Alumni, Faculty to be recognized at Rayburn Hall of Honor, April 1

Alumni, Faculty to be recognized at Rayburn Hall of Honor, April 1
Posted on 03/27/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Alumni, Faculty to be recognized at Rayburn Hall of Honor, April 1

Rayburn Alumni Hall of HonorPictured: Brian Brazil, Class of 1983; Jimmy Johnson, Class of 1976; Keith Oden, Class of 1974; Larry Spasic, Class of 1970; and former faculty members Steve Christopherson, Class of 1977 (1981-1997) and Kristi Higginbotham (1975-1992).

Four Sam Rayburn High School alumni and two former faculty members are among six individuals who will be inducted into the Texans Hall of Honor, Saturday, April 1, at 5 p.m. 

Alumni selected for the induction are Brian Brazil, Class of 1983; Jimmy Johnson, Class of 1976; D. Keith Oden, Class of 1974; and Larry Spasic, Class of 1970.

Joining the hall of honor for distinguished faculty members are Steve Christopherson, Class of 1977 and faculty member from 1981-1997 and Kristi Higginbotham, faculty member from 1975-1992.

The annual event celebrates the achievements of Rayburn graduates and faculty members who have made a significant impact in the lives of many.

A ceremony to honor the new inductees has been set for Saturday, April 1, at 5 p.m. in the Rayburn auditorium. A reception will follow in the cafeteria. The event is open to the public.

Inductees are nominated by a community member and selected each fall by a committee of faculty and staff members at the school.

Brian Brazil, Class of 1983

Brian Brazil’s roots run deep in Pasadena. He attended Mae Smythe, Park View and graduated with the Rayburn Class of 1983. At Rayburn, he lettered in football, basketball and track, where he was named several years on the all-district team. He was elected to various leadership positions including class president and student body president.

Brazil continued his football career through college at Texas Christian University, where he flexed his talents on the gridiron as a starting player his last 33 games, earning consensus All-Southwest Conference Honors, the Ralph Lowe Sportsmanship Award and the Abe Martin Leadership Award.

After Brazil graduated from TCU in 1987, he became a free agent for the Houston Oilers. This dream come true ended shortly after allowing him to start a coaching career at Shepton High School in Plano. He also coached football at RL Turner High School in Carrollton and Lewisville High School, where his team achieved state championship glory in 1993 and 1996.

In 1999, Coach Brazil became the first head coach for the football team at Hebron High School. Under his leadership, the team made it to the playoffs for the first time in 2002, and won the Class 4A Division II State Championship in 2005, with a record-breaking 16-0 streak. In 2006, Hebron moved to the top classification and since then has won the district championship three times. Coach Brazil has earned the title of District Coach of the Year six times and State Coach of the Year in 2005. In 2014, he received the Tom Landry Award from the Texas High School Coaches Association Board of Directors in recognition of service and contributions to high school coaching.

From 2007 to 2010, Coach Brazil served on the Texas High School Coaches Association Board of Directors and was selected as president-elect of the Texas High School Coaches Association in 2010. In 2008, Brian was awarded by the TCU College of Education the Excellence in Education Award.  He is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Coaches Outreach and Church as well as his church Prestonwood Baptist. 

Jimmy Johnson / Class of 1976

A well-rounded athlete at Sam Rayburn High, Johnson’s skills on the baseball diamond and football field captured the attention of both the Houston Astros and Texas Longhorns. He decided to take his talents to the Texas Longhorns, where he played for legendary coach Darrel Royal and later helped Earl Campbell win the Heisman trophy in 1977.

Summer of 1973, Johnson had a hand in helping Pasadena’s all-star team make it to the Colt World Series title in Lafayette, Indiana. As a sophomore the following fall, Johnson began a career that earned him three varsity letters in football and baseball and two more in track. He was named to the All-Greater Houston team in baseball during his junior and senior years. After senior year, the Houston Astros drafted him in the 16th round.

After earning second team all-district honors his junior year, he blossomed on the gridiron as a senior, earning a place on the All-Greater Houston squad and honors as the most outstanding back in District 23-4A.

He decided to continue playing football at the University of Texas, where he, in his first game of the year Johnson ran for 69 yards against Boston College. That total yardage ranks 5th on UT’s list of true freshmen first game stats as of 2016, falling short of only Jamaal Charles, Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

D. Keith Oden / Class of 1974

Oden attended Bailey, Southmore Intermediate and graduated from Rayburn with the Class of 1974. After completing his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin, Oden began his career as a management consultant with the then-public accounting firm Deloitte, Haskins and Sells in 1979. In 1981, he joined Century Development Corporation, one of the most active real estate firms in the Southwest.

