Leadership Texarkana celebrated local excellence in community leadership at the 9th annual Luncheon with Leaders at Texarkana Country Club on April 10, with the awarding of the organization’s Leader Of The Year Award, as well as honoring community leaders through Leadership Texarkana’s annual Wilbur Awards.  The luncheon was sponsored by Texarkana Emergency Center.

According to a press release, Leadership Texarkana Executive Director Ruth Ellen Whitt spoke to the motivation by the organization’s annual awards program, saying, “People do what people see.”  As an organization committed to growing a community of leaders, Leadership Texarkana lifts up exemplary leaders in our community as models to us all, showing what is possible if we choose to serve one another by investing time and effort in our community.”

Leadership Texarkana

The Leader Of The Year Award is the highest award given by Leadership Texarkana annually, to honor outstanding alumni of the Leadership Texarkana program; it is given in memory of Idalee Hawkins who set a lasting example for her willingness to give of herself for her family and community.

This year’s highest Leader of the Year honor was presented to LeAnne Purifoy Wright.  A 2009 graduate of the Leadership Texarkana program, LeAnne is the Associate Vice President for University Advancement for Texas A&M Texarkana.  LeAnne is a native of Texarkana who has continuously demonstrated her commitment to our community through her generous service to numerous community organizations, which have benefitted from her leadership through the years.   Those organizations include Arkansas Women for Education, Temple Memorial Rehabilitation Center and the Junior League of Texarkana, the Kiwanis Club, First United Methodist Church, and the Komen Texarkana Race for the Cure Steering Committee, among others.  LeAnne is also currently serving on the Leadership Texarkana Leadership Team.   LeAnne’s service and leadership have also been recognized through her honors as the 2012 Texarkana Arkansas School District Distinguished Alumna, the 2010 Texas A&M Distinguished Alumna and as the 2006 TAMUT Administrator of the Year.  LeAnne is married to Tim Wright and they have one son, Anderson.

Leadership Texarkana
Leadership Texarkana

Leadership Texarkana’s Wilbur Awards have been given annually since 1992, in memory of community servant and historian Wilbur Smith.  Celebrating the power of one to positively impact our community, the Wilbur Awards are given in three categories, honoring adults, youth, and organizations to individuals and groups whose demonstrate exemplary leadership in the community and a commitment to working together for community excellence.

LT’s 2018 Idalee Hawkins Leader of the Year LeAnne Wright

Wilbur Award for Organization - Opportunities, Inc.

Wilbur Award for Adult - Dr. Matt Young

Wilbur Youth Awards  - Allie Graves and Ali Milligan

Also Honored for exemplary community leadership:

Wilbur Adult Honorees Betty Williams, Warren Smith, Dr. Emily Cutrer, Joey Martin, Mark van Herpen.

Wilbur Youth Honorees: Jay Williamson, Kate Todd, Will Norton

Wilbur Honorees/Org: Altrusa International of Txk; Damien Davis Foundation; TUTD/ ArkLaTx Council

HMntion:  Parades of Mardi Gras, Veteran’s Council, Twin City Black History Association, MLK Assoc.

The 2018 Wilbur Award for service by an organization was presented to Opportunities, Inc. Opportunities has served the community for over 50 years, starting with six special needs children in 1966.  Opportunities is an organization that touches all ages in the community, from the beginning of life to the end of life. For the adult clients, Opportunities is in the process of transitioning from sheltered workshops to supported employment.  It has made a tremendous difference in the quality of life in our community as well as a lasting impact for thousands of families by providing services in day programs for children and adults.

This year’s adult recipient of the Wilbur Award is Dr. Matthew Young, who is a leader in our community for Health Education.  Dr. Young annually performs free physical exams for Leaders and youth to attend Boy Scout, Girl Scout, church camps, and athletics, and consistently makes himself available to organizations regarding health issues that serve the public.  Dr. Young is the Medical Director for the Texarkana College EMS program and Texarkana Emergency Center.  Dr Young serves as Southwest Arkansas Regional Trauma Advisory Council Chairman as well as in many other roles.

This year’s Wilbur Awards for Youth Leadership were presented to two outstanding young women of our community:  Ali Milligan of Arkansas High and Allie Grace Graves of Texas High.  Ali Milligan is a junior at Arkansas High where she is President of the campus Interact Club with over 400/ hundreds of hours of community service. Ali worked with the Salvation Army to identify the greatest need of the people served by the organization, and has since worked to fill that need, providing kits of feminine products to their clients, with the ambitious goal of distributing 1000 kits before she graduates in 2019.  Allie Graves is very active at Texas High, as well as at First Baptist Church, the Randy Sam’s Shelter and the Community Cafe at Williams Memorial Methodist.  Allie was adopted at age 5 years old out of foster care system and is an overcomer of child abuse.  For this reason, she chooses to spend her time giving back to the organizations that helped her become the successful person she is. She has over 750 hours of community service in Texarkana and the surrounding areas, and has spoken to over 15,000 people telling her story.

Continuing the Wilbur tradition set from the beginning of the awards twenty-six years prior, Leadership Texarkana honored and celebrated all of the individuals and organizations which were nominated as they are all exemplary models of community leadership that are worth following.

Wilbur honorees for outstanding community leadership included:  Dr. Emily F. Cutrer, whose numerous community service activites reflect her commitment to the university’s role as a leadership partner for community progress; Robert DelGiorno, for his commitment to educational excellence and leading disaster relief efforts; Joey Martin of Express Employment Professionals, whose giving heart and contributions of time, talent and treasure improve the lives of residents throughout our community;  Warren Smith, who has been integral to Chamber initatives to best serve and grow our local businesses; Mark van Herpen, always first to serve and comfort friends in need, as well as serving the larger community in leadership roles at the Chamber and beyond; and Betty Williams, who in retirement has chosen public service on the Texas City Council, where she continues her commitment to beautification.

Outstanding Youth honorees included: Eagle Scout and honor student Will Norton whose community commitment is reflected in community service as well as leadership honors organizations and as swim team captain; Arkansas High Senior Class President Kate Todd, who works with numerous organizations through her Interact Club and church; and Texas High Student Body President Jay Williamson, who has distinguished himself as a public servant in process at the state and national levels, while also serving in our local community.

Other organizations honored as outstanding organizations for their leadership and contributions to the community included:  Altrusa International of Texarkana, whose members dedicate their leadership, contacts and service to  improving our community;  the Damien Davis Foundation, which focuses on feeding and clothing those in need, and the Texas Urban Transit Districts/ ArkLaTex Council, which uses their resources to serve individuals and groups who biggest need is transportation.

Honorable Mentions were also given for the community service of four of our local parades and the organizations which support them:  Mardi Gras Commission / Parade, Martin Luther King Commission/ Parade, Texarkana Area Veterans Council/ Parade, and the Twin Cities Black History Association / Parade.

For more about Leadership Texarkana, visit leadershiptexarkana.com.


More From Eagle 106.3