Past, present and future blended during a multi-award ceremony as the Killeen ISD Education Foundation and Alumni Association honored six distinguished alumni and 70 scholarship recipients.
The annual event in the final grading period of the school year allows the community to honor accomplishments of past graduates while launching a new class of distinguished high school seniors.
The dual ceremony at Central Texas College March 24 had all the marks of a celebration as a varied group of past luminaries took turns at the podium looking over to some of this year’s top seniors and offered up advice gained from decades of experience.
This year’s KISD Distinguished Alumni include Brian Giacomozzi, Jim Sims, Roy Miller, Jerry Bark, the late Joseph Searles and Dr. John Thoppil.
This year’s 70 scholarship winners represent the largest group of honorees in the foundation’s history. This year alone, the foundation added 16 new scholarships.
“The Joint Scholarship and Distinguished Alumni Ceremony is one of our flagship programs,” said Education Foundation Director Joyce Hodson.
“This year, the Education Foundation is awarding 70 scholarships in the amount of $ 95,200, the most ever in a single year. Since our inception in 2000, we have sponsored 502 scholarships for a total of $ 761,528. ”
“With the six gentlemen being honored this evening, a total of 67 KISD graduates have been recognized as Distinguished Alumni. The two groups merge our current and future leaders, and we couldn’t be proud. ”
Earlier in the day, Bark, Miller, Sims and Giacomozzi made up a panel in a Killeen High School AVID class. The four introduced themselves, encouraged students and answered questions.
All four talked about the importance of serving others and gave examples of teachers and other mentors who motivated them earlier in life.
Sims emphasized the role of an eighth-grade algebra teacher, who laid a foundation that led him to a career in engineering. He also named KHS Band Director Dick Thomas for inspiring him musically and teaching him skills like organization and delegation.
Beginning the evening remarks, Bark referenced the high school coach who nominated him for the alumni award and said we can all think of those notable teachers who challenged us to think differently.
“They are the ones who spent the time to make you better,” he said. Looking to the award-winning seniors, he said, “You will be remembered for what you give.”
Giacomozzi said his life has been blessed because of the people who supported him. “Nothing exceptional is ever done alone,” he said. “You can do amazing things in a community that believes in you.”
Miller assured students that they would never forget the people who supported them. He told them that tough times don’t last, but tough people do.
In the panel discussion at KHS, the former NFL player was more personal with students, urging them to “take in everything you can” and to resist temptations to compare to one another and to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities in front of them.
Albert White spoke on behalf of the late Joseph Searles. The couple were friends for more than 50 years, living in the same building in New York City and working together for much of that time.
“He left a legacy,” White said of his friend, explaining the national and international reputation Searles gained as a respected leader in the New York City financial community, who gave generously to many communities and was part of redeveloping Harlem in the 1980s.
White asked audience members to consider their own legacy. “What are you leaving behind?”
Sims praised his own past instructors and the power of teachers today. He named his eighth-grade algebra teacher and high school calculus teacher, as well as the KHS band director. “My memory of them is clear and my appreciation of them grows and grows.”
Thoppil thanked and praised the Killeen community.
Even among top medical professionals, he said he has never felt unprepared. In addition to the academic excellence students receive, he said that this area provides students with a “street smart” sense – “You have to know how to get along with different people,” he said.
He told students that everyone falls down, and that the ones who experience success are the ones who get up and keep going.
“I’m definitely honored,” said KHS senior Franki Alano, one of the 70 scholarship recipients. “It’s a big distinction. It definitely feels special. ”
Considering the scholarship he won, Alano said that since it is his intention to be an Army officer, “this doesn’t just help me with college, it’s an investment in the future of our country.”
Distinguished Alumni Bios
Brian Giacomozzi is a 1984 Ellison High School graduate. He is married to Kelly Giacomozzi, librarian at Skipcha Elementary School. Their son, Austyn is a nursing student and EMT.
Giacomozzi is the US Army Corps of EngineersChief of Engineering and Construction Division for the Fort Worth District and provides strategic guidance and leadership for about 450 employees.
Jim Sims is a 1963 Killeen High School graduate. He served in the U.S. Army at Fort Sam Houston Institute of Surgical Research at Brooke Army Medical Center and taught anesthesiology in Australia.
Sims was also Chief of Surgery at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio. He is married to Peggy Wilson.
Roy Miller is a 2005 graduate of Shoemaker High School. He was the Gray Wolves’ first All-State and All-American football player to sign with a Division I school, the University of Texas, where he was named MVP of the Fiesta Bowl.
During his NFL career from 2009 to 2017, Miller earned the 2014 Ed Block Courage Award, the USAA 2014 and 2015 Salute to Service Award, the 2015 Byron Whizzer White NFL Man of the Year Award and the 2015 NFL Sportsmanship Award.
He is a donor to the McLane Children’s Hospital, has sponsored a youth football camp in Killeen 13 years and is a contributor to Shoemaker High and the Killeen community.
Jerry Bark graduated from Ellison High School in 1984. He is married to Eva Bark, who he met at Ellison and the pair have two sons, Tanner and Tyler.
Bark is the Assistant City Manager for the City of Harker Heights. He has 31 years of experience in municipal service, including Texas Recreation and Parks Society Legislative Chair and State Board of Director.
