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Nelson Award

The Carl M. “Cheesie” Nelson Administrative Leadership Award

The award was established in 2003 in memory of Carl M. “Cheesie” Nelson, who served as president of Texarkana College for a number of years and helped dozens of others as they assumed leadership positions in community colleges across the state of Texas. The honor celebrates the importance of administrative leadership at Texas community colleges by recognizing a vice president or dean who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities.

Winners of the Nelson Award must have demonstrated leadership qualities/traits which are generally associated with successful community college presidents. They include but are not limited to:

  • Understanding of and commitment to the mission of the comprehensive community college
  • Demonstrated support for student learning and success
  • Ability to develop broad-based perspectives
  • Capacity to develop effective, collegial working relationships with faculty and staff
  • Character traits typically associated with effective leadership (e.g., honesty, integrity, compassion, sense of fairness and equity)
  • Demonstrated involvement in community-oriented activities outside the college
  • Support for and personal engagement in professional development activities

The award provides a $1500 cash stipend, a commemorative, and travel expenses for two persons to attend the annual summer conference of the Texas Association of Community Colleges at which the award is presented.

Winners of the Carl M. “Cheesie” Nelson Administrative Leadership Award

2015 - Dr. Federico Zaragoza


Dr. Federico Zaragoza has been the Vice Chancellor for Economic and Workforce Development for Alamo Colleges since 2004.  Under his leadership, the Alamo Colleges received the prestigious American Association of Community College Trustees’ 2005 National Workforce Excellence Award for developing exemplary job training programs for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.  Dr. Zaragoza serves on several local, state, and national boards and committees.  These include the National Council on Workforce Education, the National Automotive Manufacturing Training and Education Consortium, National Association of Manufacturers – Education Committee, Workforce Solutions Alamo, Future of the Region, Inc., San Antonio Manufacturers Association, San Antonio Empowerment Zone Governance Board, and Tomorrow’s Future Workforce National Committee.  He was appointed in 2010 and reappointed in 2013 by U.S. Secretary of Education, Anne Duncan to serve on the U.S. Dept. of Education National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity to enforce national education standards for accrediting agencies or associations.  He was also appointed to the American Association of Community Colleges – 21st Century Workforce Education Implementation Committee in 2013.  Dr. Zaragoza was the recipient of the 2015 Education Brillante Award from the National Society of Hispanic MBAs and the 2015 Texas Association of Community Colleges Nelson Leadership Award.

Dr. Zaragoza has held various leadership positions, including State Director for the Wisconsin–Job Training Partnership Act Programs, President and CEO of the Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County, and Dean of Continuing Education for the Milwaukee Area Technical College.  He also worked for the Milwaukee Public School District as Director for Alternative Education Programs, where he headed a network of 16 public alternative and specialty schools.  Prior to his appointment as Vice Chancellor,          Dr. Zaragoza served as Vice President of Administration for St. Philip’s College–Southwest Campus.  Dr. Zaragoza holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Master’s degree in Vocational Education, an Educational Specialist degree in Industrial and Technical Education from the University of Wisconsin–Stout, and a Ph.D. in Urban Education and Administrative Leadership from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

2014 - Dr. Ron Clinton


Dr. Ron Clinton has dedicated over 30 years of his career in higher education to his work in community colleges.  He currently serves as the Executive Vice President for Instruction at Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant; a position which provides critical supervision and leadership responsibilities for all credit and non-credit instructional programs. Prior to assuming his current position at Northeast, he also served as Interim Vice President for Instruction and Student Outreach and as a faculty member in the academic areas of music, humanities, and philosophy.

Before joining the faculty at Northeast Texas Community College he served as artist-in-residence at the University of Mokwon in Taejon, South Korea and has also been a faculty member at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Southern Chile in Valdivia, Chile where he taught piano and served as guest conductor of the Conservatory Orchestra Austral de Chile.

In addition to his work in community college administration and teaching, Dr. Clinton has performed extensively throughout the United States, Asia, and the Republic of Chile as a concert pianist and has appeared as both guest soloist and conductor with symphony orchestras in Houston, Austin, Lubbock, the Republic of Chile, and South Korea.

