UT Arlington alumni have plenty of ways they can get connected with their alma mater. Visit the Alumni Association website for more details.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award was established in 1965 to honor The University of Texas at Arlington graduates and former students who have made significant contributions to society and whose accomplishments and careers have brought credit to the University.
Distinguished Alumni for the College of Liberal Arts include:
Waded Cruzado-Salas (1984 M.A. Spanish, 1990 Ph.D. Humanities) is President of Montana State University. She previously was dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and executive vice president and provost at New Mexico State University.
Nada Shabout (BS Architecture 1984; Art & Art History, B.F.A. Painting 1988, M.A. Humanities 1991, Ph.D. Humanities 1999) is curating the permanent collection and an Arab modernist exhibition for the opening of the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar.
Stephen Peters (2009 B.A., Communication: Journalism) was named national college Multimedia Journalist of the Year by the Center for Innovation in College Media at Vanderbilt University in 2009.
Beth Brunk-Chavez (1999 PhD, ENGL), Associate Professor of English at U Texas – El Paso received a UT Systems Regents Outstanding Teaching Award in 2009
Jack Franke (1987 BA, Russian) is dean of the Emerging Languages Task Force at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, CA.
William McKenzie (1979 M.A., POLS) was one of three reporters for the Dallas Morning News awarded a Pulitzer Prize April 12, 2010 for their series of articles “deploring the stark social and economic disparity” between North and South Dallas. This was the 9th Pulitzer Prize for the Dallas Morning News. Mr. McKenzie has been an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News as editorial columnist since 1991.
Lou Diamond Phillips (B.F.A. 1985, theatre arts), star of the films “La Bamba” and “Stand and Deliver” and The King and I on Broadway.
Ann Wynia (1965 B.A., Political Science), currently president of North Hennepin Community College, was elected to serve the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1977-1989
Jim McClellan (1968 B.A. Political Science, 1970 M.A. History) is dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. He is in his seventh term as commissioner of human rights for the city of Alexandria, VA.
Ann Jobe Wynia served seven terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives and twice was elected the body's majority leader. She left the legislature to take a post as commissioner of Minnesota's Department of Human Services.
In 1994 she was the Democratic Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate. Wynia, who earned a bachelor's degree from Arlington State College (now UTA) in 1965, currently is President of North Hennepin Community College in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
She has received numerous honors throughout her public service career including Children's Champion Award from the Children's Defense Fund and the Dr. Nathan Davis Award from the American Medical Association.
A former regent of the University of Minnesota, Wynia was the founder and first board president of the Block Nurse Program which provides home care for seniors.
She and her husband Gary reside in St. Paul.
Nita F. Scheble Cox is the second of three generations in her family to attend The University of Texas at Arlington.
Cox graduated as Valedictorian of The North Texas Agricultural College, a two year college (now UTA). She received her bachelor's from The University of Texas at Austin and her master's from Texas Christian University. She also did graduate work at The University of Wisconsin at Madison.
She taught at UTA, helping develop many speech and theatre arts classes and served as Assistant Chair and Advisor of the Communication Department for fourteen years.
Cox and her husband, B. Wayne Cox, have one daughter, Leslie Cox Recine, who also is a graduate of UTA. Her two granddaughters, Chelsea and Chloe, are their grandmother's chief interest.
Cox is involved in a woman's investment club, the Fielder Museum, Theatre Arlington, Friends of the UTA Libraries, the Arlington Republican Women's Club, Bible Study Fellowship, Altrusa International Club of Arlington, Inc., and the UTA Lecture Series.
Jim McClellan earned his bachelor's (political science, 1968) and his master's (history, 1970) from UTA.
He earned a master's in philosophy from George Washington University and a Ph.D. in American political history from the Union Institute of Cincinnati, as well as post-graduate work at Georgetown and George Washington universities.
Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College, McClellan has served as Chairman of the NVCC College Senate, President of the Virginia Community Colleges Association, and is the author of a two-volume American history text entitled Historical Moments.
Named Educator of the Year by the College of the Air Tele-Consortium, he was national campaign manager for the 1972 Presidential Campaign of Dr. Benjamin Spock.
