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Noteworthy Graduates Honored by Paris ISD

Former Paris High School students Zach Clifford (Class of 2004), and Dr. Courtney M. Townsend, Jr. (Class of 1961) have been named Distinguished Graduates.



Zach Clifford
Dr. Townsend

Their portraits will be displayed on the Wall of Honor at Paris High School in conjunction with Homecoming 2018 ceremonies on Friday, Sept. 21 at 1:30 p.m. in the Paris High School Commons Area. They will be presented to the PHS student body during the Homecoming pep rally at 3 p.m.

            Zach Clifford attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning his undergraduate degree and his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and completing his studies with a 4.9 GPA.  While at MIT he competed on the Parliamentary Debate circuit with the school team. Clifford’s undergraduate studies focused on digital systems, but his thesis work on a novel means of measuring power systems was so innovative that it has now earned two separate U.S. patents. He interned at several companies, working on consumer electronics, nuclear submarines, and embedded software systems.

            After MIT, Clifford worked for a variety of companies designing and building electronic hardware and software.  His work for Applied Radar, Inc. included designing digital signal processing systems and building other radar components.  Later he worked as a consultant for Cascodium, LLC designing circuits and software, including laser power supplies, an infrared gas detection system, and robotics systems.

            Clifford has worked at Google for the past five years, reaching the level of Staff Software Engineer. During his Google tenure, Clifford and his team have launched several enhancements to the core Google Search experience and built improvements to the enormous infrastructure that powers it. He worked to create an improved search for recipes that incorporated images, ingredients, and other relevant criteria that has since expanded to the Google Assistant as a guided cooking feature.  He has also launched tools that make it easier for webmasters to build sites that work well with Google. Clifford’s team also built a search feature for local events that enhances results for queries about musical artists and venues. Most recently he helped launch Jobs Search–a service that aggregates job listings from across the Web into a single Google Search.  It was debuted by Google’s CEO in his keynote address at the annual Google I/O developer conference in 2017. Clifford has led the effort to launch the service worldwide, working with local Google teams and job boards to ensure the results are useful and high quality everywhere in the world.

            Clifford lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife of three years, Laura O’Brien, and his two month-old son.

            Dr. Courtney M. Townsend, Jr., President of the American College of Surgeons 2016-2017, is currently Professor and Robertson-Poth Distinguished Chair in General Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Previously, he served as John Woods Harris Distinguished Chairman, June 1995-October 2014. Dr. Townsend is Editor-in-Chief of the Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice, for the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th editions; 21st edition is in preparation. He is on the Editorial Advisory Board for The American Journal of Surgery and Deputy Editor for the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

            Throughout his distinguished career in science and medicine, he has received numerous awards including: Research Career Development Award, NIH, 1982; Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumnus, 1986, UTMB; James IV Surgical Traveler for 1986; Selected by James IV Association of Surgeons; President, American Pancreatic Association, 1992-1993; ACGME Residency Review Committee for Surgery, 1994-1999; James IV Association of Surgeons, Inc., Board of Directors, 1999-2002;  Texas Cancer Council Member, 1992-2010; Director, American Board of Surgery, 2000-2006; Chairman, American Board of Surgery, 2006-2007; American College of Surgeons Board of Governors Executive Committee, 1999-2003; Chairman, American College of Surgeons Board of Governors, 2004-2005; Secretary, American College of Surgeons, 2006-2013; Secretary, Southern Surgical Association, 1998-2003; President, Southern Surgical Association, 2004; President, American Surgical Association, 2007-2008; Chair, American Surgical Association Foundation, 2013-2014.

            Dr. Townsend has received the UTMB Academy of Master Clinicians-Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 and the Roberto Logrono MD Award for Professionalism in Medicine in 2017. He also received the Society of University Surgeons 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.

            Dr. Townsend has been described as the consummate surgeon-scientist, mentor, teacher and colleague. Dr. Townsend lives in Galveston, Texas with his wife of 50 years, Mary Hardwicke Townsend.  His daughter, Frances Townsend, and grandson, Teddy Gilman, reside in Austin.

            The Distinguished Graduate Award is the highest and most prestigious award the District can bestow on its graduates.  Portraits of Clifford and Dr. Townsend will be added to the Wall of Honor joining former honorees: Raymond Berry, ’50; Trenton Doyle Hancock; ‘92, Deon Minor; ‘91; Gene “Bebes” Stallings, ‘53; Admiral James O. Richardson, 1897 (Posthumous); James Robert (Bob) Biard, ’48; Blake Neely, ‘87; Eddie Robinson, ‘38; Leslie Satcher, ’80; Charles “Red” Scott, ’45 (Posthumous); Linda Bates Leali, ‘65; Dr. Charles R. Baxter, ‘46 (Posthumous); Larry Dean Click, ‘55 (Posthumous); Jay Hunter Morris, ‘81; Dr. Larry “T-Byrd” Gordon, ‘67 (Posthumous); Thomas S. Moore, ‘58; Lewis “Jackrabbit” Smith, 41  (Posthumous); Dr. Charles Sterling, ‘63; Captain J. K. (Jack) Ashmore, ‘47; and Sharon Samuels Reed, ‘68.

            To nominate a Distinguished Graduate, download the nomination form at and submit by May 1st each year.

            Former students, staff and friends of Paris ISD are encouraged to attend the Distinguished Graduate Award ceremony.  Community members who wish to attend the 1:30 p.m. presentation on Friday, Sept. 21, should call 903-737-7473 ext. 2328 by Sept. 18 to make table reservations.