Legacy and Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients Honored at Tarleton State’s 2024 Gala

Seven were recognized as award winners at Tarleton State’s 2024 Gala, An Evening in Purple. Pictured from left are: University First Lady Kindall Hurley, Dr. Kenneth Estes, Reggie Underwood, Nancy Golden Turley, Chancellor John Sharp, Bobby Fenoglio, Cameron Gomez, Rocky Hardin and President Dr. James Hurley.

STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University presented Legacy and Distinguished Alumni honors at the 2024 Gala, An Evening in Purple, last Saturday night in Wisdom Gym.

Legacy Awards recognize individuals and supporters who exhibit the university’s core values of excellence, integrity and respect. Honorees are selected by Tarleton State President Dr. James Hurley.

Distinguished Alumni recipients bring distinction to Tarleton State through their career, community service or leadership. Honorees are nominated by their peers, friends and family. The Tarleton Alumni Association Board of Directors makes the selection.  

This year’s Legacy Award recipients:

Dr. Kenneth Estes

To say Dr. Kenneth Estes was active as an undergraduate at Tarleton State might be an understatement.

He competed for the men’s tennis team, served as a student assistant for the men’s and women’s teams, and was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, all while working toward his bachelor’s degree in education in 1993. With his diploma in hand, he began his career as an educator, teaching and coaching in the Grand Saline Independent School District.

Since then, Dr. Estes has served as an Alvarado ISD teacher, coach, high school principal and assistant superintendent of administrative services. He’s now superintendent of schools.

Along the way, he earned a master’s degree in 1999 and a doctorate in 2009, both from Tarleton State.

He received the Tarleton State University Jim Boyd Instructional Leadership Administrator Award in 2007, and Drs. Mark and Pam Littleton nominated him for a Texan Club purple jacket in 2020.

“Our family bleeds purple,” Dr. Estes said. “We have 11 Tarleton degrees between ourselves, our kids and our daughter-in-law.”

Daughter Ashlee, a 2013 honors graduate of Alvarado High School, graduated from Tarleton with a bachelor’s degree in 2016 and a master’s degree in 2020. She now serves as principal of Alvarado Elementary North. Son Aaron, who graduated with honors from Alvarado two years later, graduated from the Tarleton State Presidential Honors Program with a bachelor’s degree in 2018 and a master’s degree in 2021. He currently serves as an assistant principal at Alvarado Junior High. Aaron’s wife, Caitlin Estes, graduated from Tarleton with a bachelor’s degree in 2017 and a master’s degree in 2021. She teaches scholars math at Alvarado Junior High.

The other Dr. Estes, Dr. Laura Estes, earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor in 1993 before receiving master’s and doctorate degrees from Tarleton State in 1999 and 2009, respectively. She was a teacher, principal and director in Alvarado for 19 years prior to becoming Director of the Tarleton Model for Accelerated Teacher Education. She recently retired as an Associate Professor after 11 years of service.

Kenneth serves his community on the Alvarado Santa’s Helpers Board of Directors and the Johnson County Economic Development Commission. He was president of the Alvarado Lions Club in 2015-2016 and is a former president and board member of the Alvarado Chamber of Commerce. He is also a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Alvarado.

Kenneth and Laura have been members of the Texan Club since 2016 and are lifetime members of the Tarleton State University Alumni Association. Both received the Tarleton State University College of Education Crystal Apple Society Award in 2022.

Nancy Golden Turley

As the first female student body president at Tarleton State University, Nancy Golden Turley was a trailblazer.

As a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma Service Sorority, Tau Beta Chi Business Chapter and the student senate, she was an example for other students to follow. She would also serve as Miss TSU during her time on campus. Receiving the Accounting Excellence Award from the Texas Society of CPAs and an appearance in the Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities highlighted her honors as a student. She graduated summa cum laude in 1979 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting, displaying the value of hard work and a drive toward distinction.

Her imprint on the campus remains through a street named in her honor: Nancy Golden Drive. In her comments after being named a Distinguished Alumna in 2018, she credited Tarleton State for her success. “I attribute so much of who I am to Tarleton,” she said. “There were so many purple threads sewn into my life by Tarleton and the people I met there.”

She mentioned several high-profile faculty members and administrators as among her greatest allies as a student. “Lamar Johanson, O.A. Grant, Mike Leese, Cecil Ballow, J. Louis Evans — I could go on and on. They are all icons of the university. These people influenced and impacted my life more than I could say. Not just from an educational standpoint, but through the personal investment that faculty, staff, community and alums all made.”

Turley’s 45-year career has been spent working for Tarleton Distinguished Alumnus and benefactor Mike A. Myers. As chief financial officer for his Dallas-based organization, she is responsible for executive managerial and financial matters, as well as accounting and tax reporting for Myers’ corporate holdings, which include residential real estate developments, country club operations and numerous other investments. She is also a trustee on the Mike A. Myers Foundation board.

