Top alumni to be honored at Homecoming banquet Oct. 16

Sep 30, 2009 | General News

Louisiana Tech’s Alumnus of the Year along with six other alumni will be recognized during the 2009 Homecoming activities.

Drake Mills, CEO and president of Community Trust Bank in Ruston, will be recognized as Alumnus of the Year by Tech President Dr. Dan Reneau at a noon luncheon, Friday, Oct. 16 in the Student Center.

Other honorees are:

• Young Alumnus of the Year – Elizabeth Mitchell Taylor, Houston

• College of Applied and Natural Sciences – Deborah Self Spann, Farmerville

• College of Business – George W. Cummings III, Monroe

• College of Education – Dr. Gerald Wayne Cobb, Choudrant

• College of Engineering and Science – Charles G. Tullis, Longview, Texas

• College of Liberal Arts – Wiley W. Hilburn Jr., Choudrant

The alumni luncheon is $20 per person or $160 for a table of eight. For more information and to register for the luncheon, visit or call Barbara Swart at (318) 255-7950. The deadline for tickets is Friday, Oct. 9.

A summary of the award winners’ contributions to Tech and their communities follows.

Drake Mills

Mills is a 1982 graduate of Tech with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He earned a professional Master of Banking degree from the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. Mills started his banking career in as a check file clerk at Community Trust Bank in1984. He worked his way through the operations area where he was instrumental in the mergers of Bank of Bernice and Bank of Choudrant. He has worked in the bank’s retail division where he was been a banking center manager and consumer loan officer. He has also held positions as chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

He holds board memberships at Community Trust Services Corporation, Boys and Girls Club of North Central Louisiana, United Way of Northeast Louisiana, Metavante Corporation, Louisiana Bankers Association and the Northeast Louisiana Economic Development Corporation.

He has held board memberships at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Executive Cabinet for the College of Administration and Business at Tech, Cedar Creek School and the LSU Graduate School of Banking. He is a past president of the Ruston/Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Choudrant Kiwanis Club.

Elizabeth Mitchell Taylor

Taylor is a flight controller and technical assistant for management integration at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. She is a 2001 graduate with a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering. She also attended the International Space University Summer Session Program in 2006. From November 2008 to April 2009, she served as acting onboard data interfaces and networks leader managing the team that plans, coordinates and direct real-time operations for space flights.

She is on the MOD Leadership Council at NASA and a volunteer for the Science Olympiad. Taylor serves on the TechSTEP Advisory Board. She has served on the Industrial Engineering Advisory Board and the Engineering and Science Foundation Board at Tech.

NASA has cited her personal achievements including the Flight Director Team Award, 2008 Stellar Team Award, the JSC Group Achievement Awards for Expedition 15 Software Transitions, USA Monthly Teamwork Award and the Space Flight Awareness Team Award.

Deborah Spann

A registered nurse and paramedic, Spann is the director of emergency services at Union General Hospital in Farmerville where she supervises a staff of 18. She is a 1997 graduate with an Associate of Science degree in nursing. Upon graduation, she received peer and faculty awards for character, scholarship, professionalism and leadership. She has worked as a nursing supervisor and paramedic at D’Arbonne Ambulance and Franklin Parish Ambulance.

She is active in several local, state and national emergency and nurses groups including the Emergency Nursing Association where she serves on the peer review committee for the Journal of Nursing. She also is the chair of that group’s government affairs committee. She served as president in 2007 of the Louisiana Council of Emergency Nurses. She is a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, American Nurses Association, Louisiana State Nurses Association and the Ruston District Nurses Association where she is on the board of directors. Spann has been the recipient of five scholarships to attend national professional development workshops. She has been the speaker for several local and statewide events including pinning ceremonies at Tech’s School of Nursing and North Delta Vocational Practical Nurses.

George W. Cummings

Cummings is president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board for Progressive Bank in Monroe. He is also chairman of the board for Progressive Bancorp. He is a 1979 graduate with a B.S. in banking and finance. He is a graduate of the Strategic Thinking and Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (of business). He is also a graduate of the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University.

