This time others are learning from them.

Six graduates returned to the classroom Tuesday in front of students from each of Tarleton State University’s colleges as part of the 25th annual Alumni Academic Forum.

Initiated in 1993 to recognize outstanding graduates from each academic college, the event offers alumni honorees the chance to interact with current Tarleton students and share personal success stories pertaining to how their respective educations prepared them for life after college, as well as advice on pursuing a career in their chosen fields.

This year’s honorees were Brandy Covington (’97), College of Health Sciences and Human Services; Tina Turley (’85) College of Liberal and Fine Arts; James Dearth (’12), College of Education; Jeff True (’86), College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Ronald Butler (’87), College of Business Administration; and Dr. James Konvicka (’92), College of Science and Technology.

Honorees were welcomed by Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio, Provost Dr. Karen Murray and the deans of each college at a breakfast prior to visiting classes to speak to students, faculty and staff. The honorees later were recognized at a luncheon, where they received awards marking their participation as Alumni Academic Forum presenters.


About the Tarleton Alumni Academic Forum honorees:


Brandy Covington enrolled at Tarleton as a pre-vet major after graduating from Granbury High School. However, after a few semesters of animal science and horse production classes, she felt drawn to nursing. She was accepted into Tarleton’s nursing program and graduated in December of 1997. Now the administrator and director of nurses for Freedom Hospice, Covington oversees the daily operations of the company’s Texas locations.


Tina Turley has more than 35 years of experience as a director, actor, writer, teacher and theater manager. Currently the executive director of Theatre Tuscaloosa in Alabama, she has produced and/or directed 75 productions for the organization. Her writing credits include Stars Fell on Alabama and Invision Magic for the inaugural season of Visionland theme park in Birmingham, Ala., Brush Up Your Shakespeare and Wasted Times, a domestic violence awareness play. Turley has served on the faculty of Mountain View College in Dallas, Stillman College, Shelton State and the University of Alabama. Her honors include the city of Tuscaloosa’s 2005 Druid Arts Award for theatre artist and 2006 Druid Arts Award for theatre educator; 2005 Distinguished Alumni Commencement Speaker - College of Arts & Sciences, Texas A&M-Commerce; 2005 recipient of Theatre Tuscaloosa’s “Ox is in the Ditch” award; 2003 Allen Bales Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Theater - University of Alabama. She is married to Ernie Turley from Stephenville.

James Dearth played tight end for the NFL after a distinguished collegiate career with the Texans. A native of Scurry, he was a sixth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1999. He went on the play for the Tennessee Titans, the San Diego Chargers and, for nine years, was a member of the New York Jets. He and teammate Derrick Blaylock are owners of an Athletic Republic franchise in Houston where they help prepare young athletes for professional careers.

Jeff True, a 30-year veteran of the horse racing industry, is president and general manager of All-American Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. Growing up in Plano, he graduated from Tarleton’s horse production program in 1986. For the last two decades, he has lived in California, serving as director of marketing and simulcasting at Los Alamitos Race Course before becoming general manager. Before heading to New Mexico, True was senior vice president of sales for AmTote, developing a clientele in both domestic and global markets.

Ronald Butler has been a distinguished member of the Texas banking community for more than 24 years. Now chairman and CEO of Abilene’s First Financial Bank, he serves on advisory boards for multiple regions within the organization as well as the board of First Technology Services. Butler is a member of the Rawls College of Business Advisory Board at Texas Tech University and a director of the West Central Texas Municipal Water District. Additionally, he serves on the boards of the United Way of Abilene, Hendrick Medical Center Foundation, West Texas Rehabilitation Center and Abilene Improvement Corporation.

Dr. James Konvicka, director of acute pain management at Baylor Scott & White Health Central Texas, is board certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and is an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. He is a professional member of Texas Society of Anesthesiologists, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Texas Medical Association, and Society of Obstetrics, Anesthesiology, and Perinatology. Konvicka received his bachelor’s degree from Tarleton in 1992 where he was a member of Beta Beta Beta biology honor society.