Weatherford College recognized three alumni during the annual Alumni Awards Luncheon Friday in the Doss Student Center.
Lynn Easley and Frederick Sanders were both recognized as Distinguished Alumni, and Mike Gilley was awarded the Alumnus of the Year Award.
Gilley is a 1969 graduate of WC and a native of Springtown who attended classes at both “Old Main” and the current campus, which he referred to as the “Hilltop Campus.”
“The thing I remember most about Weatherford College—Old Main—is it had an atmosphere that was unreal,” Gilley said. “It was family… And the best experience I had was meeting my wife outside social studies class on the Hilltop Campus.”
He and his wife, Linda, will celebrate 48 years of marriage this summer.
Gilley went on to complete his education at the University of Texas at Arlington and Tarleton State University ultimately earning a master’s degree. He credits the one-on-one teaching he received at WC as the foundation that ultimately led him into a career in education.
His career in Springtown ISD began in the classroom teaching, but he later moved into administration where he served as principal of Watson Elementary, principal of Springtown Middle School, principal of Springtown High School and, ultimately, as the district’s assistant superintendent. Gilley retired in 2016, after 45 years of service to Springtown ISD.
Gilley was named the district’s High School Teacher of the Year in 1978 and received the Lamar Medal by the Springtown Masons in 2003 for his service to public education. He was also recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 for his quick response and bravery during a campus fire.
“What began at Weatherford College in 1967 to ‘stay close’ led me back to Springtown to a 45-year ‘go-far’ career in education,” Gilley said. “As an instructor and administrator in Springtown, I’ve had the opportunity to suggest Weatherford College to students. I tell them this is the best money you’ll ever spend.”
Sanders graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in Dallas and attended WC on a music scholarship. He played the piano in the WC Jazz Band under the direction of Duane Durrett and Tom Burchill and went on to study at Southwest Texas State University and Southern University in Baton Rouge.
He reflected on late-night jam sessions in the band hall and said WC gave him a sense of community.
“Weatherford, for me, became a continuation of what my grandparents had established in my home,” Sanders said. “The music we would play had this nostalgic integrity to it where it brought community together. It allowed people to have a pace and learn to dance together.”
Sanders has performed and recorded with music greats including Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Norah Jones, David “Fathead” Newman, Erykah Badu and Doctor John. He has also released two highly-acclaimed solo albums. He was hired in 2017 as the head of jazz studies at his high school alma mater. He is also active with the Dallas Jazz Piano Society as an instructor in their Keys4Kids program.
Easley grew up in the Texas Pythian Home after his mother relinquished her parental rights in 1956. After graduating from Weatherford High School and WC, he joined the U.S. Air Force before completing both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at the University of North Texas. His working years included time as a custodial worker, welder, painter, teacher, counselor and vice principal.
He received several teacher of the year awards during the ‘80s and ‘90s in the Kennedale ISD, including the title of Texas Vocational Teacher of the Year and National Trade and Industrial Teacher of the Year in 1996. He was named a Weatherford ISD distinguished alumnus in 2016.
“Weatherford College is a great institution,” Easley said. “It was when I was here, back when a lot of us referred to Weatherford College as SMU – South Main University… There is a list of distinguished alumni in your program. To be in that category of folks is unbelievable. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”