Alumni Success
Otis Ray Anderson

Otis Ray Anderson.

Otis credits WCJC with providing the tools needed to achieve success as a businessman and designer. After obtaining his associate’s degree from WCJC in 1970, Otis earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Houston and then a master’s degree from Pepperdine University.

He is a patent holder on electronic tool design and put his skills to the test with Micro-Smart Systems in Houston.

“WCJC gave me a good foundation for continuing my education as well as preparing me for my first job after graduation,” Otis says. He is a big believer in paying it forward and spends part of his free time tutoring high school math students. He also notes that his wife is a WCJC graduate as well.

Trey Benton III

Trey Benton III.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. A resident of Richards, Texas, Trey Benton III was a force to be reckoned with in one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports imaginable: rodeo. Qualifying for the inaugural Junior High School National Finals in 2005, Benton would qualify for the High School National Finals twice, once in bull riding and once in calf roping, before joining WCJC’s rodeo team.

Benton excelled at WCJC, named the 2012 and 2013 All-Around WCJC Cowboy for his achievements in bull riding, calf roping and team roping, and earning Southern Region Bull Riding Champion honors during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in bull riding both years. Choosing WCJC was a logical choice, Benton recalled.

“It was close to home and I heard it was a great start for a young up-and-coming rodeo athlete,” he said.

WCJC’s tight-knit community was a good fit for the young cowboy.

“I met a lot of great people while at Wharton,” Benton said. “This is a great school to get started on before you go to a university.”

Benton capitalized upon his success at WCJC, qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo seven times between 2012 and 2021. In 2012, Benton was Resistol Rookie Bull rider and won 13 rodeos, seven of which were 90 point rides. In 2017, he earned Reserve World Champion Bull Rider honors and would go on to win the George Paul Memorial Bull Riding rodeo in Del Rio three times, an achievement shared by only two other competitors in that event’s history.

He won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Salinas Rodeo (California) twice and the Red Bluff Rodeo (California) three times. In 2021, Benton’s career earnings topped $1 million. Benton and his wife, Reba, live in Richards, Texas, and have one son, Thomas Quade Benton IV. In his free time Benton works on the family ranch and trains horses.

Clifford Branch

Clifford Branch.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. A native Houstonian, Clifford Branch was an unbelievably gifted athlete, excelling in both football and track from an early age. With blazing speed and an indomitable will, Branch was a feared competitor who left many opponents in his wake both on the track and on the gridiron. He set records in the 100-yard dash his junior year of high school and was a state champion in the 200-yard dash and played football as a wide receiver.

In 1967, Branch attended WCJC and quickly made his mark, taking top honors in the sprints and leaving defensive backs gasping for air on the football field. After WCJC, Branch attended the University of Colorado, leading the team to a No. 3 national ranking.

He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round in 1972 and would play for more than a decade, leading the league in receptions and touchdown catches in 1974 and playing in three Super Bowls as well as four Pro Bowls. Branch’s 501 career receptions rank 14th on the NFL’s all-time list. He also ranks 10th in yards gained receiving with 8,685 and 12th in touchdowns with 67. He ended his career with 17.3 yards average per catch.

Branch’s football jersey was retired by his high school (Worthing High School) and he was inducted into both the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas High School Hall of Fame in 2004. He was inducted into the University of Colorado Hall of Fame in 2019, the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2014 and the California Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.

Branch passed away in 2019 at the age of 71.

His sister, Elaine Anderson, said Branch always had fond memories of his time at Wharton County Junior College.

“He thought highly of WCJC and would tell others about Wharton,” she said.
“He loved Wharton.”

Charles Franklin Brown, Jr.

Charles Franklin Brown, Jr.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. Brown was born in Galveston, Texas, and attended Texas City High School, where he played center on the basketball team. Brown helped his team win the State Basketball Championship his junior year and return to the State finals his senior year. For his efforts on the court, Brown earned Most Valuable Player honors. He was further named the Best All-Around Boy Student.

Brown graduated high school in 1950, but had no plans to attend college. A friend, who had earned a basketball scholarship to WCJC, asked Brown to help him move in. While at the college, Brown participated in a pick-up basketball game, unaware that WCJC Coach Johnnie Frankie was observing the competition. Frankie offered Brown a full scholarship on the spot.

