Skip to content



Distinguished Alumni

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.

Dr. Cawthon

2015 Distinguished Alumna - Tamara Hext Hilliard

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 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.

Dr. Cawthon

2014 Distinguished Alumnus - Baron V. Concors

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.

Dr. Cawthon

2013 Distinguished Alumnus - Jeffrey A. Leuschel

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.

Dr. Cawthon

2013 Distinguished Alumna - JoAnn Lee

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.

Previous Recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award are listed below:

2012 Curtis Kayem
2012 Shirlee Gandy
2011 Al Ellis
2009 Somsonge Burusphat
2008 Anita Foster
2007 Lu Pham
2006 Timothy Westmoreland
2005 Jack Franke
2004 Pamela Dunlop Gates
2003 Graciela Berianga-Cortez
2003 Karen Bortal (Service Award)
2002 Judge James R. Wilson
2000 Royce West (Service Award)
2000 T. Kieth Alcorn
2000 Frank W. Hill
1999 Howard F. Ahmanson
1998 Maurice L. Barksdale
1997 Jim McClellan
1996 Nita Scheble Cox
1995 Ann Jobe Wynia