Alumni and Supporters Honored for Achievements, Service
From left: President David E. Daniel, Chris Jaeb, Elizabeth Jenkins, Lynn McIntire, Michael L. Wehmeyer, Michelle Adams, Kevin Ryan, David Kelly and Helen Small
Alumni and community leaders – representing technology, financial, energy, consumer marketing, education and philanthropic sectors – shared the spotlight at the University’s 12th annual Awards Gala this month.
A record crowd of nearly 400 attendees joined in celebrating the honorees’ accomplishments.
“I am inspired by my education at UT Dallas, because what it has given me is the gift of continuous learning, the craving to learn more,” said Michelle Janssen Adams BA’87, MA’88, PhD’95, founder of Marketing Brainology. She is the first woman to receive the UT Dallas Distinguished Alumni Award who earned all three degrees–bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral–from the University.
Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award
Northwood Woman’s Club
Green & Orange Award for Alumni Service
BS’07, MS’10 – Civic volunteer, Dallas
Distinguished Alumni Awards
Michelle Janssen Adams
BA’87, MA’88, PhD’95 – Founder and president, Marketing Brainology, Plano
BGS’86 – Founder, Common Ground Kauai, Kilauea, Hawaii
MS’86 – President and CEO, Bluefin Robotics, Quincy, Mass.
BA’79 – Principal, Cadent Capital LLC, Dallas
MBA’95 – Chief financial officer and senior vice president, Merit Energy Co., Richardson
Michael L. Wehmeyer
PhD’89 – Professor of special education; director, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities; and senior scientist, Beach Center on Disability, all at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.
See a previous issue of The Link
for full honoree profiles.
David Kelly MS’86 said UT Dallas has changed significantly since he came to the area to work at Texas Instruments in the 1980s. He said that the University not only provided key opportunities – location, support from industry and a strong administration and faculty – but also seized on them.
“It really is a testament to the vision and, frankly, the ambition of this administration and prior administrations to create what is UTD today,” Kelly said.
For the first time in the history of the Distinguished Alumni Awards, not one but two honorees each have a parent who also has graduated from UT Dallas—Chris Jaeb BGS’86, founder of Common Ground Kauai, and Kevin Ryan MBA’95, chief financial officer and senior vice president at Merit Energy Co.
“It’s been really great watching UTD explode over the years,” Ryan said. “It’s a big part of the community in which my family lives and which I’m very proud to be part of where it is and where it’s going in the future.”
Helen Small BS’07, MS’10 shares her story of becoming UT Dallas’ second-oldest graduate.
Michael Wehmeyer PhD’89 was part of an interdisciplinary doctoral program in human development and communication sciences focused on merging disciplines. His PhD advisor and former University faculty member, Ernie Gotts, celebrated the evening with the honoree.
“What I learned in those years was how to look at problems in human behavior and human development from a number of different lenses … and that has been a very, very important contribution to whatever success I’ve been able to achieve,” Wehmeyer said.
During her acceptance remarks, Lynn McIntire BA’79 referenced baseball and a favorite W.P. Kinsella story in which Shoeless Joe Jackson appears in a cornfield and says, “This must be heaven.” McIntire drew correlations between the scene and her UT Dallas experiences.
Michelle Adams BA’87, MA’88, PhD’95 accepts the Distinguished Alumni Award from Dr. Denis Dean, dean of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (left), and President David E. Daniel.
“I don’t know if those acres of prairie that are now the home to the UT Dallas campus were ever planted in corn, but I do know that the University that sprouted there is exceptional and is a little piece of heaven for so many people that do come and study and grow and learn,” McIntire said.
Since 2010, the University has been recognizing leaders who didn’t graduate from UT Dallas but have taken up the University’s cause with exceptional passion and enthusiasm. For the first time, an organization instead of an individual won the honor through the Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award. The Northwood Woman’s Club (NWC) has distributed more than $4.3 million in grants to a variety of service agencies, logged more than 11,000 hours of community service and has been a great friend to UT Dallas over the past three decades.
At the gala, members of the American Southwest Conference Tournament champion men’s basketball team present President David E. Daniel with an autographed basketball to commemorate the season.
In addition to receiving the Green and Orange Award for Alumni Service, Helen Small BS’07, MS’10 – who turned 94 just a few days after the gala – surely would have won the evening’s honors as most inspirational. Surrounded by her extended family, Small received two standing ovations after sharing her journey to becoming the University’s second-oldest graduate.
“The University of Texas System for 50 years has played a very important part in my life. First there were my three sons to educate. That was followed by my three daughters-in-law, then came my grandchildren and then myself.”
Although a full life of running a business with her husband and raising a family temporarily derailed Small’s college plans, education was always important. Her college experience may have spanned 70 years, but Small eventually earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University. She now devotes much of her time to philanthropic efforts.
Distinguished Alumni Kevin Ryan marks the occasion with his wife, parents and children. From left: Stephanie, Cristi, Kevin, Jake, Terry and Terry Ryan.
“Webster’s dictionary describes a volunteer as one engaged in a service. Well, I’d really like to add two words to that – ‘giving back.’”
Generous sponsors of this year’s gala include: Approach Resources Inc., Austin Commercial, Bluefin Robotics, Cadent Capital LLC, Ernst &Young, Geico Careers, Grant Thornton, Logotology, Merit Energy Company, Mr. and Mrs. Peter O’Donnell Jr., Pioneer Natural Resources, The Family of Helen Small, Travis Wolff, Texas Instruments and Verizon.