2013 - Laurel Williamson


Dr. Laurel Williamson is the Deputy Chancellor and President of San Jacinto Community College. She has served as academic officer of Valencia Community College in Florida and Lower Columbia College in Washington. She also served as Director of Curriculum Development at Southwest Mississippi Community College. A lifelong learner, Dr. Williamson is an innovative, visionary leader with over 25 years of career experience in education and leadership in a community college setting. She is a respected leader, instructor, and administrator with success in budget management, grant development, strategic planning, accreditation, curriculum and program development, and community outreach.

Dr. Williamson holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s degree in American Literature from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a doctorate degree in 19th Century American and British Literature from the University of South Florida.  She is a veteran of the U. S. Army.

2012 – Mike Jenkins


Dr. Mike Jenkins is the Vice President of Student Development at Kilgore College and is responsible for the following functions: admissions and registrar, enrollment management and marketing, student development and success, advising and counseling, financial aid, athletics and the Rangerettes. He has more than twenty-seven years of experience in public, private, and religious sector organizations, having served in administration and leadership positions in higher education since 1991.

Dr. Jenkins holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Baylor University, earned outstanding academic achievement recognition with his Master of Business Administration degree from The University of Texas at Tyler, and has a Doctor of Business Administration degree in Human Resource Management from Northcentral University.

2011 – Shah Ardalan


Shah Ardalan is the Chief Executive Officer at Lone Star College-University Park as well as Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer for Lone Star College System. In his current role, he is responsible for leading the development of the newest Lone Star College campus, while also steering the system-wide Office of Technology Services (OTS) and LSC-Online. His professional background includes over 20 years in a variety of management and executive leadership roles within higher education. Mr. Ardalan holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC. He also holds academic diplomas and certificates from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) and Harvard University.

2014 Update: Shah Ardalan is currently President of Lone Star College-University Park.

2010 - Bobby Smith

smith2 Bobby Smith has worked at Cisco College since 1988 and has been credited with much of the progress and success of the college. As executive vice president, Smith also filled the role of chief financial officer and supervised maintenance, custodial services, food services, human resources, business services, auxiliary services like the bookstore, and assists the president with the supervision of athletics.

He has successfully guided the college from a $5 million budget in 1988 to a $16 million budget in 2009 and has seen the college grow to serve over 4,600 students. Smith graduated from Cisco Junior College in 1968 and from the University of North Texas in 1970.

2014 Update: Bobby Smith is currently President of Cisco College.

2009 – Maya Durnovo

durnovo2 Dr. Maya Durnovo is the Dean of Economic and Workforce Development at Houston Community College Northwest. Her career spans more than three decades, all dedicated to the success of the community college student. Dr. Durnovo oversees 12 workforce programs, a successful WorkKeys Service Center and manages four grants, three of which she has personally authored. Her strong grant writing skills have brought over a 1.5 million dollars to HCC, funds that enabled under represented students the opportunity to enroll and graduate from college.

2008 – Jonathan McCullough

mccullough2 Dr. Jonathan McCullough has worked at Northeast Texas Community College since 1992. He began his career at NTCC as a Communities-In-Schools Coordinator and later served as the Director of Student Housing, Director of Student Activities, Counselor, Associate Athletic Director, and the Women’s Softball Coach before moving to the Development Office in 1998. Since moving to the Development Office he has overseen the NTCC Foundation which has raised more than $38,000 million dollars in the past eight years and increased the Friends of the College by five hundred percent.

In 2005 He was named Vice-President for Advancement. In addition to all fundraising activities, the Advancement office is responsible for the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts, Recruiting and Marketing, the NTCC Website, and Grants Development and Governmental Relations.

2007 – Katherine Eggleston

eggleston2 Dr. Kathryn “Kay” Eggleston is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Richland College, where she has served on the senior leadership team since 1998. Dr. Eggleston leads Richland’s institutional effectiveness and performance excellence practices. Richland College was named a 2005 recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the first and only community college to receive the nation’s highest distinction for performance excellence.

Dr. Eggleston has held several administrative positions in higher education, including Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Economic Development at Richland College, Executive Dean of Health and Legal Studies at El Centro College, and Dean of Health Occupations, also at El Centro. Prior to her administrative appointments, Eggleston served on the faculty of the Associate Degree Nursing Program at El Centro College and as a staff registered nurse.

