Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society awarded five prestigious honors to Pearl River Community College at the organization’s recent convention in San Jose, Calif.
The Beta Tau Gamma chapter at the Forrest County Center was named a Distinguished Chapter and one of its advisors, Dr. Terri Smith Ruckel, received the Paragon Award for advisors with less than four years of experience.
Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president, received the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction, student Andy Sims of Petal received a $1,000 Coca-Cola Bronze Scholarship, Beta Tau Gamma received a Distinguished College Project award for its campus voter registration drive and was named a Top 100 Chapter.
As a Distinguished Chapter, Beta Tau Gamma is ranked among the top 10 percent of PTK’s 1,325 chapters in the United States and abroad. The chapter was formed only two years ago.
“It is an extremely big deal,” Ruckel said. The honor is based on the chapter’s scores on written reports on its College Project and Honors in Action Project, which was a political forum.
“They really liked that we had a voter registration drive on our campus,” she said.
The Paragon Award recognizes the work of advisors for new chapters. Ruckel was unable to accept the award in person because the chapter did not have enough money for seven students to attend and she forfeited her share.
“Dr. Terri Ruckel is an inspiration to us,” said Melissa Fahrenbruch of Hattiesburg, the chapter’s vice president for communication. “She works hard for our college, chapter and us individually. She is compassionate, intelligent, and a leader that we trust. She has mentored the majority of us at one time or another; she makes us strive to exceed our goals. She is our watershed moment.”
Ruckel teaches English and also advised the Sigma Kappa Delta English honor society.
“We are extremely proud of our chapter’s accomplishments,” said Dr. Cecil Burt, PRCC vice president for Forrest County operations. “All of our advisors are outstanding, but we are so pleased that Dr. Terri Ruckel received the Paragon Award for her service as advisor to this club.
Sims received the Coca-Cola Scholarship after being named to the PTK Mississippi All-Academic Team in March. Only eight students in Mississippi received the scholarships, Ruckel said.
“Phi Theta Kappa is a wonderful organization for outstanding students,” Burt said. “There are tremendous opportunities for scholarships for club members.”
Lewis was one of only 21 college presidents or chief executive officers to receive the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction based on their efforts in promoting the goals of Phi Theta Kappa.
“I am most humbled by the recognition from Phi Theta Kappa,” Lewis said. “I have great respect for this historic academic honorary society and for the work they do in community colleges internationally. PTK is a true difference-maker in the molding of lives for our high achieving students.”
The award is named for the late Dr. Shirley B. Gordon, PTK’s longest serving chair of the board of directors and president emeritus of Highline Community College in Washington.
The PRCC students at the conference were thrilled to see Lewis receive the award, said Dr. Ryan Ruckel, one of the chapter’s advisors.
“They all held their phones up to try to take a picture of him,” he said. “They were so excited for him.”
He described the convention as 3,500 screaming nerds with laser light shows and fog machines and the awards ceremonies as a lot of fun.
“We’re just sitting there waiting as they call out each college that got an award,” he said. “For them to call our name was very exciting. I think I jumped about 10 feet.”
Fahrenbruch accepted the Distinguished Chapter Award.
“I was stunned at first, when our chapter’s name was called and showed on the screen,” she said. “I was honored and humbled that they chose me to go receive it on stage. I’m so proud to be a part of this chapter.”
In addition to Sims and Fahrenbruch, students who attended are Will Smith of Hattiesburg; Carolyn Lucus and Louie Forsmark, both of Petal; Hope Lucas of Sumrall and Tiffany Gragg of Lumberton.
The Beta Tau Gamma chapter and the Iota Mu chapter in Poplarville were also recognized as Five Star Chapters. Stephanie Lee is advisor for the Iota Mu chapter.
Dr. Terri Ruckel
Dr. William Lewis