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Ten to be honored at 2009 Distinguished Alumni Gala

Monday, October 12, 2009

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Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office:817-272-7075, Cell:214-546-1082,

ARLINGTON - Former Texas Education Commissioner Jim Nelson heads the list of nine University of Texas at Arlington graduates to be honored at the 44th Distinguished Alumni Gala at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, in the E. H. Hereford University Center's Bluebonnet Ballroom.

The UT Arlington Alumni Association also will present an Honorary Award to John Lanigan, vice president and chief marketing officer of BNSF Railway Co. Lanigan previously served as president and chief executive officer of and spent more than 16 years with Schneider National Inc. He also is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran.

The Distinguished Alumni Award, established in 1965, is the highest honor given by the University and the Alumni Association. The award honors individual achievements, contributions to industry or profession, community service and demonstrated loyalty to UT Arlington.

The gala generates significant scholarship funds for students. Since 2002, the event has raised more than $100,000 for scholarships.

Jim Wilkinson, a 1993 UT Arlington graduate of the College of Business, is the master of ceremonies for Saturday's event. Wilkinson is a managing partner based in San Francisco for Brunswick Group LLC, an international firm specializing in financial and corporate communications, investor relations, internal communications and opinion research.

Nelson, who served as Texas Education Commissioner from 1999-2002, is currently executive director of the AVID Center in San Diego. AVID is a non-profit company that helps students prepare for college. He also served on the Texas Board for Educator Certification, as an adviser to the Department of Defense on rebuilding the Iraqi education system and as Richardson school district superintendent.

The other alumni honorees are:

  • Somsonge Burusphat, a linguistics professor for the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia at Mahidol University in Salaya, Thailand. RILCA acts as an advocate for minority ethnics.
  • Wayne Carson, chief executive officer of the All Church Home for Children in Fort Worth, which serves children and families in crisis.
  • Rudy Garcia, vice president for URS Corp., where he works to increase the company's business in the Texas aviation market. Garcia managed design review services for Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
  • Allan Garonzik, who is a retired entrepreneur, opened Ready Print, a small printing and graphic arts company, in 1970, as well as a number of other ventures.
  • Thomas Harvey, senior vice president and principal of HKS Inc., an international architecture firm in Dallas, and director of HKS Clinical Resources and Research.
  • Rod Hicks, the first nurse practitioner in the nation to hold an endowed chair for patient safety in an academic setting. He is a professor and co-director of the Center of Excellence in Patient Safety at the Anita Thigpen Perry School of Nursing at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
  • Vicky Teherani, chief financial officer for the Rolland Safe Co., which partners with its customers in asset protection.
  • Linda Watson, chief executive officer of LYNX, the Central Florida Transportation Authority. She previously worked for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

Key sponsors include Mike and Janet Greene, BNSF Railway, Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Lockheed Martin.

Visit The University of Texas at Arlington Alumni Association Web site for ticket information, reservations or more about the honorees.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.