UTEP Announces 2022 Distinguished Alumni, Gold Nugget Awardees - Photo Courtesy of UTEP

UTEP Announces 2022 Distinguished Alumni, Gold Nugget Awardees

The University has selected three Distinguished Alumni and 10 Gold Nugget Award recipients who will be recognized during UTEP’s Homecoming celebration Oct. 23-29, 2022.


Among The University of Texas at El Paso’s proudest traditions is to celebrate and honor graduates who exemplify the true Miner spirit and excellence, from their time as students and throughout their lives and careers. UTEP recognizes these alumni with its Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nugget awards.

“This year’s Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nugget award recipients have lived exceptional lives,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said. “We look forward to celebrating them — and all of our UTEP alumni — during Homecoming 2022.”

The Distinguished Alumni Award was launched in 1950. This year, UTEP is recognizing the three proud Miners as its 2022 Distinguished Alumni: lifelong educator Lillian Crouch; retired engineer William “Willie” Quinn; and biomedical scientist and entrepreneur Keelung Hong, Ph.D.

“Their collective experience in the classroom, the lab and the job site has transformed lives,” said Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for alumni and donor engagement. “The passion of these three individuals is an inspiration to fellow alumni and future generations of Miners. We are so proud of these honorees.”

Lillian Williams Crouch

M.Ed. in Elementary Supervision Education, 1972


Lillian W. Crouch was a trailblazer who accomplished many firsts during a stellar 37-year career as a teacher and administrator. Crouch, who retired from the El Paso Independent School District in 2001 as executive director of human resources, was the district’s first African-American principal at a junior high school and the first to reach a director’s level. The 2012 recipient of the College of Education’s Gold Nugget Award praised the University for helping her develop her servant-leadership style, which she continues to use with organizations around the community and at UTEP, especially those that support economic and educational development, and physical and mental health. Her UTEP legacy includes an endowed memorial scholarship that she and her late husband set up in 1985 to honor their son, Frederick James Crouch.

“I am most grateful for this tremendous honor,” Crouch said. “I’m thrilled beyond words. I just try to make a difference.”

Keelung Hong, Ph.D.

M.S. in Chemistry, 1970


Keelung Hong left his native Taiwan in 1968 for UTEP to be among the first cohort of chemistry graduate students. He praised his Miner mentors for making his experience successful. Hong said the research he conducted opened his eyes to future possibilities. From UTEP, Hong enrolled at UC Berkeley, where he earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1975. His subsequent studies resulted in breakthroughs and multiple patents tied to targeted drug delivery. Based on his technology, Hong founded Taiwan Liposome Company in 1997. Now he is chair and CEO of Privatized TLC, which has a portfolio of therapeutics that target unmet medical need in pain management, ophthalmology and oncology. Hong has stayed connected to UTEP through financial donations and frequent visits as a guest speaker and mentor to faculty and students.

“A decade ago, I was honored as a Gold Nugget awardee from the College of Science,” Hong said. “Now I’m ecstatic as one of UTEP’s Distinguished Alumni.”


William Franklin “Willie” Quinn

B.S. in Civil Engineering, 1954


William F. “Willie” Quinn was a professional civil engineer with El Paso Natural Gas (EPNG) for 41 years until he retired in 1997, after which he became a historian who focused his research on his alma mater, The University of Texas at El Paso. Quinn recalled how his instructors used their practical field knowledge to enhance the classroom experience. He said his Texas Western education made him a successful professional. After a respected and award-winning career with EPNG, Quinn became active in community and campus organizations such as UTEP’s Heritage Commission, where he took on several leadership roles. He is part of the APO (Alpha Phi Omega) Social Fraternity Alumni Group, which oversaw the annual distribution of numerous scholarships to engineering and geology students until 2016.

“I was surprised, proud and humbled to be considered for this honor,” said the 90-year-old Quinn, who earned the College of Engineering’s first Gold Nugget Award in 1984. “I realized to be selected was the greater honor, after I picked myself off the floor.”


In addition to the Distinguished Alumni, UTEP’s schools and colleges also select outstanding alumni as Gold Nugget recipients, giving each school and college the opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of their respective alumni, Villalva said.
While their careers differ greatly, each Gold Nugget honoree shares a love for their alma mater, which provided them with the tools to be successful. This year’s group of impressive alumni represent the fields of banking, cancer research, education, engineering, family law, journalism, human resources, nonprofit leadership and physical therapy.
“They are Miners making history in their fields and elevating the status of UTEP with their work,” Villalva said. “We congratulate them all on this honor and can’t wait to celebrate them during Homecoming Week.”