He has served three terms as Chair of the Commission of Human Rights for the City of Alexandria, Virginia and three terms as President of the Virginia Association of Human Rights Commissioners. He serves on the Sprint Racing Committee of the US Canoe and Kayak Team.
Maurice L. Barksdale graduated from UTA in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in history and is now president and partner with the Fort Worth investment banking house of Harrington, Moran, Barksdale and Day.
The firm, specializing in the acquisition and financing of commercial real estate, is building a national reputation for its work in innovative health care financing and federal contract consulting.
Prior to his tenure at the Fort Worth firm, Barksdale spent many years in the public sector, including service as assistant secretary for multifamily housing in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and as commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
In the late 1980s, he was considered a candidate for the HUD secretary cabinet post in the Bush administration, a position which eventually went to Jack Kemp.
Howard F. Ahmanson, founder and president of Fieldstead & Co. Inc., graduated from UTA in 1976 with a master's degree in linguistics.
His private philanthropy organization works in national and international relief and development projects, education, the arts, family and children's concerns, and religious freedom issues worldwide.
The foundation is currently involved in projects supporting music education for public school students in Orange County, California, and in funding for the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, 27 volumes of patristic commentary on the Bible to be translated into German, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Hindi and Mandarin Chinese.
A frequent writer on public policy issues, Ahmanson has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Philanthropy and Religion and Liberty.
Ahmanson, whose interests include linguistics, history and geography, recently completed a year-long traveling sabbatical to Spain, Portugal, South America, Italy and Turkey.
Frank W. Hill earned a bachelor's degree in history, with honors, graduating from Arlington State College (now UTA) in 1963. He attended law school at Southern Methodist University and was admitted to the law firm of Hill Gilstrap in Arlington in 1972.
Today, the firm operates additional offices in Chicago, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Austin, with clients ranging from major corporations to service organizations to individuals.
Before founding the firm, Hill worked for the U. S. Justice Department in civil rights law during the late 1960's. He is licensed to practice in both Texas and Illinois and to appear before both the 5th and 11th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.
He is a fellow with the Texas Bar Foundation and a master of the bench with the American Inn of Court. He also serves as an adviser to Ballet Arlington.
T. Keith Alcorn is the "A" in DNA Animation, a Dallas-based company.
In 2002, he was nominated for Best Animated Feature by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences "Oscars" for producing "Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius", his most recent project, a $14 million feature for Nickelodeon using animation techniques reminiscent of Toy Story.
He studied art at UTA, finishing in 1981.
The company's first animated network special, Santa vs. the Snowman, aired on ABC television in 1997. DNA has also worked on several projects with comedian and producer Steve Oederkerk of Ace Ventura fame.
The "D" in the company logo is for partner John Davis.
The duo, who met in college, have worked together for more than a decade. Since 1992, Alcorn has served as creator, writer, designer and director of an ongoing animated series of short features that have appeared on Comedy Central, Showtime and MTV.
In 1984, he co-founded the Southwest Independent Film Festival.
State Senator Royce West began his political career at UTA as the first African-American president of Student Congress.
He earned two sociology degrees from the University, a bachelor's in 1974 and a master's in 1979, then earned a law degree from the University of Houston.
After several years in the Dallas County district attorney's office, where he became the state's first African-American chief felony prosecutor, he was elected to the Texas Senate in November 1992. He serves District 23, which covers parts of Dallas and Tarrant counties.
Following the 76th legislative session in 1999, Texas Monthly magazine named him one of the "Ten Best Legislators in Texas."
West is a senior partner with the Dallas law firm Robinson, West and Gooden.
James R. Wilson was elected Judge of the 371st District Court of Tarrant County in 1994.
Born in Fort Worth, he grew up in Arlington and attended area schools. He graduated from UTA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech in 1978, and received his law degree in 1989 from the California Western School of Law in San Diego. He married Amy Wilson in 1991; they have four children and four grandchildren.
