The 2016 recipients of The University of Texas at El Paso’s Distinguished Alumni Award will be recognized at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni are: Eric J.C. Chan, entrepreneur; Catalina E. García, M.D., anesthesiologist with Dallas Anesthesiology Group, P.A.; and Mario T. García, Ph.D., distinguished professor of history and Chicano studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Every year, UTEP honors a group of men and women whose achievements stand out as monuments to dedication, integrity and hard work.
“Homecoming gives UTEP the opportunity to welcome back its proud alumni and, among those are a notable group of individuals who have accomplished great things in their respective fields,” said Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for UTEP’s Alumni Relations. “They are the Distinguished Alumni, who represent the university as a whole, and the Gold Nuggets, who are chosen by their colleges. These professionals represent the true Miner Spirt and are the guests of honor at the Distinguished Alumni Dinner. We are excited about this signature event where we can celebrate these accomplished Miners.”
The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest recognition bestowed upon alumni of the University.
More about the 2016 UTEP Distinguished Alumni:
Eric J.C. Chan is the founder or co-founder of four companies in Hong Kong and China, including one that sells American rice in Hong Kong and another that deploys a citywide free wireless mesh network in Guangzhou City, China, by turning moving vehicles like taxis, buses and trams into hotspots.
Chan was born in Vientiane, Laos and grew up in Hong Kong. In 1973, he left Hong Kong to attend Riverside High School in El Paso through an international exchange program. After graduation, he decided to stay and attend UTEP.
Chan credits his UTEP education as the foundation for his success in business.
“I treasure my education from UTEP,” Chan said. “It taught me the basic fundamentals to be an entrepreneur and taught me to develop a sense of completeness. It has definitely broadened my mind and taught me new approaches to analytically think through problems and define predicaments.”
Catalina E. García’s success story is a testament to the American dream. Her grandparents came to El Paso with only what they could carry from Chihuahua, Mexico, to escape the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. García’s parents – a mechanic and a seamstress – settled in a housing project in the segundo barrio neighborhood in south El Paso, where García grew up as the oldest of six siblings.
Today, García, M.D., is a highly regarded anesthesiologist with Dallas Anesthesiology Group, P.A., as well as a mentor and advocate for education and women’s issues, particularly those of Latina women.
The success García enjoys today did not always come easy. The newly married medical student faced adversity as a Mexican-American woman when discrimination was common in the United States, as well as the added challenges of adjusting to marriage and homesickness after leaving her hometown to attend medical school in Dallas.
“Failure is a very good teacher; a painful teacher, but a good one,” García said. “I didn’t do well in medical school the first time. I had a difficult time, but I grew up, got back on track and convinced the medical school administration to give me a second chance. From that point on, I just ignored the outside world and people who didn’t like me and worked like the dickens to get the job done.”
Mario T. García is an El Paso native whose history professors at Texas Western College, now UTEP, inspired him on his path to become a distinguished university history professor, historian, researcher, author and trailblazer for Chicano studies.
“I particularly enjoyed courses with Professor Wayne Fuller on late 19th and early 20th century American history,” Garciá said. “My professors were all very dedicated to their work. Seeing how they were excited about history added to my own excitement.”
During García’s senior year at TWC, he thought, “I can do that!” while listening to one of Fuller’s enjoyable lectures. He started on the path to become a college professor, earning a master’s degree in history from UTEP and a doctoral degree in history from the University of California, San Diego where he assisted in the development of the Chicano studies program.
García has written numerous books and biographies on Chicano history, received awards and fellowships for his teaching and research including the distinguished Guggenheim Fellowship, and served as history and American studies professor and director of ethnic studies for Yale University from 1990-92. He is currently a distinguished professor of history and Chicano studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, were he has remained a faculty member for 41 years.
What: Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28 (Media availability ends at 7 p.m.)
Where: Don Haskins Center