Cullman County Probate Judge Leah Patterson Lust Named Wallace State’s 2011 Overall Outstanding Alumni of Year at 7th Annual Awards Ceremony

 Cullman County Probate Judge Leah Patterson Lust was recognized last Friday as the Wallace State 2011 Overall Outstanding Alumni of the Year award winner at the seventh annual Outstanding Alumni Awards Ceremony held at the Burrow Center Recital Hall and presented by the Wallace State Alumni Association and Future Foundation Board of Directors.

Lust, a 1992 graduate of Wallace State, has served as probate judge since 2006 after 10 years as the Director of Social Work at Cullman Regional Medical Center.

“Being named the Outstanding Alumni of the Year is one of the greatest honors of my life. I was flattered to even be mentioned and to win the top honor means more to me than I can put into words,” Lust said. “Wallace State played a very big role in my life. When I was 17, I was involved in a terrible car accident, which caused a severe spinal cord injury and forced me to use a wheelchair for mobility. After four months in the hospital I was able to return to school for my senior year at West Point. I then had the privilege of attending Wallace State, while still physically recovering from the accident. I was able to live at home with my parents, go to college and concentrate on my studies and fulfill all the physical therapy required.

“My freshman and sophomore years at Wallace State prepared me academically to be a successful student at the University of Alabama once I transferred. The great people at Wallace State and the college itself taught me things I have carried out throughout my entire professional life.”

Upon graduating from Wallace State in 1992 with an associate degree in history, Lust then obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Alabama in consecutive years beginning in 1994, graduating magna cum laude and finishing at the top of her class among her undergraduate peers.

After graduating from Alabama, Lust, a licensed social worker, accepted a position at a Tuscaloosa hospital before returning to Cullman County in 1997 and working at CRMC. Lust served as Director of Social Work until she was elected probate judge in November 2006.

Lust also dedicates her time to several professional and community organizations, including the Alabama Probate Judges Association, National Association of Social Workers, Pilot Club and the State of Alabama Independent Living Council among others.

Lust’s selection as the 2011 Outstanding Alumni of the Year follows last year’s winner Bill Walton, who serves as a team lead for U.S. Army Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Activity (USATA) at Redstone Arsenal. Walton was the emcee of this year’s event.

Additionally, for the first time, a pair of Wallace State students, Crystal Stewart and Robin McMillian, were recognized as the inaugural recipients of the Outstanding Promising Alumni award.

The Outstanding Promising Alumni award honors current students or recent graduates who have excelled academically, made a significant contribution to Wallace State through service or have shown promise in their career field.

Stewart, a dual enrollment student from Fairview High, graduated summa cum laude in May with an applied science degree from the registered nursing program. Stewart was a member of the Honors Scholar program, Phi Theta Kappa and won the Nightingale Award for excellence in nursing during her time at Wallace State and volunteers for United Way, Hospice and the American Red Cross.

Stewart works as a registered nurse at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham and plans to enroll at Jacksonville State to earn her bachelor and master degrees.

McMillian is currently in the medical assistant program at Wallace State. She has been on the Dean’s List the last two semesters and as an active member of the Wallace State medical assistant club, McMillan worked tirelessly on a blanket donation project for area nursing home residents.

Wallace State students earning a scholarship for the 2011-12 academic year were also recognized during the ceremony. Between Future Foundation and Alumni Association scholarships, 71 different students were recognized, including Bethany Eze who received the inaugural women’s scholarship established on behalf of Dr. Jenny Folsom.

During Friday’s ceremony, Lust was one of 11 Wallace State alumnus honored and nominated by their peers, faculty or community members to be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments after attending Wallace State.


Alumni recognized included:

Health Division

Adrienne Curry, class of 2004: Curry is the Outstanding Alumni winner for the health division. Curry is a 2004 nursing graduate and frequent ambassador for Wallace State, guiding friends and family to enroll at the college. While maintaining a job at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Curry is currently pursuing a doctorate in nursing at the University of Alabama after earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from Samford University. Before embarking on a nursing career, Curry served in the Air Force Reserves from 1993 to 2000, earning Airman of the Year awards on three occasions. Therefore, Curry’s main goal is to become Director of a Veteran’s Affairs Hospital Facility. During her days at Wallace State, Curry was a recipient of a handful of honors, including the Florence Nightingale Award, Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, Sigma Theta Tau National Nurses Honor Society and the President’s Medal at Samford.