“Charles hitchhiked back to Texas City, grabbed his clothes, and hitchhiked back to Wharton,” said Karen Hemingway, Brown’s sister.

At WCJC, Brown earned All-American, All-District, and All-State honors. He was part of WCJC’s 1952 National Junior College Championship team, which boasted a record of 34-4. At the time, he was the seventh highest scorer among all junior college players nationwide.

After graduating from WCJC, Brown transferred to Texas Christian University, where he majored in geology and went on to a successful career in the oil and gas industry. Brown passed away in 2011. He remained an advocate for WCJC his entire life.

“Charles enabled several other students to attend Wharton and other colleges by offering scholarships,” Hemingway said. “Charles said that his two years at Wharton were two of the best years of his life.”

Venroy “Butch” Grant

Venroy “Butch” Grant.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. A New York City native, Butch came to WCJC in the early 1970s to play basketball for longtime WCJC Coach and Athletic Director Gene Bahnsen.

“WCJC stabilized my life coming from New York City, giving me the opportunity to receive a quality education while bringing a balance to me socially and emotionally,” Butch says. “WCJC was the foundation of all the success that I received in my career.”

A WCJC Johnnie Frankie Award winner in 1971 and the all-time leading scorer for WCJC in basketball for two years, Butch earned his associate’s degree from WCJC in 1972 before earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Prairie View A&M University. He worked as a coach and teacher before embarking on a 25-year career with the Houston Police Department.

He would also serve as Director of Team Security for the Houston Rockets from 2002-2012.

“I cannot imagine where I would be today without the education I received from WCJC,” he says. “This is where I got my start.”

Calvin Sean Hale

Calvin Sean Hale.

A Wharton native who attended WCJC in 2002, Sean earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and was a key contributor for a major master planned community in the Austin-San Marcos area designed to provide housing for more than 3,500 families.

Sean credits his time at WCJC with helping him identify interests that have developed into a career.

“Attending WCJC played a pretty important role in my career due to the fact that my time there reinforced my desire to work in the fields of finance and economics,” he says. “Before I attended WCJC, I had only a passing interest in finance, but taking business mathematics showed me that I had a pretty good grasp on the concepts that would eventually become very important in my career.”

Jodie Hutchinson

Jodie Hutchinson.

A Hungerford native, Jodie is another WCJC graduate who has come full circle, now spending her time in the classroom teaching the next generation of students the finer points of psychology.

Holding a master's in psychology from Houston Baptist University, Jodie was one of only a very select number of teachers featured in WCJC's Teacher Effect campaign in 2014. The campaign honored instructors who had made a particularly significant impact in the lives of their students.

Jodie is a big believer in the college.

"WCJC is a wonderful place for everyone to begin their education - the student fresh from high school who has an education plan to the student who may have no idea what career they want to pursue to the non-traditional student who has served their family as a stay-at-home parent or caregiver and is now back in the classroom to focus on their education," she said. "As an instructor at WCJC, I have seen all of these students in my classroom and seen them be successful due to WCJC's affordable tuition, flexible schedules and quality instruction."

George Heard "Bud" Northington IV

George Heard "Bud" Northington IV.

The CEO and President of the historical Egypt Plantation landmark in Egypt, Texas, Bud not only loves history, he lives it. As a WCJC student in the mid-1960s, Bud's interests included agriculture, auto mechanics and business.

"WCJC had great students and fantastic teachers and I built lasting friendships," he says. "I had tons of fun with drama, mechanic shop, music and sports."

As a hearing-impaired student, Bud felt that he never missed anything during his time at WCJC as instructors and staff made accommodations to ensure he had a valuable college experience.

"WCJC worked with me as a hearing-impaired student and really helped prepare me for university," he said. "I believe that WCJC and the Board of Trustees have done a great job."

Will Parker

Will Parker.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. Born in Baytown, Texas, Will Parker moved to Wharton in the 8th grade and soon earned the reputation as a gifted all-around athlete, excelling on the gridiron, the track and the basketball court. After graduating from Wharton High School in 1967, he received a football and track scholarship at WCJC.

As a Pioneer, Parker continued his athletic achievements, making 1st Team All-Conference and being named an All-American in football. He was further named WCJC’s 1968 Most Valuable Player for football, often playing both ways.