Judge Wilson is licensed to practice law in Texas and the Federal courts of the Northern District of Texas. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the Tarrant County Bar Association, the College of the State Bar, the Tarrant County Juvenile Board, the Board of Criminal Judges, the Board of District Judges, and a former member of both the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
In 2001-02, Judge Wilson was the Presiding Judge of the Board of Criminal Judges. Judge Wilson is involved in numerous community endeavors.
Karen Borta is co-anchor for CBS 11 News in Fort Worth-Dallas at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.
She received her bachelor’s degree in radio/TV communication from UTA in 1987. After working for TV stations in Waco, Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., she returned to the Metroplex in 1995 as anchor and reporter at KTVT-Channel 11.
She received a regional Emmy for Outstanding Live News Coverage of the 1997 American Airlines strike and a nomination as best feature reporter by the Association of Women Journalists. She was named one of the state’s Favorite Female TV Personalities by Texas Woman magazine in 1998.
In 2000, she was honorary co-chair of the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure in helping the fight against breast cancer.
Graciela Berlanga-Cortez earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English from UTA in 1981. She taught English, journalism, Spanish and English as a second language in Dallas and Grand Prairie schools while also monitoring magnet, vanguard and Montessori schools in the Dallas Independent School District. She taught ESL and developmental writing in the Dallas County Community College District and in 1995 received the Excellence in Education Award presented by Mexican American Business and Professional Women.
She earned a master’s degree in library science from Texas Woman’s University in 2000 and has spent the last three years as a library media specialist in the Dallas Independent School District. She manages all aspects of the media center, which serves six magnet high schools and the academic center.
Pamela Dunlop Gates practices law as a partner with the firm of Thompson, Coe, Cousins and Irons, LLP in Dallas.
A licensed attorney for nearly 20 years, she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from UTA in 1979 and her law degree from Texas Southern University School of Law in 1984.
She was an attorney in the Tarrant County Domestic Relations Office for 10 years, and in 1997 she received the Woman of the Year in Law award presented by the Fort Worth Commission on the Status of Women.
She is a second-term director and current secretary of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport board.
Jack Franke is a professor of Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian from UT Arlington in 1987 and holds a master’s degree from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. His Ph.D. is in foreign language education from the University of St. Petersburg in Russia.
He worked for three years as an interpreter aboard Russian fishing trawlers in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Bering Sea and in 1990 began working as a Russian instructor at the Defense Language Institute.
After spending time in Russia and Germany, Dr. Franke returned to Monterey in 1997 and, in 2001, became the youngest professor in the institute’s history.
Timothy A. Westmoreland is a visiting assistant professor of creative writing at Indiana University. He received his bachelor's degree in English at UT Arlington in 1992 and his MFA in creative writing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1993 and is still listed on the faculty there. He was taught in the Amherst College EXCEL program since 1998. During the 2003-04 academic year, he was a visiting writer at Hampshire College, and for the last two years he was a visiting associate professor of fiction writing at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. A prolific writer, his collection of short stories, Good as Any, was selected by Amazon.com as one of the books of the year in 2002.
Lu Pham is managing partner for Lynn Pham & Ross, LLP, the largest labor and employment boutique law firm in Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Liberal Arts in 1987 and three years later a law degree from The University of Texas Law School. He has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, all federal district courts in Texas and the Texas Supreme Court. A former municipal judge for Grand Prairie, he was named to Texas Monthly’s Super Lawyer list for 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Pham received the Best Under 40 Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and initiated the first American Bar Association delegation to Vietnam in 1997. He serves on an advisory committee to UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo on diversity and international understanding. He and his wife, Anna, who received her master’s degree in social work from UT Arlington in 1998, live in Fort Worth and have two children.
Anita Foster is the Metroplex communications officer for the American Red Cross, a position she has held for 10 years. She is recognized nationally for handling difficult media relations matters, teaching public affairs courses and responding to the worst disasters the Red Cross and the United States have experienced over the last decade. She has dealt with crises throughout Texas, Montana, Arizona, Mississippi, New York, Florida and many other states. She led Red Cross communication efforts following the Wedgwood Baptist Church shooting, Tropical Storm Allison, the space shuttle Columbia explosion, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the series of four catastrophic hurricanes in Florida in 2004, and hurricanes Emily, Katrina and Rita in 2005. She lives in Arlington. A graduate of the College of Liberal Arts, she earned her bachelor’s degree in radio-TV in 1989.
