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LU taps four as Distinguished Alumni for 2016

Lamar University has named four alumni as Distinguished Alumni for 2016, noting that their dedication to their professions, service to their communities and loyalty to their alma mater epitomizes the Lamar University spirit, official said. The award is the highest granted by the university to its graduates. 

“These four individuals represent excellence in their careers and a genuine love for their alma mater,” said Shannon Copeland, director of alumni affairs. “It is an honor to name them as our Distinguished Alumni for 2016.”

Nominated by their peers and selected for the honor by the Distinguished Alumni Awards committee are Yolanda Lee Conyers, of Austin and a member of the class of 1989; J. Pat Parsons, Beaumont, class of 1971; Anita Riddle, Spring, classes of 1993, 1996; and Glen Morgan, Beaumont, class of 1975.

YOLANDA LEE CONYERS

Yolanda Lee Conyers is the vice president of worldwide human resources and chief diversity officer for Lenovo, the world’s foremost creator of personal computers. For three years Conyers navigated an expatriate role in Beijing learning Mandarin and studying cultural customs, as she transformed Lenovo’s day-to-day human resource operations, installed consistent processes and systems, and continues to create a distinct imprint on the corporate culture reflected in employees in more than 60 nations.

Yolanda ConyersOriginally from Port Arthur and the youngest child of seven, Conyers credits her parents for instilling in her the value of education as the key to eliminating limitations real or perceived. Evidence of her achievements is her 25-year career in the high-tech industry, and her pioneering of The Lenovo Way, which is also the title of her bestselling book. Conyers provides a distinct contribution in blending Eastern and Western business cultures by harnessing the power of differences and diversity. 

Conyers is a proponent and role model for STEM education for girls and women, recognizing that such careers offer higher salaries and advancement. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Lamar University in 1989 and a certificate in advanced human resource management from the University of Michigan. Her MBA in international business was earned from Our Lady of the Lake executive program in 1998. At Lamar University, Conyers serves on the Computer Science Advisory Council, contributes financially and shares the insight of her impressive career experiences with LU students as a guest lecturer. 

She and her husband, Chris, have three sons. 

A sought-after speaker and author, Conyers has received numerous honors including “Woman of the Year in Science and Technology,” YWCA, 2003, “Working Mother of the Year, Working Mother magazine, 2009, “100 Diverse Corporate Leaders in STEM,” STEMConnector, 2014, and “Corporate Professional of the Year,” Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, 2015.

 J. PAT PARSONS

J. Pat Parsons is vice chairman of CommunityBank of Texas. A graduate of Beaumont High School, Parsons began college at SMU before transferring to Lamar University where he earned his B.B.A. in 1971. He then earned an M.B.A. from the University of Houston in 1973, and began his banking career with First City National Bank of Houston.  Parsons served as credit analyst, credit supervisor - Energy and Commercial Lending Departments, Manager of the International Credit Group, and as a member of the Asia Pacific Group.  From 1979 until 1984, he served as general manager for First City National Bank–London Branch and as a department manager in the Energy Division of First City in Houston until 1985.

Pat ParsonsIn 1985, Parsons transferred home to the First City Building in Beaumont where he served as president & chief operating officer as well as senior regional credit and lending officer at the First Security National Bank.

Parsons joined Community Bank & Trust SSB, a locally owned community bank, as president and chief operating officer in 1992.  In 2004, Community Bank was sold to Texas State Bank in McAllen. Parsons became regional president of Texas State Bank until 2006, when Texas State Bank was sold to BBVA.

Shortly after this sale, Parsons resigned from BBVA to start the Beaumont based CommunityBank of Texas, serving as its founding CEO and chairman of the board. Since its inception, CommunityBank of Texas has grown to be the largest Southeast Texas based bank with 38 branches and approximately $3 billion in assets.

In addition to his banking success, Parsons is active in the community and region having served as president of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, a past member of the Rotary Club of Beaumont, and member of the Neches River Festival. He was also active in the Hurricane Rita Recovery Group seeking donations to provide immediate relief after the devastation.

His strong commitment to his alma mater includes exploring financing options for Cardinal Village with then-president Jimmy Simmons. He, and his wife, Melody, who graduated from LU in 1971, served on the Friends of the Arts Board in the College of Fine Arts and Communication. In 2014, the couple made a generous contribution to the LU Foundation to establish the Pat and Melody Parsons Innovation Fund in the College of Business, making funds available to the dean of the college to respond to opportunities to support faculty and students.

