Four former Honors students publish in state journal

four students published

Pictured: Katelyn Lester, Aaliyah Avellaneda, Dorali Hernandez and Gem Elmore

By: Dr. Andrew Yox, Honors Director

A long-awaited “COVID” edition of the journal, Touchstone has appeared this fall.  The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) has published this collegiate journal since 1982. It is one of the longest-running scholarly publications for undergraduate authors in the United States. This issue is associated with COVID-19, because it was delayed in its release due to difficulties caused by the virus in the collegiate and state historical scenes. But for some in Northeast Texas, it was worth the wait.  Four former NTCC student scholars have published work appearing in the new edition, with three of the essays devoted to themes in Northeast Texas.  All four students wrote their essays initially while matriculating in an Honors Northeast seminar.  These essays also contain insights derived from residents of Mount Pleasant, Pittsburg, Winnsboro, and surrounding towns who were interviewed by the authors.

The cover of the new edition bears the image of Walter Prescott Webb, the great University of Texas scholar of the mid-twentieth century, and also the eponymous father of the Webb Society.  The NTCC Webb Society is part of a state organization of that name that is the collegiate auxiliary of the Texas State Historical Association.  The article on Webb inside is by Katelyn Lester, former NTCC Presidential Scholar.  Lester’s article was not as acclaimed by the editorial board as the essay on the Chili Queens of San Antonio by a Texas A&M student, but it was a highly significant article that with the cover picture, anchored the volume.  Lester provides a novel new look at the University of Texas historian who attained some regional fame for his book on the Texas Rangers, and his “Boom Hypothesis” of Western settlement. Lester argues that Webb pursued a grand arc of erudition, influencing the way history was written, the way history interacted with living policy makers such as Lyndon Johnson, in Webb’s time, and also shaping future history.  The Webb Society itself, and the Texas Handbook online are two ongoing legacies of Webb’s impact. 

Whereas Lester also won a second-place State of Texas Caldwell Award for her work on Webb, Aaliyah Avellaneda of Mount Pleasant won a first-in-the state $400 Caldwell prize for her work on Bill Ratliff.  Her “Texas Ticket-Splitter: Bill Ratliff’s Timely Take to Politics” is a lively contribution to this volume.  Her story was about the mysterious political persona of the state’s former Lieutenant Governor.

Avellaneda’s efforts paid off with her winning of a Jack Kent Cooke $150K scholarship last spring.  NTCC’s former Dr. Jerry Wesson Scholar is currently enjoying a free ride at Southern Methodist University. 

Dorali Hernandez’s unique story about the experience of Texas nurses also made the cut for the journal, as did Gem Elmore’s study on the integration of churches in Northeast Texas.  Hernandez’s article highlights the career dramas of modern nurses, and notes two in particular who have “done it all,” balancing patient-centered care with a satisfying life, as wives and mothers.  Elmore explored the relation of Martin Luther King’s dream of integration, with the actual process of social change in the churches of northeast Texas in recent decades.  This essay has a surprise ending, even as it alludes to the complexity of the semi-rural church scene in the towns between the Red and Sabine Rivers.  

The essays of this historic volume are now accessible to the public:

Three of the NTCC articles owed their success to the willingness of local residents to be interviewed.  Perhaps the most notable interview, during the height of COVID in October of 2020 was with Mount Pleasant resident, Governor Bill Ratliff, arranged by president Clinton’s office. However, the Hernandez article could not have worked without in-depth interviews with Dr. Karen Koerber-Timmons of NTCC’s nursing department, and Cynthia Amerson, a former NTCC director of the nursing department.  Elmore’s article was just as extensively dependent on interviews, particularly with Mount Pleasant clergy such as, Father Arial of St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Clint Davis of First Baptist, Rev. Kirthell Roberts of Mount Olive Baptist Church and Rev. Chris Wigley of Trinity Baptist. Elmore’s essay drew as well from the sage observations of influential local lay leaders such as Dr. Joel Chapman, and Dr. Maryna Otero.

NTCC Honor Director, Dr. Andrew Yox notes that “this excellent student-authored volume involved a good deal of overwork by the state educational director of the TSHA, Lisa Berg, above-and-beyond ardor exhibited by the student authors, and the insightful generosity of local leaders. We are thankful too for the long-term legacy that these essays will enjoy thanks to the unique work of the Touchstone Board and the Texas State Historical Association in supporting student scholarship.”