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Gladewater High School alum 'changes game' for graduates with scholarships

Rashaud Johnson spent a lot of his senior year this past year at Gladewater High School wondering how he would afford college.

He and his mother were considering student loan options, until Gladewater alumnus John Hood stepped in with a $40,000 scholarship for the graduate.

“It was hard for me and my mom going day-by-day,” Johnson said of his financial situation. “(Hood) changed the game for me. Now, I don’t have to think about that; now I can just keep my eyes on my future.”

Hood, who lives in San Diego, graduated from Gladewater High School in 1985, he said. A 20-year veteran of the biopharmaceutical industry, he is acting CEO of Actavalon, a San Diego biotechnology company that creates therapies for autoimmune disease and oncology.

Hood earned a doctorate in medical physiology and bachelor of science in biochemistry from Texas A&M University.

Besides Johnson’s gift, Hood recently awarded a $500 scholarship to each student going to college from the Gladewater High School Class of 2019.

And he gave out four $2,500 scholarships to be awarded for four years, totaling $10,000 per student. Students who received those scholarships were Liliana Corona, Genifer Gomez, Karen Rivera and Adam Smith.

The scholarships were a chance for Hood to give back, he said.

“Gladewater’s got a lot of kids that are bright kids but need a little help economically getting to the next step,” Hood said. “I had some of my fellow classmates of ‘85 go out and evaluate the kids.”

Students at Gladewater fill out a general scholarship application, Hood said. He said he looked over the applications and decided to present the $500 scholarships.

Johnson will receive $10,000 every year for four years, and he said he was thankful Hood chose him.

“It was a big surprise,” Johnson said. “I was very excited. It brought me to tears.”

The recent graduate will attend Stephen F. Austin State University and study pre-engineering, he said. He said he hopes to later transfer to Texas A&M University, Hood’s alma mater, to study mechanical engineering.

Johnson said he thinks his application stood out because of how involved he was in school activities while still being a successful student and athlete.

“It was a huge blessing to me, because at one point my head was so filled up, because I was thinking about taking out loans,” he said. “Then I was so blessed. I was so happy.”Hood wanted the scholarships to be a surprise, he said. After telling the principal and vice principal of his plans, he attended the May 23 senior awards ceremony to make the announcement. Hood said Johnson is a special student who maintained a high grade point average while playing football, marching in the band, being involved in several school activities and working at Brookshire’s. Johnson also has an infectious smile and positive attitude, Hood said.

“Everything about him screams he will be a success in life if he is just given an opportunity,” Hood said. “Hopefully, this will be the first of many opportunities.”

Ruby Floyd, one of the 'Faces' of Longview, leaves legacy of upbeat optimism, love for Lobo Nation

Note: This story has been corrected.

One of the “Faces” of Longview died Monday, prompting the city’s namesake school district to publicly mourn the death of “Miss Ruby, our No. 1 Lobo fan.”

Ruby Floyd could be seen in her green Lobo gear waving golden pompoms at home football games. She also was in the first class of local artist Anup Bhandari’s Tuesday classes at Newgate Mission, where Bhandari’s portrait of her was selected for the recent, “Faces of Newgate” book.

“I think one of the most important things to remember about Ms. Ruby is how much joy she could find in anything she was part of — a new bike, participating in a parade, dressing up as an elf or watching her (Lobo football) dream team take state in 2018,” Newgate Executive Director Hollie Bruce said Tuesday. “Her smile, boisterous greetings and her huge hugs are something I will miss dearly, and her zest and love for life is something we can all aspire to.”

A cause of death for Floyd, who was 60 or 61 years old, depending on who is asked, has not been publicly announced. Bhandari said she’d seemed in poor health recently but was as playful as ever.

“She was very talkative,” Bhandari said as he recalled seeing her in class last week. “She said she got a new Cadillac. And I thought it was a Cadillac, but she took me outside, and it was a bike.”

Bhandari said Floyd painted for the annual Newgate fundraiser since he started the class in 2011.

“All her art, it sold really fast,” he said, before describing Floyd’s idiosyncratic style. “She always does one painting. She puts, like, a big kind of face and small legs. It makes you smile when you see her work.”

Longview ISD posted this message on its Facebook page Monday:

“Hearts are breaking all over Lobo Nation today. Miss Ruby, our #1 Lobo fan and our amazing cheerleader in the stands, has passed away. I know we will still hear your beautiful cheers every home game. Thank you for your love, support and sweet cheers.”

Longview ISD athletic director and head football coach John King said Floyd was a familiar sight both at Little League games in Stamper Park and under the Friday night lights in Lobo Stadium.

“She’s been a part of us,” King said. “All the kids know Miss Ruby. She’d ride her bike everywhere she needed to. She’d tell you the truth, too.”

Bruce said Floyd has family in Longview. Funeral services had not been announced by Wednesday, but arrangements are being handled by Dearion-Davis Funeral Parlor in Gladewater, Bruce said.

Charla Rolph, whose home and bed-and-breakfast have Floyd’s paintings hung amid a collection Rolph has gathered from around the world, remembered the artist as a constant reminder to find joy in life.

“I wish everybody in Longview could have met Ruby,” Rolph said. “If I could be a little more like Ruby, it would make me a better person. Ruby may not have had anything to give monetarily or tangibly, but she gave of herself.”

