On Monday, the University of Texas at El Paso and the UTEP Alumni Association announced the recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nugget honors.
“This year’s Distinguished Alumni honorees exemplify the talent and drive that was cultivated here at UTEP,” said Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for alumni relations. “Each of these individuals, whether it was on their own or as part of a dedicated team, has gone on to represent UTEP at the highest levels and they each credit the University for giving them the foundation and the opportunities to be successful.”
Every year, UTEP honors a group of alumni who have achieved excellence in their chosen fields and serve as pillars of inspiration to future Miners for what can be accomplished through integrity, dedication and determination.
This group of outstanding graduates are the UTEP Distinguished Alumni and the Gold Nuggets.
The Distinguished Alumni award honor a group of men and women whose achievements stand out as monuments to dedication, integrity and hard work and is the highest recognition bestowed upon alumni of the University.
UTEP’s 2019 Distinguished Alumni are:
Roberto Coronado, Ph.D.
BBA Accounting and Economics, 2000
M.S. Economics, 2002
Roberto Coronado, Ph.D., currently serves as senior vice president in charge and senior economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, El Paso Branch.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics, Coronado eagerly returned to UTEP to pursue his master’s degree in economics. Shortly into his graduate program, he landed an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, El Paso Branch. What began as a temporary, unpaid position led to an 18-year career. The young, ambitious economist continued his education at the University of Houston, where he earned his doctorate in economics, which helped him ascend the organization’s ranks.
Today, Coronado oversees the bank’s economic research and outreach functions in West Texas and Southern New Mexico, and recruits branch board members.
“UTEP was very welcoming and offers a lot of support to students like me,” Coronado said. “If you are determined that you want to be successful, UTEP provides the resources to make it happen. Trust me, if I could do it, you can do it.”
Miguel Fernandez Jr.
Miguel Fernandez Jr. and Rodrigo Fernandez are brothers from the Paso del Norte Region who co-founded a telecommunications network with three other people to provide communication services in previously underserved communities in Mexico. It evolved into a business that employs hundreds and created a fiber-optic network that spans approximately 8,000 route miles.
In 2001, the two collaborated to create Transtelco, a telecommunications service provider that covers the United States and Mexico and provides voice and data services to Fortune 1000 companies and other businesses. Its coverage area stretches from Los Angeles and Dallas in the United States to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, at the southern tip of Mexico.
“Students need to have their eyes open and realize there are a lot of opportunities, and the people who are able to leverage that are the people who understand what the border is about,” Rodrigo Fernandez said. “That was me.”
B.A. Graphic Design, 2003
Creative Kids, a nonprofit organization established 20 years ago, began as a labor of love for Stephen Ingle and his then girlfriend, now wife, Andrea C. Gates-Ingle who met while attending UTEP.
Creative Kids has grown since then. The nonprofit has earned national recognition for providing a high-quality creative youth development program that utilizes the visual arts to empower children with cognitive or physical disabilities, children battling illness, underserved children or just those with an artistic knack.
As for receiving the UTEP Distinguished Alumni Award, the pair said they were humbled and proud of the recognition.
“It is amazing for someone to see what we’ve done and recognize it,” Ingle said. “This is something that we will really cherish and carry as an accomplishment. We have won awards from the city and other recognitions, but this award is from our school, where we learned to do what we do. Getting this award makes it all worth it and we are proud to be part of the UTEP legacy.”
The U.S. Army allowed Curtis Parkin, Ph.D. who also was in Texas Western College’s Army ROTC program, to delay his active duty service in order to study nuclear and radiation physics at Vanderbilt University’s U.S. Atomic Energy Commission postgraduate fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee where he then earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in experimental plasma physics.
In 1968, the Army assigned Parkin to active duty at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He applied his studies to work on magnetometers, equipment that would measure magnetic fields on the moon’s surface for the second manned mission to land on the lunar surface, Apollo 12.
Parkin said the success of the magnetometer on Apollo 12 led to funds for four additional magnetometers for the Apollo 14, 15 and 16 missions. He became co-investigator for each project.