Turley has maintained a close bond with Tarleton State through the years, serving multiple terms on the Tarleton Alumni Association board (1984-1993, 2008-2012), as president in 1990-1992 and treasurer in 2009-2012. Currently, she is a member of the Tarleton State University Foundation, Inc.’s Board of Directors and chairs the accounting and audit committee. She was named Outstanding Young Alumni in 1995, and in 2019 she and husband Dave received the All-Purple Award.

Nancy and Dave live in Rockwall, where their greatest joy is spending time with their adult children and grandkids.

Reggie Underwood

Reggie Underwood didn’t travel far for his college journey, but his Tarleton State experience has taken him a long way.

Growing up on his family’s farming and ranching operation in Eastland County, he would graduate from Gorman High School on his way to joining his nearby university’s nationally recognized rodeo team. At Tarleton State, he competed in bareback and saddle bronc riding while working to earn a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1978.

“I went on a campus visit and was impressed with the warmth and openness I felt here,” he said. “That was darn near 50 years ago, so that’s a pretty good memory.”

He thrived as a leader at Tarleton State, serving as president of the Rodeo Club for three years, taking an active role in the student senate and being elected class president of both his freshman and sophomore classes.

Underwood credits the Tarleton State faculty with instilling a solid work ethic and teaching him the importance of the Golden Rule.

“I was blessed with having some great professors who taught me the importance of treating others as you want to be treated as a professional,” he said. “You get better yourself by helping others be successful. That quality of instruction set the tone for my career.”

Underwood said the biggest thing he took from Tarleton State was an appetite for learning. He spent 40 years in the crop protection, seed treatment and fertilizer business, traversing North and South America with stops in Nebraska, Illinois, North Carolina and Texas, working directly with farmers and ranchers.

He has also served as an elder in the Ellis County Cowboy Church and as president of the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches.

He is chairman of the AgTexas Board of Texas Farm Credit Services, president of Tarleton State’s Rodeo Alumni Chapter and on the board of Tarleton State University Foundation, Inc.

Reggie and his wife, Pam, own and operate a diversified farming, ranching, agronomy service and agricultural entrepreneurship business in Waxahachie. They raised three children, two of whom are Tarleton State graduates. They have seven grandchildren and a great-grandson.

“I am truly humbled and honored to be recognized,” he said. “I bleed purple as I encourage potential students to come take a look at Tarleton.”

2024 Legacy Awards
Legacy Award winners were recognized at Tarleton State’s 2024 Gala, An Evening in Purple, last Saturday night in Wisdom Gym. Pictured from left are: University First Lady Kindall Hurley, Dr. Kenneth Estes, Nancy Golden Turley, Reggie Underwood and President Dr. James Hurley.

Tarleton Alumni Association Awards:

Distinguished Friend — Chancellor John Sharp

John Sharp was appointed Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System by the Board of Regents in 2011.

As chancellor, Sharp leads one of the largest systems in the country with an annual budget of $7.8 billion and an enrollment of more than 153,000 students at 11 System universities.

Additionally, under the System umbrella, there are eight state agencies. Sharp earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M University in 1972, where he was a member of the Corps staff of the Corps of Cadets, a member of the 1972 rugby team, and he was elected student body president. Upon graduation, Sharp was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve.

In 2018, Sharp was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus, an honor given to Aggies who have achieved excellence in their professions and made meaningful contributions to Texas A&M and the communities. It is the college’s highest honor awarded to former students.

In 1976, Sharp received a master’s degree in public administration from Southwest Texas State University while working full-time with the Legislative Budget Board in Austin. In 1978, he opened a one-man real estate firm in Victoria.

Chancellor Sharp brings with him more than three decades of public service. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1978, and in 1982, he won a seat in the Texas Senate. Four years later, he was elected to the Texas Railroad Commission, and he was elected state comptroller in 1990 and re-elected in 1994.

Sharp is married to Diana (Atchison) Sharp. They exchanged vows on May 5, 2023. Between them, they have five adult children and six grandchildren.

Distinguished Alumnus — Rocky Hardin

A 1981 graduate, Rocky Hardin is an engaged alumnus serving on the Tarleton State University Foundation, Inc.’s Board of Directors and on the Dr. Sam Pack College of Business Advisory Board. Always generous, he and his wife created the Rocky and Tracey Hardin Endowed Scholarship for junior and senior Pack College of Business students.

For Rocky, there is a simple reason he devotes his time and resources to Tarleton State.

“The culture,” he said. “The people. Tracey and I grew up near here, so it’s kind of home to us. The Tarleton education changed our life, so we want to help others get a hand up to start their journey in life. God has blessed us, so it is important for us to give back.”

Rocky and Tracey are both from De Leon, a small town just 25 miles to the west of Stephenville.

They chose Tarleton because it was close enough to drive back and forth, allowing Rocky to go

to school in the mornings, then to work in the afternoons and on weekends.

Rocky and Tracey have two sons, Justin and his wife Kristy with “grandperfects” Laikynn, Bryce and Cameron, who live in Katy, and Matthew, who lives in Round Rock.