He began his banking career in 1979 with the Bank of the South in Baton Rouge serving as assistant vice president and then president in the operations area. In 1982, he moved to Monroe where he was president, chief executive officer and a member of the board of directors at Security Bank. He has also worked at Capital Bank in Monroe as president, chief operating officer and a member of the board directors.

He serves on Tech’s School of Business Advisory Board and on the board of directors for the University Foundation. He is a member of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, where he has served as chairman and director. He works with the United Way of Northeast Louisiana, where he has served as director and chairman. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Monroe and the First United Methodist Church of Monroe.

He was cited as 2005 Volunteer of the Year by the Ouachita Economic Development Corporation. He was recognized in 2004 by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce as the Top 10 Most Influential Business Leaders in Northeast Louisiana and in 2002 was presented the group’s Rambin/Silverstein Memorial Civic Award for outstanding leadership and community service.

Gerald Wayne Cobb

Cobb is a retired school superintendent, college professor, technical college dean and high school principal. He is a 1960 graduate with a bachelor’s in health and physical education and a 1977 graduate with a master’s in administration and supervision. He has a doctorate in education from the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Cobb was superintendent of the Lincoln Parish School System from 1988 to 2003. He was an assistant professor of education at Tech from 2004 to 2007. From 2007 to 2008, he was dean at Louisiana Technical College’s Ruston and North Central Campuses. Cobb served as principal of Ruston and Simsboro high schools in the 1970s and 1980s. He has worked at the Louisiana Department of Education in Baton Rouges as executive assistant to the superintendent, executive director of academic programs and director of secondary education from 1980 to 1984.

He has served on many state and national education groups including as president of the State Superintendents’ Association, chairman of the Superintendents’ Advisory Council to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and chairman of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Committee on Junior High Promotion Practices, among others. Cobb was on the board of directors for the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts and the Louisiana Education Systemic Reform Initiative. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and in 2005, the Ruston High School Distinguished Alumni Award.

Charles G. Tullis

Tullis is a 1951 graduate with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. His first job was with J.B. Beaird Co. in Shreveport. After two years, he accepted a position with Southwest Steel Plate Co. in Houston. In 1955, helped form Southwest Industries serving as vice president and chief engineer where he worked until 1965. At that time, he acquired KingTool Co. in Longview, Texas, which designed and marketed oil and gas separation equipment. This company enjoyed great success with its line of innovative oil and gas separation equipment they supplied to the rapidly expanding off-shore oil and gas industry.

Tullis has been active in the Longview Rotary Club for more than 40 years having served as president and Rotary District 583 governor. He has also worked with the Greater Longview United Way, including serving as president. He served on the Tech Engineering Foundation Board in its early years and continues to help with recruiting aspiring engineering students and science students. Tullis has served on the LeTourneau University Advisory Board in Longview. He was instrumental in the design and building of two private schools in Longview – the Christian Heritage School and the Crisman School.

Wiley W. Hilburn Jr.

Hilburn recently retired from Tech after 41 years as head of the journalism department with the title of Journalism Professor Emeritus. He is a 1960 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He has a master’s degree in journalism from Louisiana State University. In his more than 50 years as a reporter, editor, columnist, author and journalism educator, many in the profession refer to him as the “dean” of Louisiana journalism. But folks outside of his beloved field of journalism know him best from his weekly columns about his life in North Louisiana published since 1977 in the The (Shreveport) Times and The (Monroe) News-Star. As a columnist and editorial writer, he has interviewed every Louisiana governor since Earl K. Long. His keen eye for politics has earned him a place in the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame. Editors in newsrooms all over the state and nation know him for the successful journalism graduates he has produced – 594 to be exact. They also know him for the award-winning school newspaper, The Tech Talk, produced by his students. Included among his journalism graduates is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor. As a college professor, he received the 1993 Louisiana Tech Alumni Foundation Award for Outstanding Teacher.

Written by Reginald Owens