ANITA RIDDLE 

Anita Riddle is the data scientist and senior advisor in procurement at ExxonMobil. Originally from Bisbee, Arizona, Riddle grew up dividing her time between the United States and her mother’s native Chile. As a young adult, she graduated as valedictorian from Safford High School and was selected as one of two representatives from Arizona at the 1980 National Youth Science Camp

Anita RiddleThat experience, coupled with her father’s successful engineering career, inspired her to study engineering.  She won a U.S. Army ROTC scholarship and attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she received a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1984 and a Regular Army Commission.  She spent seven years on active duty with three command positions in Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Transportation in the U.S. and Europe. 

Upon leaving active duty, she started her career as a process engineer at the Mobil Beaumont Refinery in 1990 while simultaneously working to complete two advanced degrees at Lamar University.  Her 1996 doctoral field study in chemical engineering at Lamar drove a significant improvement in the solvent extraction process at the Beaumont Refinery. She was soon promoted to shift superintendent, a leadership position on rotating shifts. In 1998, she was named plant manager for the Lubricant Refinery and, in 1999, moved to Chicago as manager of Midwest Fuels Supply. 

Throughout her career, ExxonMobil has capitalized on her skills and interests.  A passionate advocate for social responsibility, she served as senior advisor for environment at ExxonMobil’s corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas.  She founded ExxonMobil’s Corporate Citizenship Report and worked with international peers for improved public reporting.  She served in global managerial roles within ExxonMobil Procurement while in Fairfax, Virginia. 

Her current role as data scientist and senior advisor in procurement in Spring, Texas is another perfect fit.  Drawing on experience with engineering problem solving, leadership, and a love of data, she is a decorated innovator within ExxonMobil. Her father once told her, “Don’t go to work to get ahead. Go to get the work done extremely well, and a great career will follow,” advice she lives by.

Riddle’s husband, Steven Schmidt, is an environmental remediation manager at ExxonMobil.  They have two daughters, Sierra, 13, and Christine, 10.  Together they enjoy travel, snow skiing, volleyball, hiking, camping and Girl Scouting.  Her greatest joys come from being a mother, coaching and volunteering.  She will tell you, “Life isn’t about you. It’s about what you give.”

Riddle has been a strong supporter of Lamar University’s College of Engineering, where she and her husband established the Riddle and Schmidt Faculty Development Endowment in Chemical Engineering, the Riddle and Schmidt Faculty Development Endowment in Industrial Engineering, and the Dr. Anita L. Riddle College of Engineering Innovation Fund. Their generosity includes funding classroom renovations, scholarships and departmental needs, and support for the student organization Society of Women Engineers. Riddle serves as a Trustee of the Lamar University Foundation and is a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Board.

GLEN MORGAN

Glen W. Morgan is the managing partner of Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, L.L.P. He received his B.B.A. in General Business in 1975 from Lamar University and his J.D. from South Texas College of Law in 1978.

Glen MorganA trial lawyer who specializes in Personal Injury and Business Litigation, Morgan has been the recipient of many awards and honors. Texas Monthly’s Super Lawyer Section, Top Texas Lawyers, has named him a Super Lawyer from 2004 to the present.  He has been listed in “Best Lawyers in America” since 2006 and has been honored in the National Law Journal’s Top 50 Verdicts. In 2015, he was included in the Nation’s Top One Percent by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and was also selected by the Trial Lawyer Board of Regents Litigator Awards, honoring the Top One Percent of all lawyers.  He is also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Texas Bar Association, Jefferson County Bar Association, State Bar of Texas and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Morgan is a Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation.

In addition to his leadership of many organizations in his profession, Morgan has served as a board member of the Lamar University Foundation and LU’s College of Education and Human Development Advisory Board. He is an honorary member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 479, Beaumont Professional Firefighters Local 399, Beaumont Police Officers Association and Texas State Building and Construction Trades Association. A strong supporter of LU, he contributes to Cardinal Athletics, the Cardinal Club, and Friends of the Arts. He also established the Donald E. Morgan Scholarship at Lamar University in honor of his father, created the Morgan Charitable Fund, established and is a permanent board member of the Cris E. Quinn Charitable Foundation. 

As an entrepreneur, Morgan is a co-owner of Maverick International, a pipe, valve and flange distributor.  He is a partner in Calvary Valve, a valve manufacturing company.  He owns G.S. Global Supply, an industrial supply company and Overtime, an electrolyte replacement drink used by all Lamar athletics. 

A major gift from the Morgan Charitable Foundation on behalf of Glen and Teri Morgan in 2010 enabled LU to create the Morgan Suites complex overlooking the football field adding significantly to the redevelopment of the university’s athletics program.

A native of Beaumont, Morgan and his wife Teri (LU class of ’85) have three children, Matthew and Michael Morgan, Amy Pyburn, and son-in-law Ryan. They also have two grandchildren, Jack and Jude.

His hobbies have included Winston cup racing, owning a publishing company in Nashville, tennis and the outdoors. He is currently working on building homes in Cabo San Lucas and breeding whitetail deer in Uvalde.