Longtime Chanute residents Mike and Anita De La Torre and family members have been selected as the recipients of Neosho County Community College’s prestigious Panther Heritage Family Foundation Award.
The award has been bestowed annually since 2011 to a family that has shown major support to the college through multiple means, and helped to grow the Heritage Family Foundation. Criteria include having at least three family members who have attended and/or graduated from NCCC, which includes extended family.
For the De La Torres, Mike graduated in 1969, his son Jeff and daughter-in-law Angela attended in the early 90s, and grandson Kaleb attended from 2016-18. Currently in his 21st-year as Chanute High School girls tennis coach, Mike and future wife Anita first crossed paths while freshmen at NCCC in 1967.
Oddly enough, the two never had a class together and did not begin dating until 1968, while they were both members of NCCC’s student senate. Future husband and wife Jeff and Angie also met while attending NCCC.
Mike joked that he caught Anita’s attention via his many trips to the concessions stand for Dr Pepper, where she was a student-worker. The two will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in May.
Mike said his primary objective upon graduating from high school was to ultimately obtain a college degree.
“I couldn’t afford to go directly to a four-year school, and Neosho County gave me the opportunity to do that,” he said, adding that he greatly benefited from small scholarships, low tuition fees, and the ability to remain at home. “Everything led up to where Neosho County was just perfect for me. I made a lot of lifelong friends while I was a student there, including faculty.”
Mike noted that he was a member of the first graduating class on the new campus.
He was also the first student senate president on the new campus. Upon departing NCCC, Mike and Anita went on to receive their Bachelor’s degrees from Pittsburg State University. Anita, now retired, was a long-tenured teacher at Chanute Elementary School.
“Through the years, I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for Neosho County Community College,” Mike said. “The school has always meant a lot to me, and I love living in this community.”
A native of Yates Center, Anita said she also has many fond memories from her time at NCCC.
“I was really surprised we were selected,” Anita said, as she was unsure if they had enough family members to meet the criteria. “But it’s a great honor.”
Kelly Colter, director of development for the NCCC Foundation, said the De La Torre family’s commitment to service exemplifies what the award is about. Colter added that the De La Torres have made life better for those around them.
“I can think of no finer family that shows the Panther pathway to success in life than the De La Torres — through their dedication, commitment, and stalwart exhibition of excellence,” she said.
In addition to Jeff, Mike and Anita have two other sons, twins, Christopher and Brian, as well as six grandchildren.
Recipients of the award are traditionally spotlighted during an NCCC home basketball game. At this time, however, no arrangements have been made.
“The Heritage Family Foundation Award is something that is a great tradition at NCCC,” said NCCC President Dr. Brian Inbody. “Usually, several generations of the family come through our college. And we’re excited that the De La Torre family has received it. They’re a fantastic group of people, and great friends of the college.”