“Attending WCJC was by far the best educational and athletic decision I could have made,” Parker said. “The WCJC experience helped me grow up.”

From WCJC, Parker headed to the University of North Texas (known as North Texas State University at the time) where he continued to play football and participate in track, throwing the discus and shot put. In 1969 and 1970 Parker was named an All Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Lineman and chosen as an NCAA All-American. In the 1971 draft, Parker was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round. He would go on to play 11 seasons in the National Football League (NFL) on the offensive line, first for the 49ers and then for the Buffalo Bills.

In 2013, the University of North Texas (UNT) celebrated a century of playing football by selecting 32 players from its 100 year history to be named to the UNT All-Century Team. Parker was selected as the All-Century Offensive Center. Then in 2004, he was selected to the UNT Hall of Fame.

After retiring from the NFL, Parker spent 40 successful years in the Refining and Petrochemical industry, serving as Senior Vice President of Sales for a nationally known general contractor. Parker retired in January 2020.

Parker said his years at WCJC were defining moments for him both athletically and personally. After his freshman year, he married his high school sweetheart, Gail Whitley of Wharton, and the couple has been married now for more than 53 years.

“I highly recommend WCJC to further your education and opportunities,” Parker said.

Bonnie Sue Beard Pflughaupt

Bonnie Sue Beard Pflughaupt.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. With her volleyball skills, El Campo, Texas, native Bonnie Sue Beard Pflughaupt could have gone just about anywhere after high school graduation, but she chose WCJC. It was a logical choice.

“It was an easy decision after high school to choose WCJC because it was close to home,” Pflughaupt said.

Pflughaupt had been interested in the sport from an early age, fascinated by her mother’s stories of playing volleyball at the Crescent, Texas, gymnasium. Although her high school team did not achieve a lot of success, Pflughaupt’s own skills flourished – so much so that Harold Shilk, WCJC’s volleyball coach at the time, recruited her to play for the Pioneers.

During her two years in Wharton (1982 to 1984), Pflughaupt made All-Conference twice, All-Region twice, was named All-American her second year, made the All-Tournament Team at Nationals, and received the Russell Andrews and Johnnie Frankie awards.

WCJC provided Pflughaupt with a foundation on which to build her entire life.

“This was my first step of maturity attending college classes and having more responsibility,” she said.

One of her fondest memories was having her then-boyfriend and now-husband, Gary, attend her games, along with her parents, Lonnie and Rosalie Beard.

After WCJC, Pflughaupt continued her career at Sam Houston State University, where she was named the Most Valuable Player twice, made All-American her second year, was named the Gulf Star Conference Player-of-the-Year her second year, and made First Team All-Conference both years. Holding school records in hitting percentage, blocks, service aces and digs, Pflughaupt was inducted into the university’s Hall of Honor.

Pflughaupt credits her faith in God as providing her with the strength she needed to achieve her athletic and personal goals. She and her husband, Gary, have four children: Travis, Daniel, Timothy and Amy.

“I always try to encourage students to start off at WCJC because it’s the right choice,” she said.

Tyler Reves

Tyler Reves.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. Born and raised in Orange, Texas, Tyler Reves fell in love with baseball at an early age but had a rather difficult time turning his dreams into a reality. After high school, Reves attempted to play ball for McLennan Community College near Waco, Texas, but was told by the coach that he was not good enough to make the team. Reves returned home in the middle of the semester.

The following year he tried again, this time for Angelina College and WCJC. Reves said Angelina offered a preferred walk-on (a spot on the team but no scholarship) while WCJC offered a “half” scholarship.

“I chose Wharton because I needed to be on the field and get school paid for while doing it,” Reves said.

But things didn’t quite work out as well as Reves had planned. Turns out he didn’t have enough credit hours to qualify for a scholarship so he had to be a walk-on anyway. It was yet another setback, though it thankfully proved to be short-lived. After stacking his fall schedule with classes and having a solid off-season, Reves was finally offered a full scholarship the next year. It seemed his luck had finally changed.

Playing two seasons at WCJC from 2004 to 2005, Reves distinguished himself as an outfielder and power hitter. His freshman year, he hit a .365 average with 12 homeruns, 18 doubles and a host of RBI. He made First Team All-Conference, All-Region and Team Most Valuable Player and was invited to the junior college all-star game. The Pioneers Baseball Team won the 2004 conference championship.

