Hill College


Boots & suits gala raises over $67,000 for hill college scholarships, fire science program and sports center upgrades and recognizes the 2017 pillars of the community


The 12th annual Hill College Boots & Suits Gala was held March 24 at the Cleburne Conference Center and raised over $67,000 to benefit Hill College district-wide scholarships for students, Bob Bullock Sports Center facility upgrades and the Fire Protection Technology program.

Over 300 guests from the Hill College service area were in attendance and enjoyed a dinner catered by Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, live and silent auctions were held, and entertainment was provided by the Texas bluegrass band, The Sieker Band. The men’s and women’s basketball teams and the volleyball team along with their coaches served dinner, and the fire science students provided valet parking and displayed a fire truck from their program.

The live auction items included an HS500 UTV utility side-by-side donated by FunTown RV, Cleburne Railroaders donated a 12-guest suite package of tickets, Peter Walsh donated Cowboys tickets, Clay Yadon gave a Reel Deal Striper Fishing Guided package for Lake Whitney, Peter and Linda Huhlman donated at four-day, three-night stay in Angel Fire, N.M., and named scholarships were also auctioned.

Thank you to the generous table sponsors which included; Hill College President's Council, Hill College Development Foundation, Lyness Construction, City of Burleson, First Financial Bank, United Cooperative Services, Texas Heritage Museum, Trane, Cleburne Railroaders, FunTown RV, City of Hillsboro, Hill College Board of Regents, Hillsboro ISD, Texas Health Huguley, The Room of Wisdom, Grandview Bank, Matthews Quarter Horses, and Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins & Mott.

The Silver Buckle Partner sponsors included Liberty Hotel, Citizen's State Bank, Mustang Foundation and Great Western Dining. Bronze Buckle Partner sponsors included Neal Logan - Edward Jones, Citizen's National Bank of Texas, Pinnacle Bank, Texas Health Harris Methodist – Cleburne, P&P Plumbing, Texas Tech and Follett HEG Bookstore. 

The 2017 Pillar of the Community awards were presented to Lynn Gray of Hillsboro, the Marti Foundation of Cleburne and Ronnie Johnson of Burleson. The Pillar of the Community awards recognize individuals and organizations who have helped build and sustain higher education efforts in the Hill College district, and supported the growth of the College. 

Ronnie Johnson grew up in Olney, Texas, where he graduated from high school. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Midwestern State University, a master’s degree of educational administration at Tarleton State University, and superintendent certification at Texas Women’s University.

Ronnie is no stranger to Burleson or to community service. He has lived in Burleson for 42 years and has served on the Burleson Independent School District (BISD) board for 20 years. He has also worked for the BISD for 15 years as a coach, teacher, administrator, and coached Amateur Athletic Union girls basketball team. He is a 40-year member of First Christian Church of Burleson, served on the Johnson County School Board for one year and is a charter member of the Burleson Opportunity Fund Board.

In 2012, he was elected to the Burleson City Council. “I ran for council because I want to serve the citizens of Burleson by keeping the city moving forward,” Johnson said. “I want Burleson to be a city that people like to live in and that young families want to move to. I want it to become a city where small and large businesses develop and help our tax base and create jobs.” As a city councilman and citizen of Burleson, Ronnie is most interested in the Burleson Opportunity Fund, economic development and the safety of citizens in Burleson. In addition to his work with the city of Burleson and the BISD, Ronnie was the owner of Dairy Twin, a Wilshire Blvd. fixture, for 26 years.

Lynn Gray, a native of central Texas, has spent his life serving the Hill County community. Born in Waco, Texas, he graduated from Abbott High School before earning his associate of arts degree at Hill College where he served as a member of the Student Congress, president of Phi Theta Kappa, and met Carolyn Pool, whom he married in 1967.

Gray continued his education at the University of Texas at Austin, where he joined Alpha Kappa Psi service fraternity, and earned his bachelor’s degree of business of administration in personnel management. In 1968, he joined his father in their family business at Independent Oil Dixie LP Gas and began his service in the Texas Army National Guard, which he continued until 1974. When asked to speak about his accomplishments, Lynn speaks mainly of the work he has done for others. As a 48-year member of both the First United Methodist Church in Hillsboro and the Hillsboro Lions Club, he has served the community through his involvement with the City of Hillsboro’s park board, business development board and cemetery association board, the Hill College Board of Regents and the Hill County Agriculture Youth, Inc., as a founding member. Gray has also served as president of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Propane Gas Association, the Hillsboro Athletic Booster Club, and the Hill College Development Foundation board, since its inception in 1990. He has also served for 30 years on the City of Hillsboro’s planning and zoning commission.

Preceding the Hill College Pillar of the Community Award, Gray has been the recipient of the Future Farmers of America’s Honorary Chapter Farmer Degree and Honorary Lone Star Farmer Degree, the Texas Propane Gas Association’s President’s Citation, the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce President’s Award, and the Hillsboro Jaycees’ Distinguished Service Award. He has been involved with the Kairos Prison Ministry since 2009 at the Boyd Unit in Teague, Texas. Of all his charitable, volunteer and philanthropic work, Gray describes his activity with the prison ministry as “the most rewarding thing I have ever done.”

The Marti Foundation, founded by the late Jo and George Marti, put Radio Station KCLE on the air in 1947. Later, Marti Electronics, Inc., opened and eventually developed a tuition reimbursement plan for its employees and their children.

This led to the idea of an organization that would award scholarships to students from Johnson County, particularly those without any connection to the two businesses. The Marti Foundation was established in 1988 and provided grants to public charities. By 1991, the Foundation awarded scholarship grants to students.

The Foundation currently assists over 290 students with scholarship. In 2015, the Foundation’s gave a grant to Hill College to fund scholarships for students from Johnson County. Hill College selects those students and administers the grant. Many of the scholarships and awards going to dual credit students at over 60 different high schools. The Pillar of the Community award was accepted by Michelle Marti on behalf of the Marti Foundation.