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Home of the New Braunfels Unicorns!
The NBISD Education Foundation has inducted three new members as Distinguished Alumni during their annual banquet held Sept. 17 at the Milltown Historic District. This year’s honorees include: Paula Oetken DiFonzo, Ernie Jergins and Kliff Kingsbury.
The three alumni were also honored during halftime at the varsity football game held on Sept. 20. Kingsbury was not able to attend either event. His father, Tim Kingsbury, attend both events to be honored in his place.
Paula (Oetken) DiFonzo – Class of 1974
DiFonzo was a member of the National Honor Society, the German Club, and the English Honor Society. Within a few short weeks after graduating from New Braunfels High School in 1974, she did something that no other female Unicorn had ever done. She joined the Inaugural Women’s Unit of the Texas A&M Corp of Cadets. While at Texas A&M, she studied Business Management, but her time in Aggieland was cut short when she married a Navy Seabee, Robert DiFonzo, and the couple was transferred to Maryland. Paula would later graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Accounting from what is now Texas State University.
In 1981, she started as a clerk at New Braunfels Utilities in their Accounts Payable Department and quickly worked her way up to the position of Accounting Manager. In 1994, she was promoted as the first female General Manager/CEO of New Braunfels Utilities.
A partial list of her business leadership positions include being one of only three women to Chair the American Public Power Association, President of the Texas Public Power Association, Chair of the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Association of LCRA Wholesale Customers.
Her community accomplishments and accolades include being a Director of the United Way of Comal County and Chair of the United Way Drive. She served as a director of the McKenna Hospital Board and the New Braunfels Industrial Foundation. In 2006, Paula was inducted into the Chamber of Commerce Hall of Honor, and in 2007 the New Braunfels HeraldZeitung named her Citizen of the Year. In 2015, she received the Robert Sohn Public Service Award.
DiFonzo and her husband, Bob, have two sons Michael and Buddy. Although Paula DiFonzo retired as CEO of New Braunfels Utilities in 2017, she’s busier than ever. She’s traded 40,000 customers for five grandchildren who all call her “Noni.”
Ernie Jergins – Class of 1978
Jergins graduated from New Braunfels High School in 1978. He played football for the mighty Unicorns, and was the Senior Class President. After high school, he attended Schreiner Junior College in Kerrville and Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University.
After college, Jergins began his entrepreneur journey selling jewelry. In 1981 he opened Ernesto’s Jewelry and has been at his current location for 25+ years. Next year, Ernesto’s will be moving to a brand new building in the same Marketplace. Jergins’ big accomplishment is growing Ernesto’s Jewelry from a flea market location to being included in the Top 2% of Independent Jewelry Stores in the U.S. His other business ventures include buying and developing properties in the New Braunfels Area such as the The Village of Hunters Creek development off 46 and Hunters Creek.
He has been involved in the following local organizations: Chamber of Commerce Board; Hope Hospice Board; New Braunfels Rotary; and the Jaycee’s. Jergins has also been awarded the following: Small Business Person of the Year 2019; Citizen of the Year 2009; and Best Retail Store by the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung readers.
On a personal note, Jergins has 3 kids and 6 grandkids. He continues to stay active playing tennis, golfing and traveling.
Kliff Kingsbury – Class of 1998
Kingsbury is a 1998 graduate of New Braunfels High School. He spent his entire childhood in New Braunfels ISD and was a gifted student and athlete. While in high school, he was a letterman in three sports: football, track and basketball. At the same time, he graduated ranked 5th in his class of 500 students.
Kingsbury attended Texas Tech University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Management. While at Texas Tech, he played football and set 39 school records as well as 13 Big XII and 7 NCAA Division I records to become the most decorated Red Raider in history.
In 2002, Kingsbury won Big 12 Offensive Player of the year and was awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation’s top quarterback. In addition, Kingsbury was also an Academic All-American and was named Academic Player of the Year nationally.
In 2018, Kingsbury was inducted into the Texas High School Hall of Fame. Following his time at Tech, he was a sixth-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. In all, he played professionally for 5 years, also seeing action in the Canadian Football League and the All-American Football League.
In 2008, he began his coaching profession at the University of Houston. In 2012, he became the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M University and coached a Heisman Trophy winner. In 2017, he returned to his alma mater to become the head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders until 2018. In January 2019, Kingsbury was named the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. He is the son of Tim and Sally Kinsbury.
CAPTION: 2019 NBISD Education Foundation Distinguished Alumni recipients Tim Kingsbury (accepting on behalf of his son, Kliff Kinsbury), Paula (Oetken) DiFonzo and Ernie Jergins were honored on Sept. 17, 2019.
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