He separated from NASA in 1979 and continued to work in related fields in California until he retired in 2015. To this day, Parkin maintains contact with several members of the UTEP fraternity who helped him on his celestial career path.
“One thing I’ll be saying to other students, ‘Study hard and don’t neglect your friends and your connections at the University because they can be helpful for the rest of your life,’” Parkin said.
The Distinguished Alumni join another group of alumni who are being honored by their respective colleges – the 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients.
The honorees are exceptional graduates from each of the University’s colleges and schools who have excelled in their professions, give back to their communities and alma mater, and serve as an inspiration for future generations of Miners.
“Our 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients are all contributing to a better world as leaders of nonprofit organizations, health care professionals, businessmen, engineers, data scientists and symphony conductors,” Villalva said. “These individuals were all selected for what they represent – UTEP at its best.”
UTEP’s 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients are:
College of Health Sciences
Bachelor of Social Work, 1980
Salvador Balcorta has served as the CEO of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe since 1992. He transformed the neighborhood health center in South El Paso into a nationally recognized network of nonprofit community health clinics, health and human service programs, and a dual-language charter school.
Balcorta’s many accolades include Mexico’s prestigious Ohtli Award and the National Association of Social Workers’ Lifetime Achievement Award. He also was appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Advisory Committee on Minority Health.
“UTEP taught me the value of hands-on knowledge,” Balcorta said. “Your life and field experience is something that is just as valuable, if not more so, than book knowledge.”
College of Business Administration
BBA Real Estate and Management, 1977
El Paso native, Paul Dipp, president of Economy Wholesale Grocers, credited UTEP’s supportive and engaged faculty with his success. He has shown his gratitude through his involvement in the UTEP Centennial Committee, COBA’s Business Advisory Council and as a lifetime member of UTEP’s Alumni Association.
Dipp juggled academics with his responsibilities with two family-owned businesses. The double major – real estate and marketing – said he applied what he learned in class to his jobs in commercial real estate and as a wholesale grocer.
“I have the opportunity to represent all the COBA graduates, and I’m profoundly grateful and humbled to represent UTEP,” Dipp said.
School of Nursing
For decades, Carolyn Moody Drake has served her community as an RN, then as a volunteer.
Among a wide range of community service, Moody Drake has focused much of her energy on the PARTNERS organization, which supports The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Cizik School of Nursing by raising funds for nursing scholarships and faculty research grants. She was the chair of PARTNERS in 2012-’13 and continues active involvement as a lifetime member.
A popular presenter on health care topics, Moody Drake ebulliently shares her knowledge and passion about nursing with others. She also drives, cooks and opens her home for those in need – most recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey flooding in 2017 in southeast Texas.
A lifetime member of the UTEP Alumni Association, Moody Drake said: “UTEP taught me to value a high-quality education in a multicultural environment, and it solidified an ideology based on caring and kindness.”
College of Engineering
B.S. Civil Engineering, 1974
Edward Drusina is highly respected for his accomplishments in engineering and water supply management. The former commissioner of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission led the development of critical international water management agreements between the U.S. and Mexico from San Diego, Calif. to Brownsville, Texas. These agreements continue to help border agriculture, industry and municipalities to have access to clean water.
Recently, Drusina retired from federal service. He stays engaged in his profession as a UTEP adviser, Texas A&M Research Center adviser, and part-time senior project engineer for Weston Solutions, an environmental and infrastructure support services company.
“UTEP gave me the education I needed to have a highly successful career in the public and private sectors,” Drusina said. “I’m thankful to represent an institution that contributes so much to our community.”
D. Frank Hsu, Ph.D., is internationally recognized as a leading pioneer of data science research and education.
Hsu is the Clavius Distinguished Professor of Science, a professor of computer and information science, and the director of the Fordham Laboratory of Informatics and Data Mining at Fordham University in New York. In that role, he has helped develop solutions to real-world problems by harnessing the power of data science, machine learning, cognitive computing, informatics, and model fusion.
