Five Sam Houston State University graduates who have made notable contributions in business and education, as well as to SHSU itself, will be honored as Distinguished Alumni on Friday (Oct. 17), as part of the university's 2008 homecoming festivities.
The honorees include Eleanor Paxton Smith Garrett, Jimmie Gibbs-Munroe, John R. Ragsdale, George C. Yax and Quatro E. Brooks. The Distinguished Alumni Gala will take place at 6 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom.
Tickets are $70 each. For more information about the event, contact the SHSU Office of Alumni Relations at 936.294.1841.
A former teacher, Eleanor Garrett, along with her husband, Charles, established Garrett Electronics, Inc., a metal detection empire whose name is recognized globally.
Their products have been used by the airline industry, numerous Olympic games—including the upcoming 2010 games in Vancouver—and treasure hunters for security and hobby.
Garrett is a 1954 and 1955 graduate of SHSU, with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master of Education degree, respectively.
After graduating, she taught in Trinity County, Beaumont and Garland. Later, she developed and directed a kindergarten program at Orchard Hills Baptist Church, also in Garland.
The startup capital for the Garrett electronics company, founded in 1962, came from her Texas Teacher Retirement System funds to help create and market the device designed by her husband.
Today air travelers around the world either walk through a Garrett detector or are scanned with a Garrett hand-held wand, and Olympic athletes are protected during games by security devices built at the family-operated factory in Garland.
Garrett has been commissioned as a “Yellow Rose of Texas,” an honorary recognition granted only by the Texas governor.
She is a 50-year member of the Order of the Eastern Star, a charter member of the Garland Women’s Building, an SHSU Alumni Association Life Member and a life member of the Dallas Genealogical Society. She also participates in a number of lineage-related societies, such as the Magna Charta Dames and Barons.
In addition to managing their electronics company, she and Charles maintain a tree farm in East Texas and were honored with the 2002 Tree Farmer of the Year award.
The Garretts have three children: Charles Lewis Garrett Jr., Deidre Lynne Hasselbach and Vaughan Lamar Garrett.
Jimmie Gibbs-Munroe knows her way around a horse, a rope, a barrel and even a goat.
An SHSU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education, the multi-champion cowgirl conducts horsemanship and barrel racing clinics worldwide, including Australia, Brazil and Canada, as well as the United States.
A champion in junior and high school rodeo before coming to SHSU, Munroe was a member of the university’s 1974 national championship rodeo team, participating in barrel racing, goat tying and breakaway roping and earning three individual national titles for barrel racing and “all-around” in two years.
After college, her career carried over into professional rodeos, where she earned additional accolades.
She competed in 11 different National Finals Rodeos with three different horses and in 1984, won the most money for the year out of all of the contestants. Munroe also holds five world titles within the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, in barrel racing and as tie-down roper and all-around champion.
As president of the WPRA, from 1978-1993, she led the association in acquiring equal prize money to the men and worked to obtain national sponsors, the mandatory use of electric timers and better arena conditions.
In 1990, she was named the Coca-Cola “Woman of the Year in Professional Rodeo,” was awarded the Tad Lucas Award by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1996 and was inducted into two halls of fame: the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1997.
More recently, Munroe was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame (in 2003) and this year was awarded the Lane Frost Award.
She has served on the executive board of the National Cowgirl Museum since 1974.
She and her husband, Dan “Bud” Munroe, have one daughter, Tassie Oline Munroe.
John R. Ragsdale is a name that will forever be emblazoned on the Sam Houston State University campus.
A recent donation by the 1959 graduate provided funding for the Office of Alumni Relations, the Enrollment Management division and for SHSU students through the creation of the Winnie Laurene Ragsdale Scholarship Endowment fund, named in honor of Ragsdale’s mother.
For his generosity, the SHSU Visitor and Alumni Center became known as the John R. Ragsdale Visitor and Alumni Center.
A Caballero as an undergraduate—the precursor to the Sigma Chi fraternity, of which he was also initiated as a member—he went on to earn his Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a commission in the U.S. Army.