Away from campus, Rocky is the chief executive officer and chief financial officer of Embree Capital Markets Group, Inc., and chief financial officer and executive vice president of Embree Construction Group, Inc. and Embree Development Group, Inc. In his current role, he handles financial reporting and tax compliance for Embree Group in addition to leading the Embree Capital Markets Group team.

Rocky has been with the Embree Group for more than 38 years and hopes to continue expanding it by building new relationships.

His business acumen has led him to positions on Austin’s Afia Foods Board of Directors, a past post on the advisory board of BBVA Compass Bank in Georgetown and membership in the International Council of Shopping Centers. He has also been a part of various church committees.

Successful by any measure, Hardin, the College of Business Alumni of the Year in 2008, is

nonetheless surprised at being honored.

“I never expected it,” he said. “You look at your success differently when you’re in the fight all day, every day. You don’t really think about it.

“I never dreamed this would ever happen. I’m honored to be chosen and join the group of

Distinguished Alumni.”

Outstanding Young Alumnus — Cameron Gomez

Cameron Gomez fits the very definition of a go-getter.

He graduated from Tarleton State in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and immediately set out to make his mark.

Fast forward seven years, and Gomez now owns Agents of Texas serving the Waco, Central Texas and DFW Metroplex markets. He is in the top 1 percent of real estate agents in the region with more than $100 million in sales volume and over 500 homes sold.

A thorough plan and an enviable work ethic led him to tremendous success.

“I understand that buying and selling real estate can be stressful,” he says. “As a full-time Realtor, I work hard to lower your stress and make your experience as pleasurable as possible. I accomplish this through constant communication and by being accessible whenever you need me.”

That plan and hard work earned Gomez the Waco Realtor of the Year Award in 2021 and 2023, and he was named a 2023 Waco 40 Under 40 honoree.

A 2013 graduate of Crowley High School, he was recruited to run sprints for the Tarleton State track team, with the athletic scholarship just one reason he chose the university.

“Tarleton’s core values really spoke to me,” he said. “I saw that it was possible to take the great educational opportunity I had and become a success as a young businessman and also be a good father and husband.”

The former Texan track athlete realizes the value of giving back. In that spirit, he created the $25,000 Cameron Gomez Endowed Scholarship to provide a financial boost to Dr. Sam Pack College of Business students, with special consideration to those from Waco and Stephenville.

“Empowering other like-minded individuals and giving them a helping hand to achieve what they’re destined to do is something I am extremely passionate about,” he said.

Gomez is a member of the Bellmead Board of Adjustments, a former Bellmead Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and a board member for La Vega Little League. He and his wife, Claudia Tovar-Gomez, have three children, Manny, Bella and Cam II.

He credits his time on the Tarleton State campus with helping him achieve many career goals in a short time.

“I have to say thank you to all my mentors,” he said. “This award is such an honor, and I’m very grateful.”

Heartbeat Award — Bobby Fenoglio

Many supporters of Tarleton State bleed purple despite never attending the university, with Bobby Fenoglio serving as a prime example. His ties to the university are strong, with two daughters and a son-in-law having graduated, along with his best friend, veterinarian Dr. Gary Crabtree.

Crabtree introduced Fenoglio to the university during a visit to the Stephenville campus in their youth. Another connection was a great-uncle who played for the Tarleton football team in 1941.

It was when his daughters fell in love with the university during a campus visit that Fenoglio became a full-fledged Tarleton State supporter.

“I love the place just like an alum,” he said. “I love everything about it.”

What started as parental involvement soon became a commitment. For nearly 11 years, Fenoglio has dedicated his time and efforts to promoting Tarleton State. His contributions have ranged from supporting academic initiatives and serving on the Tarleton Parents Association to his current membership on the Tarleton Rodeo Alumni Association board.

Born and raised in Nocona, his roots are grounded in perseverance and diligence. He played an active role in his family’s businesses growing up, starting out as a filling station attendant. Those experiences helped him to learn about customer service and the importance of hard work in achieving success.

As he ventured into the professional world, he found his niche in the oil industry. His experiences there defined his career and instilled in him a responsibility to help fuel the growth and prosperity of his community.

His Tarleton affinity is personal, driven by the desire to provide his daughters with a solid educational foundation. Fenoglio senses a duty to contribute to the university that played a pivotal role in shaping his family’s future.

“I want to help the kids,” he said, “To push them along and help make them better. Some of the students I knew through the Parents Association still call and text me from time to time, and it means a lot.”

The most remarkable aspect of Fenoglio’s Tarleton State story lies in the lasting relationships he has cultivated. They go beyond the professional realm, reflecting the bond he has formed with colleagues, students and community members.

“The friends I’ve made there, and there have been so many, have become lifetime friends,” he said. “It’s a pretty amazing place.”

2024 TAA Awards
Tarleton Alumni Association Award winners were recognized at Tarleton State’s 2024 Gala, An Evening in Purple, last Saturday night in Wisdom Gym. Pictured from left are: University First Lady Kindall Hurley, Bobby Fenoglio, Chancellor John Sharp, Cameron Gomez, Rocky Hardin and President Dr. James Hurley.

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