When Rowlett City Councilman Carl Pankratz heard about a young Rowlett High School alumna whose life was cut short, he began garnering support to put up a memorial in her honor.
Devin Oliver was described by peers as caring, funny, athletic and positive.
On June 3, 2014, she was driving back to Texas A&M University-Commerce, where she attended as a junior, when an 18-wheeler hit the car she was in while crossing an intersection in Paris, Texas. Oliver and the other passengers were attending a basketball camp at Paris High School. Aubree Butts, of Lewisville, who was on the college basketball team with Oliver, was also killed in the accident.
When he heard about Oliver’s death, Pankratz said it hit him hard.
“Devin was an exceptional young lady,” he said. “When you saw her list of accomplishments, it was readily apparent how special she was.”
Initially, Pankratz wanted to name the new basketball court at Isaac Scruggs Park in Oliver’s honor but then focused on instead placing a plaque at the park. He first needed approval from the council and the parks and recreation advisory board. Pankratz was committed to his goal of honoring Oliver and consistently collected letters from those who knew her.
The letters enabled Pankratz to show others the kind of person she was, on and off the court, in hopes of getting support for the memorial plaque. He received two letters from her high school coaches who both said she had a huge personality that shined through every time they saw her.
Ricky Roland, her basketball coach at Rowlett High, said in his letter that Devin was more than a basketball player, she was a wonderful person and had an “ever present zest for life.” Another coach of Oliver’s, Christie Shoulders, said in a letter Oliver was confident in her team captain role and had the ability to make her teammates smile in any situation.
Shoulders also said Oliver was one of a kind and possessed too many positive qualities to list. Oliver was on the path to become an anesthesiologist after graduating from Texas A&M-Commerce on an athletic scholarship. Shoulders added in her letter that Oliver was the “epitome of the word role model.”
That’s why Beverly Moore, a granddaughter of Isaac Scruggs, supports the honor. She said it promotes a positive role model for the black community.
“I’m fine with it,” Moore said. “She graduated the same year as my daughter from Rowlett High. It’s a great thing that it will be right in the neighborhood.”
Pankratz said the plaque will help Oliver’s legacy live on.
Council approved the plaque on Aug. 4, but renovations to Isaac Scruggs Park, which include placing the plaque, won’t begin until this fall.