Former students, supporters and friends gathered on Aug. 6 as Lee College Alliance presented its most prestigious awards given to alumni. This year’s awards were presented in three categories: John Britt ‘57, Distinguished Alumnus; Mary Beth Wendel Woods ‘75, Meritorious Award; and Melanie Stewart ‘08, Outstanding Young Alumnus.
The Distinguished Alumni title is reserved for exceptional alumni, or friends of the College, who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in their profession, life’s work, or community service.
The guest speaker for the evening was author and Lee College alumnus, Glenn Blake ’76, who shared an excerpt from his latest book, The Old and The Lost.
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Distinguished Alumnus, John Britt ’57
John Britt ‘57, a well-known and beloved professor at Lee College for 53 years, was named Distinguished Alumnus, the highest honor given to alumni by the Lee College Alliance. The award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated a lifetime of distinguished service and extraordinary achievement in their career, profession, life’s work, military service, or cause that brings distinction to the College.
Donna Britt accepted the award on behalf of her late husband who passed away in 2018.
“Lee College presented him with an opportunity,” Britt said of her husband. “And it was here he wanted to make a difference in this community.”
Britt spent his entire career helping students succeed not only at Lee College, but often as a mentor for students after they left to pursue other endeavors. He earned an associate’s degree from Lee College in 1957, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Sam Houston State University in 1959. He began teaching at Lee College in 1964, and in 1966, he and four fellow teachers created the Offender Education Program in which they taught college courses inside local prisons. Britt taught inside prisons for 20 years, and the program is still going strong today with enrollment that exceeds 1,000 students.
In 1974, Britt created and began teaching the interdisciplinary honors American Studies class at Lee College. He also served as the co-managing editor for Touchstone, a journal of undergraduate research published by the Texas State Historical Association and the Center for Texas Studies at Austin.
Donna Britt, accepting the Distinguished Alumnus Award on behalf of her late husband, John Britt.
As part of his honors program effort, he applied for and worked on grants totaling $94,000 to fund scholarships and buy needed equipment. He also played a leading role in the creation of the Gulf Coast Intercollegiate Honors Council, which is a consortium of honors programs among community colleges along the upper Texas coast.
Britt served on the board of directors of the Texas State Historical Association, including the Webb Society, and the Former Texas Rangers Foundation, and on the executive committees of the Chambers County Historical Commission, the Wallisville Heritage Park, the Monica Boyd Literacy Foundation, the Friends of the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center, and the National Collegiate Honors Council. He also served as the president of the Great Plains Honors Council.
He received numerous awards, including the 1997 Ima Hogg Historical Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Texas History from the Friends of Winedale, Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. He also received the Leadership in Education Award in 1999 from the Texas State Historical Association.
He and his wife were granted the first David DeBoe award in 1999 for contributions to the National History Day program in Texas from the Texas State Historical Association. In 1996, The American Association for State and Local History awarded Britt with a Certificate of Commendation for the American Studies publication titled, “From Humble Beginnings…,” and in 2000, he earned the Association of Communication College Trustees Western Region Faculty Award.
At Lee College, the Board of Regents created the endowed John Britt Honors Chair in 2007, and renamed the Social Science Building in his honor—John Britt Hall—in 2013.
Meritorious Award, Mary Beth Wendel Woods ’75
Mary Beth Wendel Woods ’75, president of Peach Marketing Advertising and Communications in Austin, Texas, received the Meritorious Award, which recognizes outstanding alumni for achievements in their life’s work and their service and contributions to the mission and success of Lee College.
Woods attended Lee College in 1974-1975, where she was one of the first students to participate in what would become the Lee College Honors Program under the late John Britt. After she completed 42 hours at Lee College, she then transferred to The University of Texas and earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations, and a Secondary in Education in 1978.
She began her career in Houston as a market research analyst, then a year later assumed an account executive position with an advertising firm in Austin, Texas.
Most recently she has owned her own Marketing and Communications firm, Peach Marketing, for the past 28 years. During her career, she has worked extensively with many well-known clients including M&M Mars, DR Horton Homes, and Texas Workforce Commission, just to name a few.
Woods has 40 years of advertising and marketing experience with local, national and international clients. Since 1991, she has shared her knowledge by mentoring more than 40 college students through paid internships to learn all aspects of advertising and running a business.
Over the years, she has been actively involved in Public Relations Society of America; Jr. Achievement Board of Directors, Bronze Leadership Award; Austin Advertising Federation; National Association of Senior Living Industry; Austin Alliance of Advertising Principals; Caritas; Women in Communications, Inc.; Mobile Loaves and Fishes; KLRU Public Broadcasting; Austin Chamber of Commerce; and Toastmasters International.
She has been married to Joe Woods for over 40 years, and they have three grown and married children, and five grandchildren.
Outstanding Young Alumnus Award
Outstanding Young Alumnus, Melanie Stewart ’08
Melanie Stewart ’08, CRNA, DNP, APRN, received the Outstanding Young Alumnus award, which recognizes graduates age 39 or younger who have made significant achievements in their careers, life’s work, or cause.
Stewart received both an Associate of Liberal Arts and Associate of Nursing from Lee College. During that time, she achieved an overall grade point average of 4.0, and was the valedictorian of the nursing class of 2008.
At the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, she received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2010, earning a 4.0 grade point average, and then completed a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Nurse Anesthesia in 2018, conducting research about reducing medication errors.
Stewart is certified in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and she worked for seven years as a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Units at area hospitals. She currently works in locum tenens positions throughout rural Texas.
Stewart is a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetics, Texas Association of Nurse Anesthetics, American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and Sigma Theta Tau.
About Lee College Alliance
The association for former students and friends of Lee College began in 2006 under the name, “Former-Lee,” and was renamed Lee College Alliance in 2013. Since then, the organization has expanded to more than 360 members, and the network of alumni and friends continues to grow. The goal of the Lee College Alliance is to build a spirit of school pride and provide alumni with opportunities for social networking, personal enrichment, community involvement and life-long learning. Lee College Alliance plans to recognize future noteworthy alumni and friends by selecting Distinguished Alumni award winners on an annual basis. Click here to nominate an individual for a future award.