Rolph said she fell in love with Floyd upon meeting her at one of Newgate’s art shows.

“I don’t know what it was about her,” she said. “She just had such a fire in her. ... Even though her pictures were all the same, they weren’t the same to her.”

The Rev. Romnie Scott, worship leader at Newgate, said Floyd was an eager participant in regular services.

“She was just a fixture in our community,” Scott said. “She’d always greet you with a hug and a smile, and she would just light up the whole place.”

Scott said Floyd’s church home was Macedonia Baptist Church in Longview.

“She loved anything that had to do with worship,” Scott said. “When I think of Ms. Ruby, she was not someone with a lot of wealth, power or possessions, yet she changed so many lives. So many people felt that kindness and love from her, and I think we just need a little bit more of that.”

UT Tyler names new director for Longview University Center

The University of Texas at Tyler has selected Sherry Howard as its new Longview University Center director, according to Beverley Golden, senior director of media relations.

Howard will begin her position Saturday.

Golden said Howard was most recently the associate vice president for workforce and advancement at a college in Arkansas.

The South Arkansas Community College website lists a Sherry Howard as the associate vice president of workforce and advancement.

“In this position, she implemented and advanced continuing education opportunities for working professionals, worked with small business development councils and increased advancement initiatives,” Golden said in an email.

Howard also has worked in banking and the nonprofit sector, Golden said. She has bachelor's and master's degrees of business administration.

The previous director, Van Patterson, announced on Sept. 10 that he accepted a job in Galveston. He served as the director for five years.

David Jones, development liaison for the UT Tyler Soules College of Business, was appointed as interim director.

The UT Tyler Longview University Center at 3201 N. Eastman Road offers courses in nursing, criminal justice and industrial technology.

Supreme Court signals more openness to state abortion rules

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court signaled Tuesday it is more open to state restrictions on abortion, upholding an Indiana law supported by abortion opponents that regulates the disposal of fetal remains.

At the same time, the justices declined to take on an issue closer to the core of abortion rights, rejecting the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked a ban on abortion based on gender, race or disability.

Both provisions were contained in a law signed by Vice President Mike Pence in 2016 when he was Indiana’s governor.

The court’s action keeps it out of an election-year review of the Indiana law amid a flurry of new state laws that go to the very heart of abortion rights. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey this month signed a law that would ban virtually all abortions, even in cases of incest and rape, and subject doctors who perform them to criminal prosecution. That law has yet to take effect and is being challenged in court.

Other states have passed laws that would outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, typically around six weeks of gestation.

The high court is expected to hear at least one abortion-related case in its term that begins in October and ends in June 2020. In February, the justices blocked a Louisiana law that regulates abortion clinics, pending a full review.

On Tuesday, with two liberal justices dissenting, the court allowed Indiana to enforce a requirement that abortion clinics either bury or cremate fetal remains following an abortion, reversing a ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court that had blocked it. The justices said in an unsigned opinion that the case does not involve limits on abortion rights.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. Ginsburg said in a short solo opinion that she believes the issue does implicate a woman’s right to have an abortion “without undue interference from the state.”

And Alyssa Farah, Pence’s spokeswoman, drew a direct link to abortion. Pence commended the court for “upholding a portion of Indiana law that safeguards the sanctity of human life by requiring that remains of aborted babies be treated with respect and dignity,” Farah said in a statement.

Pence also hopes the court will eventually review the other abortion provision at issue Tuesday, she said.

The Chicago-based appeals court had blocked a measure that would have prevented a woman from having an abortion for reasons related to race, gender or disability. While the justices declined to hear the state’s appeal of that blocked provision, they indicated their decision “expresses no view on the merits.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, who supports overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that first declared abortion rights, wrote a 20-page opinion that sought to link birth control and abortion to eugenics, the now-discredited movement to improve the human race through selective reproduction. The Indiana provision promotes “a state’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics,” Thomas wrote.

“Although the court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever,” he wrote. No other justice joined Thomas’ opinion.

Thomas and Ginsburg also engaged in a brief battle of dueling footnotes in which Thomas said Ginsburg’s dissent “makes little sense.” Ginsburg wrote that Thomas’ footnote “displays more heat than light,” including his calling a woman who has an abortion a mother. “A woman who exercises her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy is a not a ‘mother,’” she wrote.

One other noteworthy aspect of the court’s action Tuesday was the silence of liberal Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, who vote regularly to uphold abortion rights. By not joining their liberal colleagues in dissent, Breyer and Kagan helped Roberts in his desire to avoid, where possible, controversial outcomes that split the five conservatives and four liberals. The two also may have preserved their ability to negotiate with, if not influence, Roberts in other cases.

The court upheld the fetal remains provision under the least stringent standard of review that courts employ. The legislation only needed to be rationally related to the state’s interest in the proper disposal of the remains, the court said. Indiana met that burden, it said.

The court said it is leaving open court challenges to similar laws under a higher legal standard.

Both abortion rights supporters and opponents believe the court is more likely to favor all manner of abortion restrictions, now that two appointees of President Donald Trump — Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — have joined the court and Justice Anthony Kennedy has retired.