The 2022 Gold Nugget Award recipients are:

College of Business Administration

Armando Castorena

BBA, Human Resource Management 1988; MBA, 1990

Armando Castorena is vice president for human resources transformation and chief diversity officer for Lockheed Martin Corp. His efforts in human resources have made Lockheed Martin one of the top U.S. places to work, and have played a role in the distribution of almost $20 million for team education and STEM career readiness. He also mentors Miners through a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and UTEP.

Lisa Saenz

BBA, Accounting and Computer Information Systems, 1997

Lisa Saenz is executive vice president – chief financial officer and chief operating officer at WestStar Bank. She is a certified public accountant who serves on a number of University, local and state boards. Saenz is a role model for female executives in banking and finance. Despite her many responsibilities, she makes time to mentor UTEP students.

College of Education

Col. Porfirio Montes, Ret.

B.S. Education, 1972

Porfirio Montes served four years with the Navy to include time in Vietnam before he enrolled at UTEP, where he excelled as a student government leader. The Top 10 Senior taught migrant children in South Texas before continuing his own education. He earned a master’s degree in social science in 1974 and returned to UTEP in 1978 as an associate professor of military science for four years. He said UTEP prepared him for a successful 44 years in the military and federal service.


Richard Salcido

B.S. Counseling 1979; M.Ed. Counseling 1986

Richard Salcido is an El Paso luminary in the realm of mental health. For more than four decades, he has provided mental health services in the region, including the last 25 years as executive director for Family Services of El Paso. In that time, he has trained scores of counselors, including UTEP interns, who have gone forth and significantly impacted the area’s mental well-being.

College of Engineering

Maria Galaviz

B.S. Industrial Engineering, 2002

Maria Galaviz made an immediate impression at Sandia National Laboratories in northern New Mexico. Consequently, the prestigious lab selected the UTEP alum to attend Cornell University for graduate school to hone her leadership skills. Today, she is the senior manager for product delivery in the lab’s Value Stream Group. Her influence has spurred a relationship between Sandia and UTEP that has opened career pathways for Miner graduates.

College of Health Sciences

Dr. Loretta Dillon

B.S. Biology, 1982; M.S. Kinesiology, 1994

After her time as a UTEP student, Dr. Loretta Dillon left El Paso to pursue a degree in physical therapy. She quickly returned to work at The Hospitals of Providence. Soon, she was a part-time instructor at El Paso Community College. In 1993, she began a lengthy career at UTEP, where she has continually worked to increase clinical site affiliations and teach the next generation of local practitioners. Dillon was a driving force in the establishment of UTEP’s physical therapy program, including its doctoral degree.

College of Liberal Arts

Patricia A. Macías

B.A. Psychology and English, 1973

Patricia A. Macías is an eighth-generation El Pasoan and first-generation college graduate. She credits UTEP’s psychology courses and their lessons on human behavior with molding her career on the bench. Macías served as a district judge in El Paso for 12 years. But she has also helped her community as a college counselor, attorney, jurist and philanthropy managing director. In 2008, she was the first Hispanic woman to be elected President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Robert Moore

B.A. Political Science, 1998

Robert Moore has spent most of his 36-year journalism career on the border. He recently founded El Paso Matters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan digital news site that focuses on the Paso del Norte region. His writings about the border have been featured by the Washington Post, ProPublica, NPR, the Guardian and Texas Monthly. He regularly speaks to classes in the colleges of Liberal Arts, Education and Business Administration.

College of Science

Jennifer Richer, Ph.D.

B.S. Biology, 1986; M.S. Biology, 1988

Jennifer Richer, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. In her 36-year academic career, she has developed into an international leader in the study of women’s cancers. Beyond her research, she has mentored numerous graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and younger faculty. Richer continues to serve UTEP and contribute to its considerable successes, namely as an active member of the College of Science Advisory Board.

School of Nursing

Omobola Oyeleye, Ed.D.

MSN Nursing System Management, 2011

Omobola Oyeleye, Ed.D., is an assistant professor in the undergraduate department at the Cizik School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Oyeleye holds a law degree and an education doctorate. She often combines nursing and law in her classes, her presentations throughout the world, and in her publications. Her professional career includes K-12 education (where she earned Teacher of the Year awards), mediation, disability rights law and medical surgical nursing.

About The University of Texas at El Paso

The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our more than 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 168 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.
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