Five Women, Local Business to be honored at WT Department of Communication Hall of Fame

Local News

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University announced its Communication Department will honor alumni, recently retired faculty members, and a local business at a virtual Hall of Fame ceremony.

The event will happen via Zoom on Friday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. While the ceremony is free, donations for the Trudy L. Hanson Write Your Own Story Scholarship are welcome, the department said.

WT said the success of the alumni honored represents the university’s principle of being centered on learning, which is outlined in WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. WT explained the plan is fueled by the $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign.

You can register for the virtual ceremony here.

At the event, Dr. Trudy Hanson will receive the Eternal Flame Award recognition for non-alumni making a big impact on the Communication Department. Alumni Katie Kirkpatrick and Stefanie Rodarte-Suto will be recognized as 2021 Hall of Fame inductees, while alumni Dr. Jennifer Harker and Hope Stokes will receive the 2021 Rising Star Award. Additionally, Pak-A-Sak Convenience Stores will be recognized as Community Partner of the Year.

Dr. Hanson recently retired as head of the Communication Department after 31 years with WT.

“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 is a 2000 graduate from Waxahachie who is now 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 is a 2003 graduate from Guymon, Okla., who currently serves as assistant director of community development for the City of Amarillo. In such a role, she creates opportunities to 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 is an Amarillo native who earned her master’s from WT in 2015. She is now a technical writer and editor at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham, N.C. Her role is to translate the institute’s environmental research 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 is an Amarillo native who graduated with honors in 2020. She is now 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.”

Family-owned and operated Pak-A-Sak Convenience Stores was founded in 1978 with headquarters in Amarillo. The company currently has more than 350 employees.

“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 what it means to be named as a community partner.”

WT said the Communication Hall of Fame annual event started in 2013, however, it was put on hold in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 event will happen virtually in order to honor the awardees.

With the goal to endowing the Hanson scholarship, WT named donation levels with titles that align with Dr. Hanson’s passion for storytelling, as well as the scholarship’s name:

  • Legend ($500);
  • Performance ($300);
  • Storyteller ($100).

If you would like to make a donation, you can do so 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.”

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