distinguished alumni graphic 2019

Hardin County Schools honored five graduates with Distinguished Alumni awards at a luncheon on Thursday, September 5, 2019 at the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center.

Here are this year’s honorees:


Dr. Patricia Ralston

Dr. Patricia A. S. Ralston (West Hardin High School, Class of 1975) is Professor and Chair of the Engineering Fundamentals Department at the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville.  She is also has an associate appointment in the Chemical Engineering Department.  As Chair of Engineering Fundamentals, she has focused on developing faculty teaching excellence through the development, evaluation and adoption of innovative teaching methods.

She teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in chemical engineering and engineering fundamentals, including thermodynamics, material and energy balances, transport phenomena, process control, engineering analysis I,II, III and differential equations, numerical methods, linear algebra and introduction to engineering. Currently, her primary teaching objective is work with colleagues to pioneer best uses of web-based technologies to achieve excellence in teaching and student learning.

Dr. Ralston has done research and published in the discipline-specific areas of process modeling, simulation, and control, but her recent interests center on engineering educational research. Specifically, she has studied the effective use of Tablet PCs in engineering education, the incorporation of critical thinking in undergraduate engineering education, and retention of engineering students. Currently, she is working collaboratively to develop interdisciplinary research avenues investigating learning and motivation with goal that results will inform the development and empirical assessment of interventions to promote retention and success in engineering.

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Louisville in 1979 and her Master of Engineering degree one year later.  Three years later, she had completed her doctoral work in chemical engineering.


Dr. Amanda Ramer-Tait

Dr. Amanda Ramer-Tait (Central Hardin High School, Class of 1996) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She has built an internationally recognized research program that focuses on the microbes living in the human digestive tract known as gut microbiota. Dr. Ramer-Tait and her team have discovered that certain types of dietary fibers alter the microbiota (prebiotics) and improve glucose metabolism and insulin responsiveness.  

Dr. Ramer-Tait’s research and collaborations with other scientists have been supported by more than $8 million in grants from various foundations and agencies like the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the United State Department of Agriculture.  Their discoveries have been described in more than 60 peer-reviewed journals.  Dr. Ramer-Tait has presented at 16 national and international seminars and symposiums.  

She co-directs the Complex Biosystems PhD program at UNL and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on immunology and foods and nutraceuticals. 

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Western Kentucky University and her doctorate in Immunology from Iowa State University. She credits her experience in raising crops and cattle on her family’s Cecilia, Kentucky farm for her interest in health and disease.  It also instilled a passion for food production.  


Walter Roark

Walter Roark (East Hardin High School, Class of 1981) is a MDA TEAMS Quality and Mission Assurance Contract Technical Lead for a.i. solutions, a business that offer products and engineering services to enable space missions based in Lanham, Maryland. 

He has 33 years of experience supporting the Missile Defense Agency, the United States Army, the United States Air Force and various NASA programs.  While working with NASA he served as a mechanical engineer and built science experiments that were a part of several Space Shuttle missions. 

After completing his undergraduate degree, Mr. Roark was an aerospace and wind tunnel analysis engineer for jet and rocket engine tests, a ground test hardware engineer and space based sensor analysis engineer for Sverdrup Technology and worked out of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. 

He has also served an engineer in various positions for MEVATEC Corporation (also at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center) and an engineer and project manager for BAE Systems.  In his current role at a.i. solutions, Mr. Roark provides leadership for a 50-plus member unit supporting the Quality and Mission Assurance Contract.

Mr. Roark earned the “Silver Snoopy Award” for his work with NASA.  The award symbolizes the intent and spirit of Space Flight Awareness. 

He earned a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1985 and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1991.  He is a member of the Pi Tau Sigma and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Societies.


Ronald Samuels

Ronald Samuels (Vine Grove High School, Class of 1959) started as a custodian for an oil and gas information company and worked his way up to the president’s office.

He began working for Dwight’s Oil and Gas Reports while in college from 1959 to 1962.  While there, the company sold some divisions and after a three year career working for Southwestern Investment Company in Amarillo, he returned to Dwight's  ?in 1965 and never worked in any other career field.  

He was one of three employees at Dwight’s when he returned to the company in 1965. The ownership of Dwight’s has changed hands many times – from ?DeGolyer McNaughton to Dwight's Energy Data to BP Oil to SoftSearch, to Petroleum Information to Information Handling Service (IHS).  He ended his career managing hundreds of employees and gained extensive experience in data development, sales, marketing and support organizations. 

Mr. Samuels was retained by IHS after his retirement in 2005 as a consultant because of his expertise in management of computer information and software in the data gathering industry.

His passion for golf led him to create and manage a golf scramble for 14 years that benefited the Autism Treatment Center of Dallas.  He has also helped coach a high school fishing team.

He moved to Amarillo, Texas the same year he graduated from high school and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from what is now West Texas A&M University by way of Amarillo College.  ?He has lived in Collin County, Texas since 1970 where, in retirement, he has served on several boards and committees? ?including several terms on the Fairview, Texas City Council.


Dr. T. Milton Skeeters

Dr. T. Milton Skeeters, (Vine Grove High School, Class of 1961), retired in 2013 as an active dentist.

He was in private practice in Vine Grove (KY), Radcliff (KY) and High Point, North Carolina for more than twenty years.  He also spent 22 years in the United States Army Reserves.  He retired in 2001 as a Lieutenant Colonel after a career that included his action in Operation Desert Storm. 

He was a professor at the University Of Kentucky College Of Dentistry from 1980 to 1999.  He provided instruction for more than 1,000 dentists there.  He retired with more than 40 years in private and public dentistry experience.  He was a member of the national dental honor society Omicron Kappa Upsilon.  Dr. Skeeters was also president and board member for the Kentucky Academy of General Dentistry. 

He was admitted to the UK College of Dentistry after his third year of undergraduate studies and earned his DMD degree from there in 1968. 

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