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August 13, 2019

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UT Dallas Awards Gala Celebrates Distinguished Alumni, Champion Supporters of the University

June 6, 2016

  • From left: Edward M. Ackerman, UT Dallas President ad interim Hobson Wildenthal, Angela G. Shoup, Ashok Kumar "A.K." Mago, the Honorable Angie Chen Button, John Olajide and Bill Booziotis, who died in May.

The largest crowd to ever attend the UT Dallas Awards Gala honored a distinguished slate of winners during the 14th annual event in April during a nostalgic and celebratory evening that was emceed by WFAA-TV news anchor John McCaa PhD’15.

During the ceremony, Edward M. Ackerman, general partner and portfolio manager of Dallas’ first hedge fund, received one of two Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Awards. Ackerman’s support and vision for elevating study and research into one of the most horrendous events of the 20th century led to the creation of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas.

“Much university activity focuses on discovering new things. But it is also vital to remember old things,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, UT Dallas president ad interim. “During the last 1,000 years of history, there is nothing more important for civilization to remember, now and forever, than the Holocaust. Ed Ackerman has ensured that The University of Texas at Dallas will play a globally important role in this crucial, enduring, task. …He has fundamentally changed the future by empowering us to remember the past.”

Bill Booziotis, who passed away in May after attending the gala, was named a Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award recipient for his tireless advocacy for the growth and success of the University. Booziotis, founder and president of Booziotis & Co. Architects, and the architect who designed the renovation of the McDermott Library and McDermott Suite, was known for his keen interest in brain research at the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) and participation on the center’s advisory council. In that role, he helped connect CVL with the wider Dallas community.

He spoke to the audience about UT Dallas’ history and his good fortune to have known all three of the University’s founders. “This University and its early development was largely the result of volunteer efforts,” he said, noting that those efforts have been instrumental in the evolution of UT Dallas.

The Honorable Angie Chen Button MS’80, who is serving her fourth term as the Texas House District 112 representative and recently retired from Texas Instruments, was awarded the Green and Orange Award for Alumni Service. In addition to championing UT Dallas in Austin, Button hires students and graduates, interacts with students on campus and at the Capitol, and broadly shares her love for her alma mater.

“UTD is a wonderful, universal, globally well-known university … and also a romantic place,” Button said. She met her husband, Darcy, while both were graduate students.

When Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Angela G. Shoup BS’89, MS’92, PhD’94 attended the University, she remembers a campus with a smaller footprint and student body. However, she credited the University’s founders with setting the stage for UT Dallas to flourish by providing the intellectual atmosphere that allowed the region to compete in industries dependent on highly trained and creative minds.

“I selected UT Dallas specifically due to the reputation of the Callier Center and hearing sciences,” said Shoup, an associate professor in otolaryngology and director of the communicative and vestibular disorders division at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “I did not realize at that time how much this choice would open up my world and dissolve its margins.”

Ashok Kumar “A.K.” Mago EMBA’99, chairman and CEO of Mago & Associates Inc., arrived in the DFW Metroplex in 1974 and took his first class at UT Dallas the next year. His commitment to serving the Dallas community — as well as the area’s Indian population — is evident in his long list of affiliations. Through it all, he is fueled a deep passion for education.

“I have received a few recognitions in my life, but this one is special — special for the reason that it’s coming from an educational institution,” said Mago, a Distinguished Alumni Award honoree.

John Olajide BS’04, founder and CEO of Axxess and Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, explained how his parents with minimal formal educations encouraged their five children to pursue studies and earn college degrees. His father — as well as others from Olajide’s home village in Nigeria — made his first trip to the U.S. to share the occasion of Olajide’s award.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and I am simply a product of a distinguished circle of friends, family, loved ones, colleagues and my immediate and extended communities,” Olajide said. “Good thing that Dallas is so far from Nigeria. Otherwise, our entire village would be here tonight.”

Olajide recently created an Opportunity Fund to benefit the National Society of Black Engineers at UT Dallas.

“What (the honorees) have done and are doing will impact UT Dallas far into the future,” Wildenthal said.

Sponsors of this year’s gala were: Axxess, the City of Richardson, the Eugene McDermott Foundation, Interstate Batteries, Mede Analytics, Merit Energy Co., State Farm, Texas Instruments and UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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

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