Somsonge Burusphat is a professor of linguistics for the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia at Mahidol University in Salaya, Thailand. In 1986 she received her Ph.D. in humanities with a concentration on linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts. She is one of the founders and pioneers of RILCA, which acts as an advocate for minority ethnics, raising public consciousness about the importance of empowering and giving dignity to their cultures. Dr. Burusphat has done extensive field work on the languages and cultures of various ethnic groups in Thailand and produced three books about teaching Thai language. She lives in Bangkok.
Al holds a BA in History from the College of Liberal Arts. He has been designated Of Counsel with Sommerman & Quesada, LLP. Following graduation from UT Arlington and a tour of duty in Vietnam as a U.S. Army Airborne infantry officer where he earned a Bronze Star, he obtained his J.D. from Southern Methodist University. He has served as the President of the Dallas Bar Association and as an officer in the Texas Bar Association. He is a member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, which is an elite organization comprised of only 500 members in the U.S. He has extensive community service efforts including Habitat for Humanity, Dallas Jaycees and he has served on task forces for the Dallas Mayor. He often serves as an instructor of trial advocacy at the SMU Dedman School of Law. Mr. Ellis' numerous honors include: the Dallas Jaycees Distinguished Service Award, Dallas Trial Lawyers Distinguished Community Involvement Award, Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence, D Magazine's Best Lawyers in Dallas 2003, and Texas Bar Foundation Dan Price Memorial Award. He is a lifetime member of UT Arlington’s Cadet Corp Alumni Chapter and a former member of the Sam Houston Rifles.
Shirlee, a veteran real estate developer, is President of RPM Commercial and owner of the award winning The Ashton Hotel in Fort Worth. Her primary interest has been the development of historical properties to make them functional and financially feasible in today’s business environment. In 1998, she purchased Fort Worth’s historic Santa Fe Depot, (built in 1899) from Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Shirlee renovated the 10,000 square foot depot and renamed it The Ashton Depot. It now serves as a corporate, wedding, special occasion, and executive special event facility. The depot's counterpart, The Ashton Hotel, was also part of a five-year historic redevelopment project, in which the 1890 Winfree Building and 1915 Fort Worth Club building were rehabilitated and renovated. Shirlee is also a long-time Fort Worth community volunteer and is a member of the Community Foundation of Tarrant County, Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) and the Women’s Policy Forum. She has served as President of the State of Texas Mental Health Association and on the board of the National Mental Health Association. She was presented with the prestigious J.C. Penney Golden Deed Award for outstanding community service, was named one of the “Great Women of Texas” from the Fort Worth Business Press, and was recently featured as one of the “Women Who Run Fort Worth” by her city’s magazine. In 2010, she received the Legacy of Women Award at SafeHaven’s 18th Legacy of Women Awards. She has been involved with the Cook Children’s Hospital, Courage and Renewal Leadership Program and she was instrumental in raising funds for the John F. Kennedy Statue project in Fort Worth. Shirlee holds a BA in Political Science from the College of Liberal Arts. She is a member of the University's Development Board and she will be serving as Chair of the the Campaign Committee for the UT Arlington Comprehensive Campaign. She recently served on a panel at the Development/Alumni Association staff retreat where she addressed giving, stewardship, and cultivation. She has given $31,000 to the College of Liberal Arts and she has given to the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund. She is a Lifetime Member of the Alumni Association.
