You might have seen Rick Rigsby around town. Perhaps at the grocery? Or, perhaps at a country music concert? Or maybe on social media? In a crowd he seems like just any other fellow, but his life story is one that separates him from the others.
Rick was born in San Francisco, the son of a cook-father who’d dropped out of school in the third grade to work on the family farm. Now, some might have thought Rick would have followed in his father’s footsteps. He did, in a way. Despite his father’s lack of formal education, his wisdom was a priceless gift for Rick growing up. It “influenced Rick to combine knowledge and wisdom to make an impact.”
He instilled in the boy to live life to the fullest with life lessons:
- Not to judge
- Show up early
- Be kind
- Make sure that you do good
- Do something the right way
- Make an impact
And, boy, did Rick take this advice to heart. After earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from CSU-Chico in 1978 and a master’s degree in public communication, he eventually received his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. In the years to come, more degrees would be achieved.
In addition to pursuing his education, he had a career as a TV reporter/anchor and a professor that led him to Texas A&M, starting out as an assistant professor teaching speech communications. Not only did he earn the Outstanding Teaching Award from A&M’s College of Liberal Arts, he also served as character coach and chaplain for the Aggies football team and received the Outstanding Faculty diversity award from the executive VP and provost of A&M.
Combining his work in communication and teaching, Rick had found his voice with his father’s wisdom inspiring him. In addition to writing a book, “Lessons From A Third Grade Dropout,” he became a motivational speaker with his talks going viral.
But Rick’s life was not all forward-moving. There was a major setback. It involved his wife Trina Williams, whom he’d met in college. He described her in his April 22, 2017, commencement speech: “I decide in the middle of dancing with her (at a school dance) that I would ask her for her phone number; Trina was the only woman in college who gave me her real phone number.” They married in 1978 and life was bright. While he was working at the TV station, she was a labor and delivery nurse. They had two sons, Andrew and Jeremiah. His
But then in 1990, Trina was diagnosed with breast cancer and succumbed to it several years later.
Devastated by her death, Rick was depressed for two years. But he recalled what his father told him as he stood by him at her casket: “Son, just stand.” The simple words had a powerful message for Rick. For all the motivation he had provided others, he “realized that his heart needed to be broken in order to help the broken-hearted.”
With that understanding, he pulled out of his depression, met his second wife, Janet Butcher, had two children and moved to Dallas, all the while expanding his work to include corporations, service organizations, schools and professional sports throughout the world.
Another highlight of the celebration will be Kellye and Jeff Price’s receiving the Coach Avery Johnson Youth Impact Award and the Keith Davis U-Turn Award being presented to former student mentor Uduak Nkanga.
As part of the easing out of the pandemic world of fundraising, the event will be hybrid, with guests opting for a virtual experience to have “a beautiful Party Box for at-home viewing parties starting at 7 p.m., and Gold Level and above guests being able to attend virtually, or in-person, at a Hilton Anatole “Pod Party” to “watch the virtual event in the privacy of their own space, while enjoying beverages and hors d’oeuvres” from 6 to 8 p.m.
For those who just want to hear Rick’s presentation for inspiration without the perks, there is a free option.
Honorary Co-Chairs Sarah and Thad Smith are on board for the fundraiser with the hope of raising a record-breaking $460,000 to support Just Say YES’ mission to “grow value and vision in youth by combating isolation and imparting hope.”
* Photo courtesy of Just Say YES