La Porte High School graduates Terri Cook and Debbie Wade, along with longtime track and field coach Joel Fagan have been recognized as 2022 La Porte ISD Distinguished Alumni; Local historian Ann Malone and nonprofit founder Rachel Cotton have been honored as the district’s 2022 Citizens of the Year.
The honorees were inducted during a Sept. 9 luncheon at the La Porte ISD Bulldog Centre.
Honorees are nominated at large and chosen by a committee of community and district volunteers, who submit their selections to the Board of Trustees for approval. Distinguished alumni and citizens have typically excelled professionally and served the communities in which they live. Following are brief biographies of the 2022 honorees:
La Porte resident Rachel Cotton grew up more than 1,500 miles from here in Los Angeles. She married a La Porte native, and the couple decided to put down roots right here. LA’s loss has been a huge gain – a true blessing – for our small city by the bay.
Rachel’s family started a nonprofit organization in 2012 called Agape Centric, which translates to centered around God's unconditional love for mankind. Though it is headquartered in Friendswood, La Porte residents have been recipients of numerous charitable projects over the years. Just recently, Rachel spearheaded Agape Centric’s annual back-to-school fair for La Porte ISD families at which the group passed out free school supplies. They have additionally given away Thanksgiving turkeys and all the trimmings to our local families in need and spread similar cheer for Christmas.
Rachel additionally has a passion for mentoring junior high girls to instill in them the value of their self-worth and potential. Her desire to serve also spawned her membership on the La Porte Economic Development Board. What it all comes down to is that Rachel Cotton and her family chose to live in and bless La Porte, and our city is blessed indeed.
Ann Malone has been an instrumental force in preserving the area's history, including that of La Porte ISD. She has co-authored two pictorial history books of La Porte: Around LaPorte (2011) and Sylvan Beach and the Pavilions (2012).
In 2006, she served as a board member and president (off and on over the years) of the La Porte-Bay Area Heritage Society. She organized several fundraising events, resulting in raising thousands of dollars for the upkeep of the Depot Museum, and restoring the Caboose and original library near the high school. The museum contains countless photos of school buildings no longer in existence, students who attended school decades ago, and teachers who served in the past.
Malone has spent years collecting artifacts and photos of our area and school district’s history. She has also spent countless hours organizing and documenting those items. And she has always been willing to give up her time and anyone wishing to explore the contents of the Depot Museum. Thanks to Mary Ann Uloth Malone, La Porte has a well-preserved history that will be accessible for generations to come.
Terri Gillespie Cook
Since the day she moved to La Porte as a high school freshman, Terri Gillespie Cook has continued making a difference here.
Her classmates knew her as the Chatos president, National Honor Society member and the person who was voted Most Beautiful and Best Personality. Terri’s beloved La Porte community has since known her as La Porte ISD’s award-winning community and media liaison in her position as district communications director, and as someone who gives back to the district and city in every way possible.
Terri has served on the Citizens Advisory Council to La Porte Industry, the La Porte-Bayshore Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and the La Porte Neighborhood Centers Board, to name a few. She has chaired the Sylvan Beach Scholarship Pageant Contestant Breakfast since 2014 and is on the New Teacher Luncheon Committee. Terri has and continues to be involved in community initiatives ... so much so that the Rotary Club honored her with its Service Above Self Award. She was also named as the Chamber’s Volunteer of the Year in 2017. No matter how daunting the task, if it makes La Porte a better place, Terri will take it on. And she will do it with a smile.
Joel Fagan compiled an impressive resume after establishing La Porte High School’s girls cross country program in 1987. What he has done since his retirement is equally extraordinary.
Under his 24 years of leadership, many Lady Bulldogs runners exceeded their own expectations by setting personal and school distance running records while also excelling in the classroom. His teams won 18 district championships, qualified for Regionals 20 times, and qualified to run at state 10 times. Many of Joel’s students attended colleges and universities with cross country scholarships, and they undoubtedly were encouraged along the way with Joel’s positive outlook and regular practice of setting goals.
While coaching at La Porte High School, Joel also served as Track Coordinator for the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation Youth Track & Field Program, and he helped coordinate the La Porte Invitational in 2005. For the successes of his many students, Joel was inducted into the Gulf Coast Scholastic Track & Field Hall of Honor Class of 2019. Though he eventually passed the cross country baton some years ago at La Porte High School, Joel has remained a fixture at the tracks and at cross country events, where he volunteers to help young people achieve their aspirations. Joel Fagan has planted plenty of seeds, and it is no wonder the Lady Bulldogs Cross Country Team continues to be regarded highly across the state.
Debbie Phillips Wade
Debbie Phillips Wade is a 1979 honors graduate of La Porte High School, but her involvement in this district spans more than 50 years—many of them as a volunteer. The list of such efforts is extensive.
Debbie has been a La Porte Education Foundation director since 2009 and is currently the Grants Committee/Dollar Patrol Chair. She also is known for donning various costumes such as Ms. Wadermelon or the Queen of Hearts to be a volunteer reader at our elementary schools several times a year. She will take time from her family to come in the evenings for Literacy Nights. Her love for literacy led Debbie to establish the area's first Little Free Library in her yard to ensure free books for neighborhood kids. Since 2014, Debbie has additionally supplied teachers and staff with a selection of thousands of free books each year at the district’s annual Employee Health Fair.
As an ardent supporter of La Porte ISD, Debbie is often sought out to serve on district committees. Some of those committees include the 100th Anniversary, Long-Range Planning, Facilities Planning, and Performance Objectives. Be it the countless amount of time that she spends helping to make La Porte a better place, or her own resources such as her family’s Make a Difference Scholarships and gift baskets for various district events, Debbie Phillips Wade gives and gives to make the world –and La Porte ISD—a better place.