Curtis is President of Tex-Isle Supply, Inc., a multi-million dollar business which was founded in 1959 by his father, Hans Kayem. Hans created a family dynasty pipe and steel company in Houston, Texas. The company, originally called Hans Kayem, Inc. (HKI) is a line pipe and OCTG distributor. Tex-Isle Supply embodies the entrepreneurial spirit in the trading and purchasing of steel products. When Curtis graduated from UT Arlington in 1966, he joined his father to learn the family business. HKI/Tex-Isle was one of the only sources in the Gulf Coast for Japanese seamless and welded tubular products prior to the first Arab Oil Embargo of 1972. Since then, Curtis and his brother have expanded Tex-Isle to open a Dallas office which would better serve their customer base throughout Texas as well as Oklahoma and New Mexico. In June 2011 Tex-Isle Supply, Inc. of Houston announced the groundbreaking of the company’s most recent substantial investment, Tex-Isle Coating (TIC). The new 40,000 square foot plant is situated on Tex-Isle’s existing 40-acre pipe storage facility near George West, Texas. Curtis has been involved with numerous charities such as the Bayou Preservation, Houston Symphony, Texas Children’s Hospital, Bo’s Place: Where Children are Heard and Hearts are Healed, and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. He has also served as Director of Park National Bank in Houston. Curtis holds a BS in Political Science from the College of Liberal Arts. He has served on the UT Arlington Development Board; the Alumni Association National Board of Directors and he has hosted Alumni events in his Houston home. He has been an annual member of the Alumni Association and has given to the UT Arlington Centennial Scholarship Endowment, The College of Liberal Arts Endowment and most recently to the Maverick Baseball student locker room fund.
JoAnn Lee, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UT Arlington, is assistant general counsel, global litigation for ExxonMobil and a member of the Law Department Management Committee. Her responsibilities include management of 150 employees and oversight of a global litigation and arbitration portfolio to protect the interests of the company's shareholders. Prior to joining ExxonMobil, where she has served in various management positions, she was a trial attorney for Union Pacific Railroad and chief prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. A graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, Lee serves on the Advisory Board of Corporate Counsel Women of Color and is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, Chief Litigation Counsel Association, Houston Bar Foundation, and Texas Bar Foundation. She also serves on the board at Family Services of Greater Houston and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofit organizations.
Jeff Leuschel is a partner in the Dallas office of McCall, Parkhurst & Horton L.L.P., representing clients in municipal finance transactions in Texas and Oklahoma. He has helped numerous Texas communities structure economic development public-private partnerships, including Alliance Airport, Texas Motor Speedway, the redevelopment of Dallas Love Field, and the construction of the Dallas Convention Center hotel. Texas Lawyer named him Public Finance Lawyer of the Year in Dallas in 2011, and he is an honorary member of the Government Treasurers Organization of Texas. He chairs the Video Association of Dallas Board of Directors and has served on the board of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Guild. Leuschel earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UT Arlington and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law. A member of the UT Arlington Development Board, he has endowed a scholarship for graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts.
Baron Concors is chief digital officer for Pizza Hut, an operating company of Yum! Brands. He’s responsible for digital technology, digital marketing, and digital ventures to ensure that Pizza Hut fully engages its technology-connected consumers. Previously he was chief information officer for Yum! Restaurants International, overseeing KFC and Pizza Hut information technology in more than 120 countries, as well as chief information and digital officer for Pizza Hut U.S. In 2009 Computerworld named him one of the Premier 100 IT Leaders in the world, and Forbes named the Pizza Hut iPhone application the No. 1 branded mobile application of the year. Prior to joining Pizza Hut, Concors was vice president of global retail technology for FedEx and held a variety of leadership positions at Deloitte LLP and Ernst & Young LLP. He earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UT Arlington and an MBA from the University of Tennessee.
Tamara Hext Hilliard is the founder, CEO, and owner of Tay’s Gourmet, LLC, a growing gourmet granola company based in Texas. Tay’s Gourmet Power Granola can be purchased in more than 500 stores throughout the Southwest or online at www.taysgourmet.com. In 1984, she won the Miss Texas title and was fourth runner-up in the Miss America competition. Following her reign as Miss Texas and a brief time living in New York City, she earned her bachelor’s degree in radio/TV broadcasting from UTA. She has enjoyed a long career as a spokeswoman and as an actor in commercials, TV, and films in the Dallas area. Through Tay’s Gourmet, Ms. Hilliard has partnered with the Children’s Hunger Fund, donating both food and money. She is a registered yoga teacher and volunteers as a state judge for the Miss America Organization, the world’s largest scholarship organization for women. She and her husband, Jim Hilliard, have three sons.
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