University Celebrates Distinguished Alumni, Supporters at Awards Gala

Three graduates and two longtime University of Texas at Dallas advocates were recognized for their accomplishments and steadfast support during the 2019 UT Dallas Awards Gala.

Nearly 300 alumni and friends attended the gala held at the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center on March 30 and sponsored by Axxess, the city of Richardson, and Larry and Venise Stuart.

Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Awards

During the ceremony, Fred Hill, who retired from the Texas House of Representatives in 2009, received one of two Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Awards, a recognition named for the former president of the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies, the precursor to UT Dallas.

Over the course of his 20 years as the representative for District 112, Hill was an ardent supporter of the University, advocating for critical funding and championing legislation that dramatically shaped the trajectory of UT Dallas. In 1989 Hill was a co-author of the legislation that authorized the University to admit freshmen and sophomores, significantly expanding access to higher education. During his remarks at the gala, Hill presented Amanda Rockow MA’12, vice president for public affairs at UT Dallas, with the pen that then-Gov. Bill Clements used to sign the pivotal legislation.

More Awards Gala Coverage

See a video from this year’s event, and learn more about previous honorees on the alumni relations website. Read a recent Alumni Link article for complete profiles of this year’s honorees. The 2020 Awards Gala celebrating the University’s 50th anniversary will take place on May 2, 2020.

“I have been privileged to observe the growth of the University for the last several decades and have always been proud of its contribution to the state and the local community,” Hill said. “I am so happy to be associated with The University of Texas at Dallas.”

Even beyond retirement, Hill routinely provides tours of the Texas Capitol to UT Dallas students and meets with recipients of the Fred Hill Scholarship for Public Service, an endowment created by the University and its supporters to which Hill has contributed generously.

Philip R. Jonsson, the owner of Signal Media of Arkansas Inc. and trustee and president emeritus of the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation, also was presented with the Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award for his exceptional service and dedication to UT Dallas.

“I am quite humbled to be honored here tonight,” said Jonsson, a respected civic leader in both Dallas and Little Rock, Arkansas. “This is the highest honor I could hope for, and it is more than enough.”

The son of UT Dallas co-founder J. Erik Jonsson, Jonsson served as an honorary co-chair of the University’s Realize the Vision campaign from 2009 to 2014, and the family’s foundation established the Jonsson Family Graduate Fellowship in Bioengineering with a $100,000 gift. He and his wife, Diane Jonsson, serve as honorary chairs of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science Executive Council.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Richard W. Danielson PhD’87 chose to pursue his PhD through UT Dallas’ Callier Center for Communication Disorders for the opportunity to study under internationally recognized researchers investigating the effects of impulse noise on hearing. Danielson serves as manager for audiology and hearing conservation at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. He said his experiences at the Callier Center were crucial to his 28-year career with the U.S. Army and leadership roles at NASA and with several audiology-related professional organizations.

“When I was young, I certainly didn’t see or anticipate having a hands-on role in space medicine of astronauts and cosmonauts,” Danielson said. “However, I was incredibly fortunate to have enough family, professors and colleagues who pointed out to me: ‘This is the right time, and you are the right person at this time to handle this now.’”

Longtime civic leader Venise Stuart BS’79 also received the Distinguished Alumni Award. She chaired her first charity ball in the 1980s and has since dedicated her efforts and energy to a number of worthy causes and organizations, including the University’s Center for Vital Longevity and the Center for BrainHealth.

“When I graduated from UTD with a bachelor’s in business and public administration in 1979, I had no idea where I was going or what I would be doing,” said Stuart, who credits the University as an important influence. “Giving back to the community is something that I feel passionate about.”

Stuart is president-elect of the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and president of the Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society.

Green and Orange Award

A loyal UT Dallas supporter, Angelica E. Barriga BS’03, MBA’08 received the Green and Orange Award for her faithful volunteer service to the University. Appreciative of the gifts of mentorship and financial support she received as a student, Barriga is determined to pay it forward. She serves as a mentor in the Naveen Jindal School of Management, speaks at student events, guides career roundtables and hosts dinners for students.

“Sharing our past experiences is invaluable to students,” she said. “By doing so through these acts of service, we have the opportunity to give guidance that we would have loved to have received.”

In 2013 Barriga established the Angelica Barriga Scholarship to support full-time undergraduates in need of financial assistance in the Jindal School. A first-generation college student, Barriga is a business planning manager for Google.

Nearly 300 alumni and friends attended the sold-out gala, which was presented by Axxess. Other event sponsors were the city of Richardson and Larry and Venise Stuart.

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