Alumni, Supporters Honored at Awards Gala

  • Front row, left to right: UT Dallas President David E. Daniel, Jerri L. Hammer, the Honorable Dan Branch and Steven W. Caple. Back row, left to right: R. Carter Pate, David Hanson and Daniel E. Schwartz.

Alumni and community leaders shared the spotlight recently at the University’s 13th Awards Gala. Former CBS 11 news anchor Tracy Rowlett MA’80, a 2012 Distinguished Alumnus, emceed the gala, a time for thanks and praise of UT Dallas’ strongest supporters and outstanding alumni.

“Many have said that the future will belong to those with the best research and best talent,” President David E. Daniel said. “And that’s what it’s all about, bringing great minds and great talent to the region and creating a better life for all of us.”

During the ceremony, the Honorable Dan Branch, who recently retired from the Texas House of Representatives, received the Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award. Branch has championed the University and authored landmark legislation to encourage more Tier One public universities in Texas.

“The results and the achievements of the alumni, students and faculty are incredibly impressive,” Branch said. “It’s been an honor to work and lend a hand to UT Dallas.” 

Since she graduated, Jerri L. Hammer MS’97 JD, CPA has given both time and resources to her alma mater. Hammer serves on the University’s development board as an advisory council member for gift planning. She and her husband also established the Pomberg and Hammer Family Opportunity Fund.

The results and the achievements of the alumni, students and faculty are incredibly impressive. It’s been an honor to work and lend a hand to UT Dallas.

The Honorable Dan Branch,
recipient of the 2015 Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award

“I owe everything to the people who gave me my foundation — the teachers,” said Hammer, who received the Green and Orange Award for Alumni Service. “They were really interested in giving me the tools to practice in my profession, but they also cared about me and wanted me to be successful.”

Though his career in oil and gas took him far away from UT Dallas, Daniel E. Schwartz PhD’78, a Distinguished Alumni Award honoree, said he often thinks back to his studies with Geosciences Professors Emeriti Richard Mitterer and James Carter.

“What UTD enabled me to do when I showed up at Shell was to deal with all sorts of uncertainty, deal with a lot of different types of people and a lot of different types of concepts,” Schwartz said. “That all came from UTD late-night discussions and really enjoying learning. It was the seminar concept of sitting at the foot of the master and learning about your science.”

R. Carter Pate MS’03 came to UT Dallas later in his professional life after decades as a midlevel leader. He retired last year as the CEO of MV Transportation.

“I suddenly realized that I’d spent so much of my life doing work,” said Pate, who received the Distinguished Alumni Award. “I didn’t fully understand why and how things worked until I came here. This school has opened my eyes, and my career accelerated because of UT Dallas.”

Steven W. Caple BA’89 spoke about how the flexibility of his interdisciplinary studies program allowed him to take classes that prepared him not only for law school but his current position as president of Unity Hunt Inc.

“UT Dallas afforded me an opportunity to pursue a degree plan that was extraordinarily helpful in my educational endeavors,” said Caple, a Distinguished Alumni Award honoree.

As chief scientist of Hanson Robotics, David Hanson PhD’07 said he relies heavily on his educational foundation that married technology and science.

“This convergence of disciplines is emblematic of The University of Texas at Dallas,” said Hanson, who received the Distinguished Alumni Award. “It’s in the very heart of the University. If I had not been in this program, I would not have had the freedom to define this vision of what I wanted to do with my life.”

Sponsors of this year’s gala included: Austin Commercial, Merit Energy Co., Pioneer Natural Resources, Social Venture Partners Dallas, State Farm and Travis Wolff.

At the end of the awards ceremony, Vice President for Advancement Susan Rogers announced that since Rowlett did not get to participate in his graduation ceremony, his pomp and circumstance would arrive 35 years after he earned his degree.

A cap, gown and hood were quickly supplied before President Daniel presented the surprised master of ceremonies with a UT Dallas diploma cover at center stage as Rogers read, “Tracy Rowlett, Master of Interdisciplinary Studies, 1980.

“We’re proud of you, and all of our distinguished honorees, past and present,” Rogers said.

Gala Honorees 

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Steven W. Caple BA’89 – President, Unity Hunt Inc., DallasDavid Hanson PhD’07 – Founder and chief scientist, Hanson Robotics, DallasR. Carter Pate MS’03 – Retired CEO, MV Transportation, DallasDaniel E. Schwartz PhD’78 – manager of Strategic Business Development and New Ventures, and Innovation, Aera Energy LLC, Bakersfield, California

Green & OrangeAward for Alumni Service

Jerri L. Hammer MS’97, JD, CPA – Practice Group Leader, Business and Individual Tax and Advisory Services, TravisWolff Advisors and Accountants, Dallas

Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award

The Honorable Dan Branch, Texas House of Representatives 2003-2015, Dallas

See the alumni newsletter The Link for full profiles of the honorees.


Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].