that is fostered by the Austin College educational experience. Distinguished Alumni provide support and advocacy for the College and its mission.

Presented with Distinguished Alumni awards were: Anissa Coss Centers ’93, has had an award-winning career in broadcast journalism. She now works as a confidence coach, motivational speaker, and continues as a broadcast journalist in Tyler, Texas, at KLTVTV. Centers has most recently served with the 1:3 Survivors Foundation, BeYouTiFul Girls Foundation and Longview Queens United.

Leigh Hiester ’90, is the principal at Foster Elementary/Foster Dual Language campus in Jeffco, Colorado, where she has overseen daily activities for the last 20 years. She is admired in her field because of gamechanging work in dual-language instruction such as creating a pre-K through 8th grade Option School for Dual Language Students. Prior to her work at Foster, Hiester spent 10 years as a dual language teacher in the classroom, in Texas and Colorado.

Carol A. Wiley Toll ’74, retired from a 40-year career in technology where she worked on the cutting edge as an innovator. She led teams to their goals by embracing the technological and cultural changes necessary for success. Toll serves at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano and has volunteered for March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, and American Heart Association.

Rizwan Rayaz Jagani ’15, was presented with the First Decade Award, given to an outstanding young alumni who has exemplified the qualities of scholarship and service in their lives and work within 10 years of graduating from Austin College. Jagani is an American violist of Indian/Pakistani heritage with an eclectic career ranging from orchestral to solo performance. He also works as an arranger, orchestrator, producer, and educator. He is an advocate for arts education and the pursuit of arts careers by South Asian people.

Two service awards were also given: James T. Jarratt ’67, was presented the Heywood Clemons Volunteer Service Award, given to alumni or friends in honor of continued service and commitment to the College. Jarratt has served as an officer of the Austin College Alumni Association and is currently on the Board of Trustees. He is a proud Golden ’Roo (one who has celebrated the 50th anniversary of their Austin College graduation) and plays a significant role in keeping his class informed about College happenings. More than once, Jarratt has made cross-country trips to deliver Golden ’Roo medallions to those who could not come to campus for their celebrations. He also travels regularly statewide to be at alumni functions. Jarratt serves as mayor of Granbury, Texas.

Dr. Patrick Duffey was presented the Cindy Curtis Bean Service to Alumni Award, which honors a member of the faculty or staff who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the support of alumni. Duffey joined Austin College faculty in 1994 and has had significant influence on students in and out of the classroom. He teaches a wide variety of courses focusing on both Spanish language and Latin American literature. His nomination noted that he uplifts, encourages, and promotes the achievements of Austin College graduates long after they leave campus, following their victories and hurdles.

The awards were presented by Austin College President Steven O’Day with friends and family in attendance. Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, pre-professional foundations, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities.

One of 44 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 50 percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and an expert faculty of more than 100 educators allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention.

Related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Austin College cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. The College, founded in 1849, is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.