When Tiffany Do and her family arrived in the United States from Vietnam, she barely spoke a word of English. Yet when she stepped onstage four years later at her Bryan Adams High School (BA) commencement, she took the podium as valedictorian of her 2011 senior class.
Tiffany started classes at Penn State University last week, and her classmate, Stephanie Ramirez, is settling into her dorm at The University of Texas in Austin. These students were the first recipients of a new scholarship, generously endowed by John Feray, BA ’85, honoring his former teacher, Mrs. Peggy Leeman.
Also last week, Mrs. Leeman entered her 35th year of teaching English at BA and the 57th year of her teaching career. Both Tiffany and Stephanie were in her advanced placement (AP) English classes.
According to Feray, “We intended to grant a single scholarship, as we will in future years.
The competition was so close, though, that we chose to award both, very deserving young women.” Feray added that they both exhibited great scholarship, had extra curricular involvement and overcame obstacles to succeed.
He also mentioned how gracious BA principal Susan Walker and counselor Marilyn Dunlap were in orchestrating the competition’s logistics.
As senior vice president, finance and strategy of Dollar General Corporation, Feray has spent his career in finance and accounting.
He explained that Dollar General is the largest discount retailer in North America in terms of locations, with more than 9,400 Dollar General Stores in 35 states, including more than 1,000 in Texas. There’s an easily detectable pride in his voice when Feray talks about Dollar General.
The BA alumnus earned a BBA in accounting at Sam Houston State University in 1989. He became a Texas certified public accountant in 1991.
For more than 10 years, he was with the Haggar Clothing Company for which he was instrumental in expanding the company’s presence in Canada and Mexico, along with closing licensing agreements with major brands.
Earlier, Feray was with one of the Big Eight accounting firms, Arthur Andersen, in both Houston and Dallas, and has been with Trammel Crow Interests.
Feray lives in Henderson, Tenn. with his wife of 20 years, Leslie Feray. The couple has two children: Jack, 11, who is in the fifth grade, and 13-year-old Libby, who is in the eighth grade.
The dedicated alumnus, who played football for the Cougars and was involved in Key Club, said he created the endowment in Mrs. Leeman’s name, “To recognize the long-standing commitment that she has to further education and development of students to reach their potential.”
“She was an absolute inspiration to me, and I know I am a better person for having had her as my teacher. She is a blessing to all that she has an opportunity to reach!”
Peggy Leeman completed a B.S. in English and business at Texas A&M University in Commerce, where she went on to earn a masters degree in education. She did post-graduate studies at Texas Women’s University, The University of Texas in Austin, San Diego University and SMU.
Mrs. Leeman said that she skipped two grades in public school, entered college at an early age and completed her first degree in less than three years.
As a very young adult, she began her career of teaching at Ozona High School in West Texas for four years before joining the faculty of Robert T. Hill Junior High (Hill). According to former Hill student Milton Justice, “Mrs. Leeman combined knowledge with passion and charisma, along with a sense of humor that helped stimulate students’ creativity.”
The BA ’64 alumnus, an Academy Award winning writer, director, producer and teacher, added, “Peggy Leeman was my first great teacher.
In the eighth grade, she had a major influence on my life and career.” He said he learned through her that one of the gifts of a great teacher is partnering with students, not just lecturing.
“Every concept I use in developing movie scripts and analyzing great playwrights was included in my eighth grade papers, some of which I came across recently. Mrs. Leeman opened up the minds of 14-year-olds. We learned how to think at a very early age.”
Already an accomplished teacher, Peggy Leeman joined the BA faculty in 1976 teaching Honors English.
She is lead instructor at the AP Summer Institute, English department chair of the Yavneh Academy of Dallas, and is a College Board consultant. She has been recognized with many awards, including the Southwest Regional Award for AP English, the O’Donnell AP Literature Teacher of the Year and the Perot, and the Collins and Cabell Teacher of Excellence Awards from Dallas ISD, to name only a few.
Feray said he was blessed to have wonderful teachers and a phenomenal education in the DISD, and especially at BA.
“After all these years have passed, I still appreciate the high quality of the education I had, and especially with Mrs. Leeman,” he added.
Peggy Leeman said about John Feray: “He is a gentleman, a gentle man and a scholar.”
Two college freshmen are reaping the benefit of these two professionals’ mutual appreciation.
White Rock Lake Weekly raises our quills to Mrs. Peggy Leeman for her dedication, our “Cliff’s Notes” to congratulate Stephanie and Tiffany for a job well done, and to John Feray for his generosity, and for helping us get more bang for our buck!