After working with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for several years, with whom he was named one of the “Top Ten Sales Representatives,” Ragsdale decided to branch out, opening a Burger King franchise in Houston. At the time of his retirement in 2000, he owned or co-owned a chain of 23 restaurants, with gross sales of $20 million annually and more than 450 employees.
During this time, he also became affiliated with Klein Bank, serving on the board of directors and becoming one of five major stockholders. Klein Bank was later sold to Amegy Bank.
Ragsdale currently volunteers with the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance program and serves on the board of directors for April Sound Church, where he is an active member.
“I have been blessed with much financial success and many friends, but I have not sought nor received honors or awards for these accomplishments,” he said. “I consider them great blessings rather than great achievements.”
Ragsdale, who now lives on Lake Conroe with wife Judy, has two daughters, Georgia and Laura.
More than 10 years ago, George Yax declared that he and his family “have truly lived the American Dream,” having taken the company he started in 1981 “public” in 1993 and receiving the Entrepreneur Of The Year award for Louisiana in 1997.
By 1997, Yax’s third underwater diving company, American Oilfield Divers, Inc., had expanded to 2,400 employees on six continents while controlling 30 percent of the Gulf of Mexico sub-sea construction business. They also laid underwater pipelines, manufactured sacrificial anodes and sub-sea pipeline repair tools and fabricated proprietary offshore oil platforms.
He owned 21 diving support vessels and had entered into the underwater robot business, with company annual revenue approaching $200 million.
Yax retired that year, at the age of 57, though he remained chairman of the board, and he and his wife, Necia, and their family moved to Trail’s End Ranch.
In 1998, the company was sold to another NASDAQ company for $280 million dollars.
All of this from an ex-SHSU geography professor.
Yax, who earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1966 and Master of Business Administration degree in 1967, was a non-traditional student when he came to SHSU in 1962. He had previously served in the U.S. Army from 1959-1962, earning the rank of sergeant.
He was elected president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and taught 12 hours of geography on a fellowship at SHSU while earning his master’s degree.
After receiving his MBA, he began working in Houston for an underwater contractor, the field he remained in for the duration of his career.
Today, Yax and his family continue to work to improve their home at Trail’s End Ranch, putting in “at least six hours a day” (and loving “every minute”).
Animal lovers, they provide a home to 10 endangered species from around the world, including animals from China, India, Manchuria, Africa and Tibet.
Also among their brood, a camel named R.J. Reynolds.
Yax and Necia have two sons, Porter Scott and Roger Kent.
A former “Big Man on Campus” who found his home on the Bearkat football field, Quatro Brooks is now “building dreams into reality.”
The 1995 SHSU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology is the Alumni Association’s “Distinguished Young Alumnus.”
Brooks, who coached high school football and baseball for several years after graduating, found his calling in home building in 2000, when he was named D.R. Horton’s “Builder of the Year.”
In 2002, he and friend Mitchell Moore established a custom home-building business, BrooksMoore Custom Homes, and in 2005, after Moore got out of the industry, Brooks started Brooks Custom Homes, LLC, which has become a multi-million dollar business.
He now creates approximately eight homes per year, “each true custom, ranging in size and price,” and was recently featured on the cover of The Builders Journal with his wife, Kimberly.
“Although there have been periods of considerable change along the way, Quatro, the person, has not changed,” said a nomination letter. “His ingredients for success are at his core: honesty, determination, a commitment to serving others and a strong faith in God.
“Even at a time when the housing market has slowed considerably, Quatro’s ingenuity and ‘Do the right thing’ reputation within the market continue to enable his company to move forward.”
A Sigma Chi fraternity alumnus who was voted homecoming duke, Brooks’ generosity in the Houston area hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He and his employees donated their time to organize and lead the construction for a deserving family,” said another letter. “The home of Bob and Sherri Weis, who foster 13 ‘special needs’ children, was in real need of repair and expansion.
“Brooks Custom Homes teamed up with a local church, and with the help of 800 volunteers, they added 1500 square feet and completely renovated the home.
“The team worked around the clock for five days. This incredible project was televised on Channel 11 News.”
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