Throughout his career, Hsu has authored or edited 40 books and published more than 200 technical papers. He received a Distinguished Teaching Award from Fordham in 2001 and an IBM Faculty Award in 2012, among other honors. He holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan,
“My experience at UTEP has impacted my life and career tremendously,” Hsu said. “I am proud and passionate about being a Miner and look forward to sharing my experiences and expertise with students and alumni of UTEP.”
As an elementary-level educator, counselor and administrator for 28 years, Maggie Morales-Moody earned recognition at the campus and state levels for her efforts to serve underrepresented students with unconditional dedication. She may now be retired, but her devotion hasn’t wavered.
In 2015, Morales-Moody, with the assistance of family, friends and donors, opened GiGi’s Playhouse El Paso, the state’s first achievement center for people with Down syndrome and their families. The playhouse is part of a national network that offers free educational, therapeutic, career and social programs.
“They took personal interest in each one of their students and encouraged us to look at each child as an individual, full of promise and hope,” Morales-Moody said.
College of Liberal Arts
B.A. Music Performance, 2001
Chihuahua City native, Claudio Ordaz traveled to El Paso on Saturdays as a teenager to study violin from the legendary Abraham Chavez. When it came time for college, he picked UTEP to continue to train under Chavez, a longtime professor of music.
He earned a B.A. in Music Performance in 2001 from UTEP, and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in orchestral conducting in 2008 and 2015, respectively, from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallin, Estonia, a country in Northern Europe next to the Baltic Sea.
In 2013, he founded the Savonlinna Camerata Orchestra in Finland. He serves as the group’s artistic director and conductor. He was the first Mexican to start and conduct an orchestra in Europe. The award-winning chamber orchestra has earned regional acclaim.
Ordaz currently lives in Jyväskylä, Finland, and is a professor of music at the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, where he teaches chamber music, violin and orchestral activities.
“My time at UTEP was one of the most extraordinary and inspiring of my life. Every day was special and exciting.”
College of Business Administration
New England native, Lisa Lavigne Saucedo is the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates Inc., or CASA, an agency that provides advocacy for abused and neglected children in the family court system.
Saucedo pursued UTEP’s Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) to enhance her leadership skills and build on the business acumen required to run a nonprofit which she already had years of managerial experience before transitioning to the executive director.
Saucedo said she was surprised and humbled to be named one of UTEP’s Gold Nuggets. She credits her time at UTEP with bolstering her leadership skills alongside a diverse cohort.
“Pursuing this degree really instills confidence and brings out your best attributes,” Saucedo said. “It teaches you to think differently about everything, and that the work that we do, from a multimillion-dollar company to a local nonprofit, can make a difference in the world.”
Patricia “Patty” Tiscareño is currently the executive director of the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation. The El Paso native said her duties demand the ability to communicate with board members one minute and patients from all demographics the next. She could follow those conversations with an analysis of her $13 million budget and a creative summit to discuss a future fundraiser or program development.
Others have recognized her abilities and sought her presence on numerous health, academic and community boards. Tiscareño has earned various awards through the years to include the 2016 Woman of Impact Award and her induction in 2018 into the El Paso Commission for Women Hall of Fame.
“My interactions with UTEP always positively impact my life,” Tiscareño said.
As a social worker for more than 30 years, Dorothy Truax has helped people of all ages and different backgrounds improve their lives.
Truax has served as director of social services at the Opportunity Center since 2014, and as director of the Reynolds Home, a homeless shelter for women and children, since 2006. She received a sociology degree from UTEP in 1973 and a master’s degree in social work from New Mexico State University in 2004. She has mentored nearly 30 undergraduate and graduate social work students at UTEP.
“In social work there is always something new, a new challenge every day,” Truax said. “So as long as you enjoy what you do, it is not a job. It’s something you love.”
The 2019 awardees will be officially recognized during UTEP’s 2019 Homecoming Week, Sept. 29 – Oct. 5, and will be showcased at the annual Distinguished Alumni Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, at the Don Haskins Center.