UT Dallas Alumni, Friends Shine at Awards Gala
April 25, 2014
President David E. Daniel (from left) poses with 12th annual Awards Gala honorees Chris Jaeb, Northwood Woman’s Club president Elizabeth Jenkins, Lynn McIntire, Michael L. Wehmeyer, Michelle Janssen 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 celebrated the honorees’ accomplishments.
Michelle Janssen 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 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 who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award.
David Kelly MS’86, who came to the area in the 1980s to work at Texas Instruments, noted that the University is not the same school today. He said that the University not only provided key opportunities — location, support from industry and a strong administration and faculty — but also seized them.
“It really is a testament to the vision and, frankly, the ambition of this administration and prior administrations to create what UTD is today,” Kelly said.
For the first time in the history of the alumni awards, two recipients each have a parent who also 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.
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Kevin Ryan marks the occasion with his wife, parents and children. From left: Stephanie, Cristi, Kevin, Jake, Terrence and Terry Ryan.
“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 I’m very proud to be part of where it is and where it’s going in the future.”
Michael L. Wehmeyer PhD’89 was part of an interdisciplinary doctoral program in human development and communication sciences focused on merging disciplines. His PhD advisor, former University faculty member Ernie Gotts, celebrated the evening with him.
“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, 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.” Humbled by the evening and the honor, McIntire drew correlations between the scene and her UT Dallas experience.
“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,’” said Helen Small BS’07, MS’10.
“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 recognized leaders who didn’t graduate from UT Dallas but have embraced its cause with exceptional passion and enthusiasm. For the first time, an organization — the Northwood Woman’s Club — was honored with the Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award. The club 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 friend to UT Dallas for the past three decades.
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 — may have won the evening’s honor as most inspirational. Surrounded by her extended family, Small received two standing ovations after she shared her journey of 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,” Small said.
While running a business with her husband and raising a family may have delayed Small’s college plans, education was always important to her. She now devotes much of her time to philanthropic efforts.
“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.’”
Sponsors of this year’s gala included: Approach Resources Inc., Austin Commercial, Bluefin Robotics, Cadent Capital LLC, Ernst & Young, Geico Careers, Grant Thornton, Logotology, Merit Energy Co., Mr. and Mrs. Peter O’Donnell Jr., Pioneer Natural Resources, the family of Helen Small, Travis Wolff, Texas Instruments and Verizon.