Awards to Honor Key UT Dallas Supporter, 9 Accomplished Alumni

2011 Awards Gala

March 31:  Reception is at 5:45 p.m. with dinner and program at 6:30 p.m.

Renaissance Dallas Richardson Hotel 900 East Lookout Drive, Richardson, Texas

Tickets: $60 each. Registration is available online. Corporate sponsorships are also available.

Past award recipients:

More information: Office of Development and Alumni Relations, (972) 883-2586.

UT Dallas will honor nine alumni and one of the University's most ardent community supporters at the annual Awards Gala on March 31.

The University began recognizing graduates with the Distinguished Alumni Award 10 years ago. Now several hundred alumni and friends attend the gala, which also features the Green and Orange Award for Alumni Service and the Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award, named for the first president of the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies, the institution he helped transform into UT Dallas in 1969.

“UT Dallas is proud to recognize the honorees of the 2011 Awards Gala,” said Dr. Aaron Conley, vice president for development and alumni relations. “The accomplishments of these alumni and friends are truly inspiring, and their service to UT Dallas sets an outstanding example for our students to remember as they become alumni.”

Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award Honoree 

Debbie Francis has served UT Dallas as a board chair of the Center for BrainHealth since 2005.  During her tenure, the Center has grown in unprecedented ways: moving into a 63,000-Debbie Francissquare-foot research facility, quadrupling staff, increasing fundraising sevenfold, and starting 30 new research projects. Her support of brain research in Dallas earned her the 2008 Legacy Award, the Center’s highest honor. She has also dedicated her time to numerous other area organizations, including Charter 100 of Dallas, the Crystal Charity Ball, Junior League, the Sweetheart Ball, and United Cerebral Palsy, for which she served on the national board. A close friend of the former first lady, Francis is chairman of the advisory board of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at Texas Tech University. She and her husband, Jim, are among Dallas’ most passionate and tireless community leaders.

Green and Orange Award for Alumni Service Honoree

Joyce R. Johnson BGS ’83 seized the opportunity to complete her college degree when her husband’s new job at Texas Instruments brought the couple to Dallas. Once here, she enrolled in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, formerly known as Joyce JohnsonGeneral Studies. Both Joyce and her husband attended night classes and would often meet in the Green Building commons for dinner. As an active volunteer leader for UT Dallas, she is a frequent visitor to the campus for student events and programs. Johnson has shown her loyalty in a way few other alumni have — by including the University as a beneficiary in her will. This gift is a way to honor her late husband, who held a master’s degree from the School of Management and was pursing his doctorate when he died in 1985. Beyond UT Dallas, she has another passion: to seek a cure for cancer. Johnson is an advocate and fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. She also volunteers at The Women’s Museum and for Friends of the Dallas Public Library.

Distinguished Alumni Award Honorees

Britt R. Berrett PhD ’09 is president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where he oversees strategic planning and operations for the 900-bed facility. He is also the executive vice president of Texas Health Resources Inc. Before Britt Berrettjoining Texas Health Dallas, he served as president and chief executive officer of Medical City Dallas Hospital. Berrett became interested in health care and the impact it makes on a community while on a two-year mission trip in Peru. Before completing a PhD in public affairs at UT Dallas, he received a master’s degree in hospital administration from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He has maintained close ties to the University, serving as a past member of the School of Management Executive Education Advisory Council and a current member of the MPA Program Advisory Board. Berrett also lends his time and expertise to many other area organizations. He is a board of trustee member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, advisory board member of the Ronald McDonald House, and board of director member of the The Health Industry Council and Green Oaks Hospital. Over the years, Berrett has been recognized for his contributions by the Dallas Business Journal and Modern Healthcare.

Barbara Katherine Cone PhD ’79. After Dr. Barbara Katherine Cone graduated from UT Dallas with a PhD in 1979, her professional career led her across the country and eventually around the world. She has explored speech language and hearing sciences for more than 10 years as a professor at the University of Arizona. Previously, Cone was Britt Berrettan assistant professor at Arizona State University, and she taught at and directed the clinical auditory electrophysiology lab at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. From 1985 to 1995, Barbara was a professor of otolaryngology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. She was also the chief of audiology at the Los Angeles County Medical Center during that time. Her work eventually took her to another continent as a visiting research fellow at the Australian National University and a chaired professor at the University of Melbourne. In 2008, Cone was a visiting research professor at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center in California. Shortly after that, she was named an Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Cone is also a fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology.

Sally L. Crawford BGS ’83 is a partner at Jones Day in Dallas. Her practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and corporate law. Crawford concentrates on the representation of privately held companies in the technology, Britt Berretttransportation, manufacturing and service industries. She also has represented numerous nonprofit corporations. Crawford has been involved in pro bono work since the 1980s and currently serves as the pro bono coordinator for the Jones Day Dallas office. In recognition of her commitment, she was honored as the pro bono attorney of the year by the Women’s Legal Advocacy Center and by the Dallas Bar Association. Crawford also received the Frank J. Scurlock Award for outstanding pro bono work in Texas for providing legal services to indigents. Her involvement in the legal community is extensive. She is a director of the Dallas Bar Association and a member of the Dallas Entrepreneurship Institute, College of the State Bar of Texas, and Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Greater Dallas. Crawford is also a fellow of the Dallas Bar Foundation. Last year, D Magazine named her one of the best women lawyers in Dallas. Crawford also serves on the board of the Richardson Symphony.