Oden is the co-founder of S&P 400 Company Camden Property Trust's predecessor companies, which began operations in 1982 and continues to serve as president and trust manager since taking the company public in 1993. Headquartered in Houston, Camden owns 159 properties across the U.S. and was recently named by FORTUNE® Magazine for the ninth consecutive year as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America, ranking No. 9.

For thirty years, Oden had dedicated years to creating one of the best multi-family companies in the industry. Under his leadership, Camden successfully completed the mergers of three public real estate companies: Paragon, Oasis Residential, and Summit Properties in 1997, 1998 and 2005. His work was instrumental to the assimilation of these three companies into Camden’s culture.

Oden is a member of the Executive Council of the Center for Real Estate Finance at the University of Texas, Austin and serves as advisor, guest lecturer and panelist for the faculty and students pursuing their MBAs in real estate finance. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), a licensed real estate broker in the State of Texas and serves on the Board of the Greater Houston Community Foundation.  Oden recently served as a vice-chairman of the Houston Super Bowl host committee, which was responsible for planning and executing the planning for Super Bowl LI.

Larry Spasic / Class of 1970

Spasic was presented the Texas History Teacher of the Year award by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 1988.  He was the recipient of an Honorary Life Membership by the National Congress of Parents and Teachers through the Texas PTA in addition to being commended by the Board of Trustees of the Pasadena Independent School District for achievements as outstanding Texas History Teacher.

Spasic joined the San Jacinto Museum staff as curator of education in 1989, after teaching Texas history for 10 years in the public school system.  After joining the museum, he worked with a team of historians to edit the script of Texas Forever and he was a liaison to the W.S. Bellows Construction Company, which built the Jesse H. Jones Theatre for Texas Studies.

In 1993, Spasic accepted a position to serve as assistant director at the San Jacinto Museum, where he handles museum operations.

Spasic served as executive director at San Jacinto College, in 2000, and led the Herzstein cataloging staff to complete the artifact, library and archive collections of the museum as project manager.

Spasic later served as chief operations officer in charge of day-to-day operations of the museum, where he continues to serve in that position.

In 2004, the San Jacinto Museum of History by the Board of Trustees unanimously appointed Spasic to serve to the position of interim president and eventually.

Steve Christopherson, MS, LPC, NCC/ Class of 1977 / Faculty 1981-1997

Steve Christopherson attended Fisher, Park View and San Jacinto Intermediates and graduated from Rayburn in 1977. After graduation, he attended San Jacinto College, where he was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and served as the student government vice president, while also working full-time as a disc jockey at KFMK radio, a Christian music station. 

Christopherson transferred to the University of Houston-Clear Lake and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Mathematics.

In 1981, he returned to his alma mater, where he taught math for 16 years. While he loved teaching, he had a passion for counseling, pursuing a career at San Jacinto Intermediate as a school counselor. During that time, he became a licensed professional counselor and opened a part-time practice in Pasadena.  His work was noticed at the state level, as he was appointed to the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors in 2013 and currently service s as the vice chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Rules and Complaints committees. 

Christopherson retired after 30 years with Pasadena ISD and currently owns and operates ProAct Counseling with offices in Pasadena, Baytown and Lake Houston.

Kristi Higginbotham / Faculty 1975-1992

Kristi Higginbotham began her teaching career at Beverly Hills Intermediate. When an opportunity to teach at Sam Rayburn opened, she captured it and stayed there for seventeen years. 

It wasn’t long before she began to incorporate innovative ideas into learning.  While teaching science, she found many ways to provide a memorable learning experience for students, through hands-on activities, including building and launching rockets.

Higginbotham taught geology, where she discovered her greatest passion and achievements as a teacher. She founded a Rock Hounds Club and arranged to take her classes on field trips to Enchanted Rock and other state parks.  One year, she took a group of seniors to Hawaii, where she bravely drove them through mountainous roads in search of waterfalls and lava flows. 

She was instrumental in creating the school’s first lapidary class, which included rock tumblers and saws, centrifuges and kilns, original designs and wax molds.  In 1992, Higginbotham began teaching at San Jacinto College Central Campus where she was well known for creating a fun environment for students to learn.