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Lester, Shannon named Big Sandy’s Outstanding Alumni

Gina Lester, center, director of respiratory care at Tug Valley Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospital, was the recipient of Big Sandy Community and Technical College’s Outstanding Alumni award on Friday, May 5 at the Mountain Arts Center. Gina Lester and William Keith Shannon were named as the recipients of Big Sandy Community and Technical College’s (BSCTC) Outstanding Alumni award during commencement ceremonies held on May 5-6 at the Mountain Arts Center (MAC). 

“Ms. Lester and Mr. Shannon have made worthy contributions to their profession and society and represented the core values of our institution by doing so,” said Dr. Alan Scheibmeir, interim president of BSCTC. “It is an honor to have our alumni be a part of a celebration such as graduation.” 

Lester, a registered respiratory therapist, is the director of respiratory care for Tug Valley Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) hospital.  She was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the respiratory therapy program at BSCTC (then Mayo Technical School) in 1998.  She didn’t stop there, having earned her Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT), Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist (RPFT), and Neonatal-Pediatric Specialist (RRT-NPS) credentials. 

In addition to serving as the director of respiratory care at Tug Valley ARH, Lester also works as director of education at the hospital.  Over the past three years, Lester has provided training for students in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Neonatal Resuscitation Provider (NRP).  This has helped students earn these industry-leading certifications before they graduate. 

William Keith Shannon, who could not attend commencement ceremonies, attended Prestonsburg Community College, now Big Sandy Community and Technical College, from 1973-1975.  He then attended the University of Kentucky, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law. He later returned to college earning a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Marshall University. 

He worked as manager of the WMMT radio station at Appalshop in Whitesburg and practiced law in Pikeville and Ashland for several years.  In the late 1980s, Shannon and his wife, Mitsuko, moved to South Carolina so she could complete her medical residency in child psychiatry. He practiced law in Charleston, South Carolina for several years before settling in Upstate South Carolina, near Charlotte, North Carolina.  For a few years, Shannon did legal research and writing from home while raising his two daughters.  He also launched a column, entitled “Stark Raving Dad” which was printed in the Charlotte Observer

Shannon has spent more than 18 years as an instructor of paralegal studies at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina.  In 2010, he earned the O’Herron Fellow Award for outstanding instruction.   

Shannon’s father, Lee Shannon, was the architect who designed the Pike Building and former Martin Student Center on the Prestonsburg campus.