The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met online Wednesday, May 6, with President Le Ila Dixon sharing an email from Zachary Thomas who was our club’s entrant in the Optimist essay contest.
Although he did not win one of the scholarships, he sent his appreciation: “Thank you again for allowing me to apply. The support I received gave me confidence to continue applying. To date, ETBU has awarded me $16,500, and The East Texas Professional Credit Union recently notified me that I would receive a $2,000 scholarship from them as well. These scholarships make choosing a private school equal to a public one, so I should be able to attend ETBU, the school I really want to attend. Thank you for all your support and enthusiasm regarding my writing.” The club committee that reviewed his essay was made up of Druann Rustenhaven, chair, and Optimists Le Ila and Richard Magrill. We look forward to the time we can meet in person and have Zachary read his essay.
We are reminded that retirement is a time for optimism as Ned Calvert, our third longest member, shares his story:
“I was born in Mount Pleasant, TX — a good place to grow up. Our family was very involved with the First Baptist Church. In my school years I participated in the traditional sporting activities until my last several years when my concentration turned to academics with a particular interest in science, chemistry and biology. My Dad, Ted Calvert and my Mom, Ethlyn Berry were from Gilmer originally. Whenever we could, we’d head to the family farm there. Lakes and ponds and creeks provided for fishing and hunting and there and on my uncle’s adjoining farm we worked the cows and calves. We rode horses that were mostly cooperative except for one that, if you had no spurs, would head directly for the barn when you mounted him!
As I thought of college I had no place particular in mind. But, I grew up in First Baptist with Mark McKellar whose family had attended Baylor and we had three or four friends looking at it so that made for a pretty strong pull. I applied and was accepted at Texas A&M and Rice as well. In the end, I decided against Rice because it was in downtown Houston which seemed way too large a city. Texas A&M lost out because it was just too big a school. Baylor was in Waco (less overwhelming than Houston) and it was a relatively smaller school (7500 students at the time) so it had a small campus feel. But it had a large college atmosphere because of its football team and membership in the Southwest Conference!
After getting quite a way into chemistry and biology I hit a wall with calculus, especially Calculus 2. I briefly looked into pre-med but when I explored that idea with a counselor my sophomore year I chose accounting instead and graduated with a B.B.A. in four and a half years instead of the expected four or less.
It was while I was at Baylor that Sarah Wells and I met. We dated and later married while we were both still students. We enjoyed each other and being together. We became a team and our life together centered on one direction — finishing our educations. For us, therefore, marriage before graduation was good and the right decision; and it added to our college experience!
My first job was actually coming to Marshall where I worked in private business and in a local accounting firm. I worked as a cost accountant and later joined Stemco in Longview. We were a young bunch (the local manager for the entire operation was just thirty-five) and we had locations in Reno, Nevada, Gastonia, North Carolina, and Canada. The job involved just enough travel to be interesting but not so much that it was burdensome.
After serving under five presidents for some 24-25 years, I retired completely at East Texas Baptist University on April 2. When I began there I worked in finance (1988 to 1999). I became Vice-President of Administration and Finance in1994. In January of 2000 I moved from ETBU to Louis A. Williams Associates (LAW) and was CFO there until August 2007 when I returned to the college. While at LAW my office was just down the hall from that of Mr. Williams and he was a very active member and supporter of the Optimist Club. He and I visited quite a bit during work and he invited me to join the club. When I first attended, I had a really a good experience. (Admittedly, he had done a lot of prep work and pretty much already sold me on the club!). The fact that the club focused on helping youth was a strong draw; that was the area I wanted to see grow and develop in Marshall. Sam Fogle and I both joined the club in October of 2001 and Eric Wilburn joined the following month. Both Sam and Eric were from ETBU and had known each other for years. (Both preceded me in retirement; but Eric is still active in the club when his duties as pastor of DeBerry Baptist Church will permit!) In January of 2018 I moved into an advisory roll at ETBU and worked four days a week until this April. Incidentally, I officially became an ETBU alumnus in 1995 when I received my M.B.A. in management there.
For years Sarah and I lived five miles south on US59. We had 80 acres with a house and barn and woods (many of the pines we planted ourselves). In preparing for retirement, however, we decided that the place required more work than we wanted. We sold the house, barn, and 40 acres and retained the pines and creek for a place to get out of town. Now we live at Trammels Trace off TX43. We were members at Central Baptist for about 15 years in all but for the past several years we have been a part of Immanuel Baptist. In fact our new home is only about a half mile away. Immanuel has an excellent financial secretary, Jennifer Skinner, and I go in about once a week for a half day to help.
In retirement, our son Philip is with us here, but once we get out from under COVID-19 and reach our “new normal” Sarah and I look forward to seeing more of our son Matt’s kids in Houston. Years ago when Matt was playing baseball I was involved with the Marshall Youth Baseball Assn. I also served as treasurer of the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Pines. I have been a board member and served as treasurer of the Harrison County Historical Museum. Serving on that board has shown me how greatly our community benefits from the work of retired persons. Now that I am one! I hope to be of equal service. I may get a part time job because I like to keep busy; I may also do more work at Immanuel.
I am a past president and director of the Noon Optimist Club and intend to continue my involvement hoping that we can find new ways to help, encourage, and build up the youth of our community.”