The late Joseph L. Searles, III, graduated from Killeen High School in 1959. He was one of the first African-American graduates of KHS, where he excelled in sports and the classroom. He played football at Kansas State University and one season for the New York Giants.
Searles earned a law degree and in 1970 became the first African-American to work as a floor broker on the New York Stock Exchange. He was Chairman and Director of the State of New York Mortgage Agency and Vice President of the Public Finance Division at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company (now JP Morgan Chase).
He survived by three children Monica Dockery, Townsend Sowell and Courtney Snowden and two grandchildren Joseph Brown and Zamaria Cauthen.
Dr. John Thoppilgraduated from Killeen High School in 1993 as the valedictorian class. After graduating from medical school, he served seven years in the US Air Force.
He started a medical practice in Austin that is known as one of the fastest-growing Texas A&M alumni businesses in the world. Thoppil is President of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and often testifies to the legislature in matters that pertains to the specialty.
He is married to Dr. Nimmi Thoppil and has one son, John Jr.
- FrankiHarahAlano KHS Class of 2000
- Rodrigo Angeles KHS Cleaver Family
- JodeeRaeleenApellido EHS Johnny Watson Family
- Juan Arango KISD Early Graduate Alumni Association
- Deborah Arroyo ECHS Subhani Foundation
- Kira Bass EHS Lolly Buckley Memorial
- Donald Bentley, III HHHS Foundation Board
- Melany Booth EHS Emmadell & Wallace Vernon
- Paige Bridenstine HHHS CTC
- Madison Camden EHS Juanell Byrd Skidmore
- Emory Cegledi HHHS Semper Fidelis
- Jonathan Coleman HHHS Norma Gray Memorial
- Destinations Delgadillo HHHS Vernon-Cummins
- Guadalupe Ferrusquia Rodriguez EHS KISD
- Rodrigo Fierro HHHS Cohen Diem Special Education
- Laura Francisco EHS Leo Buckley Memorial
- Brianna Fruik KHS KHS Class of 1976
- Celeste Fuentes HHHS Whitis Foundation
- Brianne Gaines EHS John and Gladys Driver
- Jade Garcia ECHS De Los Santos Academic
- Erin Golaboff HHHS Jim and Nancy Hawkins Education
- Alayna Irving EHS CTC
- Layla Irwin ECHS Heart of a Lion
- Carliyha Jones KHS Hargus Family Scholarship
- Cherokee Kachura ECHS Brad Pfiester Memorial
- Grace Koh HHHS Killeen School Retirees’ Association
- Alexandria Lambert ECHS Alumni Association
- Julia Landes HHHS Roy Lake Scholarship
- David Lanxon HHHS Cohen Diem Special Education
- Benjamin Loeffler EHS CTC
- Marisol Lopez EHS Alumni Association
- Jessica Ludwig KHS Margaret Hunt Memorial
- Valeria Martinez EHS Education Foundation Board
- Michele Mayo Ibarguen SHS Juanell Byrd Skidmore
- Faith Meadors KISD Early Graduate Lions Pride
- Joshua Medeiros KHS Class of 1970
- Jacob Medeiros KHS Class of 1972
- Sarai Mendez-Berrios SHS Gary and Helen Purser Family
- Armando Molina EHS Education Foundation Board
- Derek Morales HHHS Cleaver Family
- Angelique Morgan HHHS Alumni Association
- Dr. Madelyn Morua SHS Henry Mayer, Jr. Memorial
- Breauna Munoz ECHS Joni Lutz De Los Santos Education
- Dae’TianNanton ECHS Bill Yowell Memorial
- Amanda Nevarez-Ocasio SHS Ace M. Connell Music
- Robert Nuyen KHS CTC
- Anthony Okeke KHS Class of 2000
- Noah Ortega Lara KHS Hunter Rentals and Sales
- Meritxell Ortiz SHS CTC
- Alyssa Palmer ECHS Beth Robinson Exceptional Abilities
- Isabella Palmisano HHHS Norma Gray Memorial
- Charysh Pitts SHS Juanell Byrd Skidmore
- Brooklyn Price ECHS Heart of a Lion
- Reagan Quinn HHHS James K. Hubert Memorial
- Dua Rashid EHS John and Gladys Driver
- Rachel Roberts HHHS Wednesday Review Club
- Shaylin Romero Jimenez ECHS Dick Burke Student Scholarship
- Jayden Rudd EHS KISD Communications and Marketing
- Landry Searcy KHS Al “Doc” Wilson
- Imari Sims KHS Cleaver Family
- Anabella Strong SHS Alumni Association
- Semajah Tate HHHS Educated Angels Scholarship
- Alexander Tate HHHS Mike Russell Eagle Scout
- Mekaila Vila SHS Carlos and Emma De Los Santos, Jr.
- Olivia Wintz EHS Richard Crow Memorial
- Joelle Wood HHHS Harriet C. Jackson
- Saniya Woodberry SHS Nancy Patterson
- Liya Woods ECHS Lions Pride
- Devin Xiao ECHS Bunkley “Coach” Morris
- Elizmar Zayas SHS Andreas O. Garza Memorial