LISD honors 2017 Distinguished Alumni

Longview Independent School District honored three former students Friday during the annual Distinguished Alumni ceremony and luncheon, each expressing gratitude and humility at being selected.

LISD honors 2017 Distinguished Alumni

Fri May 12, 2017
Click photo for more pictures from the event.

Longview Independent School District honored three former students Friday during the annual Distinguished Alumni ceremony and luncheon, each expressing gratitude and humility at being selected.

"I learned so much during my time in Longview, but probably the most important thing was the importance of having a strong community, taking care of each other," said 1955 graduate Gene Raymond Birdwell.

1959 graduate Declan Hoffmann agreed, sharing his experience of moving to Longview as a high school sophomore, and being warmly embraced by the students and staff.

"This honor shows what a special place Longview is," he said.

"What an honor it truly is!" added 1963 graduate Dr. Diane Porter Patrick. "To not just be a part of a long tradition of excellence at Longview High, but to be considered 'distinguished.' It's really humbling."

Honorees are nominated at-large and chosen by a committee of previous honorees, volunteer Distinguished Alumni Committee members, and the district’s Community Relations office. Distinguished alumni typically have excelled professionally, in addition to serving the communities in which they live.

Dr. James Wilcox said the accomplishments of the alumni are both a source of pride as well as a challenge to future Lobos.

"Looking at what former LISD students have done in the world should show our students than anything is possible for them," he said. "They too can continue to excel once they leave the halls of Longview High School, and join their fellow alumni in making the world a better place."

Distinguished Alumni Profiles

Gene Raymond Birdwell

Birdwell, a graduate of the 1955 Longview High School class, continued his education at the Texas A&M University where in 1959 he earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, and his masters of Business Administration in 1978 from the University of Dallas.

Starting his career in 1959 as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, Birdwell served the military as an engineer until 1962 he entered the private sector at DuPont in Houston. It was the start of a successful engineering career in H-town that saw him hold high positions at Copeland and Horton Process, Trinity Industries, Allied Industries, in addition to
going into business for himself as an owner for companies such as ACE Construction, Remedial Construction, Essentium Materials/TriFusion Devices, and Birdwell Construction.

Over the course of his career, Birdwell has received various recognition, including being honored in 2014 by Texas A&M as a Distinguished Alumni.

Son of the late Howard and Bessie Birdwell of Longview, he is married to Anne and the couple resides in Houston, where they raised two sons and delight in their six grandchildren.

Birdwell was nominated by longtime friend and fellow LHS alum Claude Broussard, who was also selected to the LISD Distinguished Alumni in 2014.

"It was an honor to be selected," Broussard said. "Since that time, it has been my intent and desire to pass that honor along to another deserving graduate of Longview High."

Citing the various achievements and honors Birdwell has gained, Broussard said the highest accomplishment would be the founding of the PTSD Foundation of America, a non-profit outreach that serves and supports veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

"Gene grew tired of waiting for the government to act (in coming to the aide of veterans struggling with PTSD)," Broussard said, describing how Birdwell purchased five acres and established a facility that provided free counseling and temporary housing for veterans to assist with their transition back into civilian life.

"At present, the PTSD Foundation has assisted and 'graduated' over 400 veterans since opening," he said. "To our knowledge, we have not lost a single one."

Declan Hoffmann

Hoffmann, a graduate of the 1959 Longview High School class, continued his education at Kilgore College, North Texas State University, and Stephens College in Missouri where in 1965 he earned a bachelor's degree in biology, and doing post-graduate studies at the College of William & Mary before earning his masters degree at North Texas

Starting his career in 1963 as a biology teacher and swimming coach in Dallas, Hoffmann left education to become a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1968. While in the FBI he held assignments to Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Antonio before retiring from the Bureau in 1998.

Over the course of his career as an FBI agent and top-notch hostage negotiator, Hoffmann has received numerous accolades, including being honored with a letter of congratulations from then-President Bill Clinton in 1998 upon his retirement.

Son of the late Bertram and Louise Hoffmann of Longview, he is married to Medarda and the couple resides in San Antonio, where they raised five children and are very active at the congregation they helped establish in 1980: St. Francis of Assisi Church.

Hoffmann was nominated by longtime friend and fellow LHS alum Dr. Harvard Ayers, who described "Deck" as one of his most trusted friends in high school.

"In considering Deck Hoffmann for this honor, I suggest you consider (his career accomplishments) but also the breadth of his life's work and interests," he said. "These include his career with the FBI, but also teaching on the high school and college level, and his civic activities."

FBI colleague Michael Appleby added that Hoffmann "was a role model" within the Bureau as well as his community.

"Declan has been recognized throughout his career ... but never tried to draw attention to himself," he said. "He was usually the quiet and effective guy, working in the background and focusing on the task at hand."

Dr. Diane Porter Patrick

Patrick, a graduate of the 1963 Longview High School class, continued her education at Baylor University where in 1966 she earned a bachelor's degree in education, followed by her masters in 1969, and later her Ph.D. in 1999.

Starting her career in 1966 as a classroom teacher at Waco ISD, Patrick later worked at Richardson and Birdville ISDs, before serving on the Texas Board of Education from 1992 to 1996. Starting in 1997 Patrick began teaching in higher education, holding tenure as a professor at UT-Arlington and Texas Christian University's College of Education.

In 2006 Patrick was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, where she served various education and appropriations committees before stepping down in 2014. Today she teaches graduate level courses at UT-Arlington and Dallas Baptist College.

Over the span of her long career in education, Patrick has received numerous distinctions, including a new state-of-the-art elementary school in Arlington ISD being named in her honor. "Diane Patrick Elementary School" opened its doors in 2015.

Daughter of the late M. Jones and Willie Belle Petty Porter of Longview, she is married to Dr. Ned Patrick and the couple resides in Arlington, where they raised two children and are active in local civic clubs and organizations.

Nominated by friends and fellow LHS alumni Kem Moseley Scroggin and Sue Skaggs Curtis, both of whom describe Patrick as "a born teacher."

"As a classroom teacher, school board member, Texas Board of Education member, Texas State legislator, and finally a college professor training teachers and school administrators, who knows how far Diane's influence on education reaches?