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KISD Distinguished Alumni Panel 2019
By: Todd Martin

In a powerful interface of past, present and future, five accomplished Killeen ISD graduates mingled Thursday with current students in a swirl of sweet memory and hopeful future.
Five professionals – a business owner, two university professors and two U.S. Navy officers – all nominated KISD Distinguished Alumni, participated in a panel discussion with a group of Killeen High School International Baccalaureate students.
Three of the five alumni also took part in a building tour, with IB sophomores serving as tour guides.
The tour and panel discussion prefaced the formal Distinguished Alumni ceremony later in the evening at Central Texas College that included scholarship presentations for 53 graduating seniors.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni include Robert Bass, Dr. Rex Hanger, Dr. Truell Hyde II, Capt. Erik Pittman and Jason Pittman.
  • Robert Bass, operator of R.K. Bass Electric, Inc. graduated from KHS in 1976.
  • Dr. Rex Hanger, a graduate of Ellison High School’s first class in 1979, teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the fields of geology and paleontology.
  • Dr. Truell Hyde, II, a 1974 Killeen High School graduate, is Director of the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research at Baylor University.
  • Capt. Erik Pittman, a National Merit Scholar and Killeen High School valedictorian of the Class of 1991, is Deputy Director of Command, Control, Communications and Cyber at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
  • Jason Pittman, a 1993 Killeen High School graduate, is a U.S. Navy Deputy Commodore of Submarine Squadron Six in Norfolk, Va., where he is responsible for 11 fast-attack submarines.
During the tour, Bass recognized the area where he took courses in electrical trades. Jason Pittman surprised KHS band director Spencer Gregg. The pair attended University of Texas together and played in the band.
The group also visited the library, science wing, auditorium, cafeteria, Junior ROTC building and various hallways and looked over building plans for upcoming renovations.
Seated as a panel in the IB classroom, each graduate introduced himself, gave synopses of their time in high school leading into professional careers and ended by answering student questions.
Bass said he went to work for a contractor immediately after high school and he and his wife started their electrical business 34 years ago. That company has grown to employ 120 people and includes an apprentice program. The field, he said, has advanced to include advanced 3D digital graphics.
Hanger grew up in a military family and attended Killeen High School before moving to Ellison High School as part of the school’s first graduating class in 1979.
It was in fields around his family’s house in Killeen where he first picked up a rock that looked like a shell and ignited a fascination with geology. He went on to Texas A&M, University of California Berkeley and the Smithsonian Institute before landing in Wisconsin.
Now, Hanger said, he teaches and takes university students all over the world to study geology, including to Central Texas.
Hyde, a Baylor University professor in astrophysics, said he also teaches and interacts with colleagues all over the world. He pointed out that there are physics experts throughout the business and medical professions.
Erik Pittman, said he figured he would study chemistry, but found out in a summer program that he hated the field and instead turned to nuclear engineering at Texas A&M, where the U.S. Navy recruited him into its submarine program.
His younger brother, Jason Pittman, also wound up in the Navy, through a much different route.
He went to University of Texas, where he played in the marching band and took part in ROTC. Though he planned to be a high school band director, he ended up serving on a Naval submarine and is now a deputy commodore.
“It’s OK to have no idea where you are going,” the younger Pittman told the high school students leading into his experience from band to a military submarine. He explained that his military experience led to meeting his wife, a satisfying career and teaching junior officers.
“Training people to do things they never thought they could do,” he said, summed up much of his profession.
“It was cool to get to know people who walked these halls before us and who are successful now,” said KHS sophomore Edina Darnell. “It was inspiring because they were us.”
Not knowing what is coming next is something the sophomore said she could relate to. “You don’t have to know and you can still be successful.”