The Central Texas College (CTC) Foundation recognized six graduates during a recent Alumni of Distinction reception. Honored were Anthony Suarez-Barrio, Sr., Susan Fergus, R.N., Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Antonio Leija, Mark Sheppard and Judge Barbara “Bobbie” Weaver. Posthumously honored was Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Thomas Nipper.
Suarez-Barrio holds numerous degrees including a Bachelor of Science degree in law enforcement and corrections from the University of Nebraska, a Master’s of Science degree in criminology from the University of Central Texas where he graduated with honors and a doctorate of public administration from Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He served in the United State Air Force for 20 years and is a combat veteran of the Bay of Pigs, Korea and Vietnam War. A former criminal investigator and special agent in charge, Suarez-Barrio would later serve as department chairperson of the CTC Criminal Justice department from 1973 to 1996 for which he earned emeritus status.
A 1995 graduate of the CTC Nursing program, Fergus recently retired from Baylor Scott & White Healthcare after 25-year career as a registered nurse. The last 12 years prior to her retirement, Fergus served as the vice president - Donor Relations in the Foundation for the Central Texas region. During this time, she created and launched a stewardship/medical concierge program known as Legacy Guest which is offered and recognized throughout the Baylor Scott & White central Texas region. “CTC allowed me to start my education as a single mother and work full-time,” said Fergus. “Its location and affordability were perfect for me at that time in my life.”
Fergus is a member of the American and Texas Nursing Association. She was voted the 2009 “Outstanding Foundation Employee of the Year,” received Congressional Recognition from Congressman John Carter’s office in 2019, serves on the Bell County Republican Women’s Council and is a member of the Texas A&M- University-Central Texas Foundation board. This year, Fergus served as the co-chairperson of Visionaries, a volunteer organization of Bell County women who have raised more than two million dollars in support of the McLane Children’s Hospital.
Leija graduated from CTC in 2006 with a Certificate of Completion in homeland security. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College. “CTC was everywhere I went,” said Leija. “I started taking classes in Germany and continued through several deployments. We encouraged our soldiers to take classes with CTC as the school was always accommodating to meet the soldiers’ military schedule.” After 31 years in the military, Leija retired in 2018. He is actively involved with the Association of the United States Army and the VFW.
Sheppard is a U.S. Army retiree who graduated from CTC in 1985 with an associate’s degree in general studies. He then earned a master’s degree in education leadership at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. In 2016, Sheppard founded a non-profit organization called Educated Angels which focuses its efforts on students, education and the central Texas special needs community. While serving in the military Finance Corps, he earned the Nathan Towson Medallion for Exceptional achievement and exemplary service. Sheppard is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. “CTC gave me a chance to start my education,” said Sheppard. “I always recommend the school to those young people I meet looking to start college or those trying to figure out a career path.”
As a military wife of 29 years, Judge Bobbie Weaver took college courses at every post where her family was assigned and earned an associate’s degree from CTC and would then get a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Texas. At the age of 50, she graduated from the Texas Tech School of Law and would then open her own law office. Weaver was appointed Killeen municipal judge, serving as the first female and first court of record judge. “I love this school and the people who taught me,” said Weaver. “Some of the instructors have become some of my closest friends.”
Weaver’s love for CTC is evidenced by her serving two six-year terms on the CTC board of trustees. After practicing law in Bell County for 28 years, Weaver is now retired. During her career, she also served as chairperson of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. “For the past 30 years, there has been a Weaver on the CTC board of trustees between me and my husband Rex.”
DPS Trooper Tom Nipper was killed in a vehicle crash while conducting a traffic stop on southbound I-35 in Temple two years ago. He graduated from Copperas Cove High School in and would earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice from CTC. His first assignment as a police officer was in Nolanville. He served additional stations at Hereford, Coryell County Sheriff department, Belton police department and Gainesville police department. From there, he entered the DPS Academy and graduated in 1982. Nipper served 43 years in law enforcement and won numerous awards including the Field Major’s award for going beyond the call of duty to find and save the life of an abducted child.
Pictured (left to right) are: Mark Sheppard, Bobbie Weaver, Susan Fergus and Antonio Leija.