His sophomore year, Reves hit an astonishing .487 average, with 12 homeruns and 15 doubles and won the regional batting title for the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Southwest Region.

Such accolades attracted the attention of the pro leagues and Reves was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He turned down the offer, deciding instead to transfer to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. At Texas Tech, Reves hit a .300 average with 13 homeruns and ended up getting drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 draft by the Chicago White Sox.

Reves spent the next two years in the minor leagues before his career came to an end in 2008.

He said he will be forever grateful for his time as a WCJC Pioneer.

“For my two years at WCJC I had a great time and would not be able to replace that part of my life for anything,” he said.

Caleb Smidt

Caleb Smidt.

Named to the 2021 WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame. It takes plenty of dedication and grit to succeed in rodeo, and if Caleb Smidt’s record is any indication he has plenty of both.

After being named the Texas high school tie-down roping champion in 2008 and winning reserve champion that same year at the National High School Finals Rodeo, Smidt headed to WCJC where he continued to lead the pack. As a member of the 2010 Pioneers Rodeo Team, Smidt was named the all-around champion and the tie-down roping reserve champion at the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Caspar, Wyoming.

From WCJC, Smidt transferred to Sam Houston State University, where he was a member of the 2011 CNFR Champion Men’s Team and the 2012 CNFR Reserve Champion Men’s Team. His skills in team roping and tie-down roping were nearly unmatched, with Smidt winning rodeos from Boerne to Seguin to Mercedes to Henderson to Pasadena.

In 2013, Smidt posted second-place finishes in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and continued his winning streak, snatching up all-around, tie-down and team roping titles at rodeos held throughout Texas, Oregon, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. He finished the year as 10th in the world standings.

Since then, Smidt has continued to dominate the rodeo circuit, winning events across the nation. In 2015, he won his first world championship at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He repeated that achievement in 2018 and has consistently ranked in the top 10 in the world standings as well.

As of 2021, Smidt continues to compete, taking all-around honors at rodeos in Texas and Kansas, team roping championships in Texas and tie-down roping championships in South Dakota, Oregon and Kansas.

Smidt and his wife, Brenna, have three children (Cru, 5, Myla, 2, and Chaz, 2 weeks old) and call Bellville, Texas, home.

Smidt lives his life with a clear goal.

“My objective is to compete competitively in roping events while striving for excellence and Godly character in and out of the arena,” he said.

Llarance Lawsell Turner

Llarance Lawsell Turner.

Llarance believes in the power of hard work. Over a 39-year period, Llarance rose through the ranks of Kelly Kaluza & Associates Inc., ultimately reaching the position of President. In addition to his career accomplishments, Llarance has stayed active in his community of Missouri City, serving on various boards and committees.

Earning an associate’s degree from WCJC in 1982, he furthered his education by obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston.

When asked how WCJC helped him reach his goals, Llarance says that the college prepared him well for what he would meet in the business world.

“My WCJC instructors provided me with the skills I needed to be successful both professionally and personally,” Llarance says.

A Fort Worth native, Llarance came to WCJC in the early 1980s to play basketball. It was a smart move.

“For me the small campus lifestyle was a good fit,” he says. “Coming from Fort Worth and living on the campus in Wharton matured me in so many ways.”

Tamara Chauniece Williams

Tamara Chauniece Williams.

Some performers are born to entertain, and Tamara is certainly no exception. Gifted with a fantastic vocal ability and commanding stage presence, the Wharton, Texas native distinguished herself in 2013 by being featured on Season 5 of NBC’s hit talent show, “The Voice.”

Tamara sharpened her skills in her hometown church and as a member of WCJC’s choir.

“My fondest memory of WCJC is being part of the choir,” she says. “I had so many awesome memories and made lifetime connections.”

After obtaining her associate’s degree from WCJC in 2010, she earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas in 2012. Tamara is currently continuing her musical career with the musical group “The Shindellas” and through work with Tennessee-based Weirdo Workshop, an independent record label and artist collective.

Both her mother and sister attended WCJC, and Tamara says she would “absolutely” recommend the college to any student.

“WCJC gave me a start, allowing me to take baby steps,” she says. “I wasn’t sure of myself and of what I truly wanted from my college experience. But WCJC allowed me the time to figure that out and save money while doing so.”

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