2014 Update: Katherine Eggleston is currently president of Richland College of the Dallas County Community College District.

2006 – Lydia Tena-Perez

perez2 Dr. Lydia Tena-Perez has served for the last sixteen years as a member of the administrative staff at El Paso Community College in numerous positions at the division and campus levels. She currently serves as Campus Dean and Dean of Instructional Programs for the Northwest Campus where she is responsible for all credit programs offered at the campus as well as campus facilities issues. She is also serving as the Achieving the Dream (AtD) Coordinator for EPCC where she oversees all activities in this initiative and is involved in deliberations and major decisions as a member of the AtD Core Team and the Developmental Education Council.

2005 - Johnette McKown

mckown2 Dr. Johnette McKown is Executive Vice President at McLennan Community College where she has been employed since 1989. In this role, she serves as chief financial and operations officer and supervises Financial Services, Administrative Services (Technology, Auxiliary Services, and Central Services), Physical Plant, Human Resources, Facilities and Construction, Athletics, and Campus Police. Additionally, she has responsibility for elections, contracts, legal issues, insurance, and special projects for the president.

2014 Update: Dr. McKown is currently serving as President of McLennan Community College and is the Chair-Elect of the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

2004 - Christal M. Albrecht


Dr. Christal M. Albrecht is the Vice President of Student Learning at Cy-Fair College. She joined the founding team at Cy-Fair College in October 2000 as its third employee and was a member of the small start-up team to who planned, developed and implemented the first community college in the 21 st Century. As the founding Vice President, Dr. Albrecht provided leadership for planning the start-up of the comprehensive community college, including leadership for over 30 technical programs, academic transfer courses and programs, the integrated continuing education program, corporate training, resource development, faculty and staff development, and institutional effectiveness.

2014 Update: Christal Albrecht is currently President of Alvin Community College.

2003 - Judy Traylor

traylor2 Dr. Judy G. Traylor is Associate Vice President for Outreach Services at Northeast Texas Community College, where over the past 20 years she has impacted virtually every area of the college, including instruction, administration, strategic planning, student services, public relations, and grant-writing. In addition to holding the title of associate vice president at NTCC, she is an associate psychology faculty member at NTCC, adjunct psychology instructor for Texas A&M—Texarkana, executive director for Communities In Schools of Northeast Texas, director for a state-wide training academy for part-time faculty, and the college coordinator for dual credit.

Carl M. “Cheesie” Nelson

Dr. Carl M. "Cheesie" Nelson, served as President of Texarkana College from August 1975 until his death in July 2001. Dr. Nelson is remembered as a gifted cartoonist, orator, community leader, and sportsman.

Only the fifth President to serve at Texarkana College, Dr. Nelson's administrative acumen provided for the addition of five new academic facilities, expansion of the campus library, a new Student Center, new administration building, and the return of student housing to the campus.

In addition to his service to Texarkana College, Dr. Nelson was an active member of the Texas Association of Community Colleges. He served as TACC Secretary-Treasurer from 1995-97. Dr. Nelson also served on a number of local and regional boards.

A true visionary, Dr. Nelson was admired locally, regionally and nationally as a champion of community college education. He was often called upon by higher education institutions to use his oratorical skills and razor-sharp wit to motivate and inspire students and faculty alike.

It was once said of Dr. Nelson, that "…no other single individual or factor is even remotely as significant to the growth and development of Texarkana College as Cheesie Nelson". He was, during his tenure, the College's most ardent advocate and gave his life to the campus that he held so dear.

In addition to the Nelson Award established by the Texas Association of Community Colleges under the auspices of the Texas Community College Education Initiative, Dr. Nelson was honored posthumously in April of 2002, as the Texarkana College Board of Trustees voted to rededicate the College's administration building as the Dr. Carl M. Nelson Administration Building, in honor of his passion for higher education and in appreciation for his meritorious service to Texarkana College. The Texarkana College Alumni & Friends Association also named Nelson the College's Distinguished Alumnus for his life's work on behalf of Texarkana College and the Texarkana community.