James R. Dixon PhD ’80. Long before Dr. James R. Dixon became a geological adviser for ExxonMobil Exploration Co., he was fascinated with rocks. In fact, as an undergrad at Stony Brook University in New York, he not only explored the petrology of moon rocks but also studied rocks with his geology lab partner Britt Berrettand future wife, Selena. In 1975, both Jim and Selena enrolled in the UT Dallas Geosciences graduate program. As a student, he taught geology classes at Eastfield College and interned for a summer at Mobil Oil’s research lab in Dallas. Liking his expertise, Mobil hired Dixon to conduct research on the origin of uranium deposits, the characterization of sandstone oil reservoirs, and the fluid flow behavior of reservoir rocks. When Mobil merged with Exxon in the late 1990s, he moved his family to the Houston area so he could join ExxonMobil’s Upstream Research Company. Later, Dixon transferred to ExxonMobil Exploration Co., where he teaches, mentors and oversees core analysis for worldwide exploration projects. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and the Society of Core Analysts. In his spare time, Dixon volunteers as a community firefighter. 

Wm. Daniel Gibson Jr. MS ’90 is vice president and general manager of the Systems Engineering Solutions strategic business unit of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Based in Broomfield, Colo., Ball Britt BerrettAerospace develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components and solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. Gibson is responsible for all aspects of Systems Engineering Solutions’ nationwide operations. He has held many leadership positions at Ball Aerospace, including director of programs and director of advanced systems for Systems Engineering Solutions. Before hiring on at Ball Aerospace in 1997, he spent several years developing and delivering systems and professional services to the defense, intelligence and civil space markets. During his career, Gibson worked in business development and technical roles at Raytheon and General Dynamics. His master’s degree from UT Dallas is in management and administrative sciences.

Richard S. Merrick BA’81, MS’87 has spent 25 years successfully exploring software design, multimedia development and Internet communications. He founded Postfuture Inc. in 1999 to seize the growing opportunity in digital marketing. Over the years, Merrick’s clients have Britt Berrettincluded Best Buy, Pizza Hut and Microsoft. During his tenure as CEO, Postfuture became Forrester Research’s top e-messaging technology provider in 2004, ranked fourth in the Deloitte Fast 50 and was honored in the Inc. 500. Before starting Postfuture, Merrick worked for Richardson-based Micrografx Inc., where he developed and marketed system software products for Microsoft Windows. This grew to include the first multimedia presentation application for Microsoft Windows. He then created 7th LEVEL, which produced award-winning CD-ROM entertainment and educational products with comic Howie Mandel and Disney. As CEO, Merrick repositioned what was then a public game company into an Internet technology provider, eventually transforming it into a successful distance learning company. Merrick has also published several books and articles on the physics, historical and social ramifications of harmonic science, which explores perception of music. Throughout his career, he has maintained close ties to the University. Merrick is a guest lecturer at UT Dallas and serves on the advisory council for the School of Arts & Humanities.

H. Ronald Nash MS’79 is an entrepreneur and business executive in the technology industry. Based in the Dallas office, he is a partner in InterWest Partners, a Silicon Valley-headquartered technology venture capital partnership with practices in information technology and life sciences. Nash uses his business-Britt Berrettbuilding experience as a member of the board of directors for software companies such as Damballa and Pivot3. Nash began his career at EDS, now HP Enterprise Services, in both technical and business management positions. He was a senior vice president at Perot Systems from 1993 to 2000, and a member of the team leading the company’s IPO process. At Perot Systems, he managed the industry group worldwide, sales and marketing worldwide, and overseas business operations. Nash was also a director of a Perot Systems joint venture in India for software development with HCL Technologies. Over the years, Nash’s investments have created companies with a current market value of more than $450 million. Along the way, he served as president of several firms that became publicly held, including Rubicon, now Cerner Corp. Nash devotes much of his time to community and volunteer activities as a board member of the Greenhill School Board of Trustees, the Georgia Tech Advisory Board, the Dallas Zoological Society and Highland Park United Methodist Church. A longtime supporter of UT Dallas, Nash serves on the Development Board and the School of Management Advisory Council, which honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2000. In 2010, he and his wife established the Susan C. and H. Ronald Nash Distinguished Professorship in the School of Management.

David Norris BS’90 is CEO of BlueCava Inc., an Irvine, Calif., startup that provides device identification and reputation technology that protects against online fraud and promotes online marketing. Prior to joining Britt BerrettBlueCava, Norris created several companies where he also served as CEO. These companies include OnRequest Images and ObjectSpace. As an entrepreneur with 20 years' experience building successful brands around the world, Norris is often a guest speaker at industry conferences for organizations such as Microsoft and the Harvard Business School. Norris has appeared on CNN, and Bloomberg Television, as well as in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as an expert in the areas of branding, technology, international business and entrepreneurism. Norris has received many honors, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Inc. 500. As a senior adviser, Norris lends his expertise to many emerging technology companies. He is also active with several charitable organizations such as LiveStrong and Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer.

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