Steve Gammon, class of 1996: Gammon earned an applied science degree from Wallace State upon graduation and is currently employed by Cullman Physical Medicine. Gammon was elected President of the Alabama Society of Medical Assistants in 2010-11 and is also an active member of the American Association of Medical Assistants and the Northeast Alabama Society of Medical Assistants. Gammon supports the Wallace State medical assistant program by serving as a clinical supervisor.

Dee Dee Hite, class of 1985: Hite began her fervent and impressive nursing career at Wallace State, graduating with an associate degree in practical nursing in 1985. Hite furthered her nursing education at UAHuntsville, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2001 and a master’s degree in 2002. She was also the first graduate of the Doctoral Nursing Practice program in 2009. Hite has served as an acute care nurse practitioner in general orthopedic surgery and sports medicine for more than eight years, with 15 previous years experience in emergency medicine. Hite is the co-founder of the Opportunity for Growth in nursing, a non-profit organization for establishing nursing scholarships in Alabama. She has also written and published many nursing profession journal articles and serving as a presenter at conferences. Hite is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in family nurse practitioner at UAHuntsville.

Jamey Hammock, class of 1996: Hammock earned both practical and registered nursing degrees from Wallace State, earning the practical nursing diploma in 1990 and the second in 1996. Hammock is currently the charge nurse in the Neuro ICU at UAB Hospital, a position he has held since 1999. He is an avid proponent of alcohol and drug prevention, consistently speaking to youth at high schools and churches regarding the problem.

Academic Division

Yvette Ferguson Keel, class of 1981: Keel is the 2001 Outstanding Alumni for the Academic Division. A magna cum laude graduate of Wallace State, Keel has served as an educator for more than 20 years. Keel graduated from Wallace State with an associate in science degree and furthered her academic career at the University of Montevallo, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1983. She then obtained her master’s and Doctorate of Education from Nova Southeastern University. Keel began her teaching career as a high school choral director at Bradwell Institute in Georgia before serving as an assistant middle school principal for the last 18 years. She has been named to Who’s Who in American Education, Executive and Professional Women and America’s Teachers. Keel is a leader in her professional organization, Alpha Delta Kappa, serving as VP for membership, sergeant at arms and corresponding secretary.

Karen Mitchell Rowell, class of 1978: Rowell is the guidance counselor at Holly Pond High School after beginning her college academic career at Wallace State, graduating with an associate in science degree in 1978. Rowell furthered her college credentials at Southern Benedictine College, earning a bachelor’s degree in English and physical education. She also holds master’s degrees in guidance and counseling from Jacksonville State and an educational leadership one from Alabama.

Tiffiny Hamlin, class of 1999: Hamlin is a graduate of Wallace State’s criminal justice and law enforcement program and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Liberty University in Tennessee, majoring in psychology. Hamlin currently serves a member of  the Knoxville, Tenn. Police Department’s Forensic Unity and is one of only two Certified Delta-Sphere/SceneVision operators, which uses a 3D laser scanner and software for forensic personnel to create a 3D virtual model of a crime scene. Hamlin has received multiple accolades for her work in the area of forensic response with missing and abducted children. She assists the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Department, teaching deceased identifications for the company Blackbird, which is a unit of retired military personnel who investigate, recover and identify persons in  Iraq and Afghanistan.

Steven Parker, student from 1989-90: Parker is an attorney in Cullman, focusing on family and probate law.

Mechelle Conley, class of 2003: Conley currently works in Atlanta as a full-time human resources staffing assistant after graduating from Wallace State with a degree in office systems and information technology.

Matthew Ambrose, class of 2009: Ambrose earned two degrees at Wallace State, obtaining a certificate in welding technology in 2007 and magna cum laude in 2009 with an associate’s in applied science.

For more information about the Wallace State Alumni Association , visit

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