ransportation official Curvie Hawkins Jr. and hospital executive Ellawese Smith received UT Arlington's 2008 Outstanding African-American Alumni Award in February.
Hawkins is planning director for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T), overseeing a $400 million commuter rail line from southwest Fort Worth to D/FW Airport, among other transit projects. Dr. Smith is director of anesthesiology at Renaissance Hospital in Dallas.
"I am very proud to be a graduate of the School of Urban and Public Affairs and The University of Texas at Arlington," Hawkins said in acceptance remarks at the 19th Annual African-American Alumni Association reception. "Anyone who knows me knows I'm a graduate of UT Arlington because I'll tell them in a minute."
His leadership in developing the T's strategic plan resulted in the project receiving the Planning Project of the Year award from the Midwest Section of the Texas American Planning Association. Prior to joining the T, Hawkins worked in the planning department of Dallas Area Rapid Transit. He also worked for the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the cities of Southlake and Crowley.
He received his bachelor's degree in economics from UT Arlington in 1995 and added a master's degree in city and regional planning in 2000. He calls himself a nerd, and his wife agrees.
"Back when we were in college he just loved to play those SimCity computer games," Laneshia Hawkins said. "He would play for hours because he really enjoyed it. Now he plays the real thing through his job."
Dr. Smith also is living her dream. Before joining Renaissance Hospital, she was vice chair of the anesthesiology department for the John Peter Smith Health Network in Fort Worth. She served on the JPS teaching staff for 13 years as an anesthesiologist and was the first, and so far only, African-American female medical staff president in the hospital's 100-year history.
One of 10 children, Smith suffered from polio at age 2. The disease sparked her interest in a medical career. She overcame other obstacles, including academic officials who told her she couldn't be a doctor, and living in her car the first week of medical school because funds were short.
"I remained determined," she said, "because my parents told me that no one can tell me I can't do what God has designed me to do."
A 1978 UT Arlington graduate, Smith holds a bachelor's degree in microbiology/chemistry. She earned her M.D. from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. She completed a residency in anesthesiology at the Texas Tech Health Science Center in Lubbock and a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.
She made a lasting impression on two women who drove from Florida for the award presentation. She met Alice Singleton and Christine Stephens in Nigeria while serving on a 2005 health care mission trip.
Singleton said a villager seeking eyeglasses misunderstood directions to the optometrist and found Dr. Smith instead. The physician asked the patient to hold hands and pray.
"Suddenly that woman was running around proclaiming she could see," said Singleton, a retired educator. "After 10 years and two unsuccessful surgeries, that villager could see well. It was a miracle."
— Jenny Blankenship
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