Alumni Achievement

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Every year, the Southwestern University Alumni Association honors members of the Southwestern community who exemplify the Core Values of the University and the mission of The Association through its most prestigious form of recognition–the Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Call for Nominations – Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Southwestern University Alumni Association will open the nominations process for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards in the fall. Self-nominations are accepted.

Selection Process - Distinguished Alumni Awards

Alumni Award honorees are selected each year by members of the Southwestern University Alumni Association’s Nominations and Awards Committee (comprised of 10 alumni volunteers). The Committee submits their recommendations to the Alumni Council, who then votes upon the slate of honorees. Selected honorees are informed of their nominations by the Nominations and Awards Chair (a position on the Alumni Council) and their acceptance of the awards is then confirmed.

Distinguished Alumni Award Categories

Medal of Honor
Awarded to alumni whose accomplishments are regarded as the highest form of achievement. The purpose of the award is to recognize achievements that are rare and important. 

Distinguished Southwestern Service
Presented to alumni who have provided sustained and significant service to the University.

Distinguished Humanitarian
Presented to alumni who have made a global impact on the human race by their actions while exemplifying Southwestern University’s Core Values. 

Distinguished Young Alumnus/a
Presented to alumni in recognition of perseverance and dedication to a given area. The honored recipient must have a class year no more than 10 years removed from his/her attendance at Southwestern and must have demonstrated early success, innovation, and/or leadership either in his/her personal, academic, or professional life. Recipients represent the finest young alumni and the University’s commitment to a values-centered curriculum, development of the whole person and exemplifies Southwestern University’s Core Values.

Distinguished Professional 
Presented to Southwestern University alumni who have performed exceptional civic and/or professional services in a given geographic area or field of endeavor. Recipients represent the highest standards of Southwestern University’s commitment to a values-centered curriculum, development of the whole person and exemplifies Southwestern University’s Core Values. 

Pirate of the Year
An honor given to a member of the faculty as a symbol of the affection and respect of former students. The award symbolizes the strength of the University: the strong personal relationships between students and faculty. It states clearly that alumni recall with appreciation what the recipient contributed to the education and development of former students.  


  • Ray Martinez ’87

    Medal of Honor

  • Joanne Chiang DeHerrera ’01

    Distinguished Professional

  • David B. Clifford ’71

    Distinguished Humanitarian

  • Ashley Chavana ’20

    Distinguished Young Alumna

  • Dawn Johnson ’95

    Distinguished Professional

  • William Joseph King ’93

    Distinguished Southwestern Service

  • Pierce MacGuire ’14

    Distinguished Young Alumnus

  • Christopher J. Nieto ’97

    Distinguished Professional

  • Rev. Dr. L. James Bankston ’70

    2023 Medal of Honor Recipient

  • Edward H. Ellis Jr. ’64 and Suzanne Morrow Ellis ’64

    2023 Distinguished Southwestern Service Award Recipients

  • William Hyatt ’84

    2023 Distinguished Humanitarian Award Recipient

  • Dr. Carolina Mendoza ’13

    2023 Distinguished Young Alumna Award Recipient

  • Olivia M. Travieso ’07

    2023 Distinguished Professional Award Recipient

  • Lt. Col. Jennifer Dunning Venghaus ’00

    2023 Distinguished Professional Award Recipient

  • Rev. Harold D. Burkhardt ’49, P’80

    2022 Distinguished Humanitarian Award Recipient

  • Hector E. Ruiz ’10

    2022 Distinguished Southwestern Service Award Recipient

  • Kadidiatou Magassa ’13

    2022 Distinguished Young Alumna Award Recipient

  • Christopher K. Morgan ’04

    2022 Distinguished Professional Award Recipient

  • Jason E. Schayot ’97

    2022 Distinguished Professional Award Recipient

  • A Family Legacy

    An unknown author once wrote, “Like branches on a tree we grow in different directions but our roots remain as one.”

  • Travis Bias ’04

    Distinguished Humanitarian

  • Nicholas R. Cox ’11

    Distinguished Young Alumnus

  • Molly McKee Lopez ’91, P’21

    Distinguished Professional

  • Jessica Vittorio ’11

    Distinguished Young Alumna

  • Jason Embry ’98

    Distinguished Professional

  • Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli ’92

    Distinguished Professional

  • George Cruz, Jr. ’95

    Distinguished Southwestern Service

  • Jennifer Howell ’09

    Distinguished Young Alumna

  • Jackson Bird ’12

    Distinguished Young Alumnus

  • Amit Virmani ’95

    Distinguished Humanitarian

  • Allison Dickson ’02

    Distinguished Southwestern Service

  • Susan Slagle Rogers ’83

    Distinguished Professional

  • Jessica E. Hager ’08

    Distinguished Young Alumna

  • Casey Grier Blades ’09

    Distinguished Young Alumna

  • Sylvia J. Sydow Kerrigan ’86

    Distinguished Professional

  • Dr. Roy Rivera Jr. ’02

    Distinguished Professional

  • Jim W. Wilson ’69

    Distinguished Southwestern Service

  • Bill Engvall ’79, Distinguished Professional

    Since being named Best Male Stand Up at the American Comedy Awards in 1992, comedian Bill Engvall, Jr. ’79 has carved out a piece of comedic American history. His relatable, straight-shooting brand of humor has earned him sold out tours, platinum-selling albums, a television show, and loyal fans across the country.

  • Stephen Foster ’09, Distinguished Young Alumnus

    With all that Stephen Foster ’09 has accomplished since his graduation from Southwestern University just eight years ago, it’s clear he is a talented computer scientist. But what is most remarkable about Dr. Foster, is his passion for sharing those talents with the next generation of coders.

  • Lawrence Kern ’01, Distinguished Humanitarian

    Lawrence Kern ’01 believes the transformative power of artistic expression is something that people of all cognitive and developmental abilities should have access to. Since 2010, he has served as a teaching artist for individuals with disabilities, and is a proud co-founder of A.B.L.E. (Artists Breaking Limits and Expectations) which offers performing arts experiences for individuals with developmental differences. With each performance, these young actors develop a new depth of emotional understanding, new carefulness and confidence in their verbal communication, new belief in their ability to have an impact on other people, and a new belief that they have something valuable to say in the world.

  • Karen Hanson-Flowers ’75, Distinguished Southwestern Service

    Karen Hanson-Flowers ’75 is one of those inspiring people whose many accomplishments, successes, and commitments beg the simple question: how does she do it? In addition to her impressive day job as the Senior Vice President of Contract Administration and Human Resources at Alpheus Communications, Hanson-Flowers also finds time to be a member of The Junior League of Houston, to serve on the Board of The Women’s Resource Center of Greater Houston, and also on the Board of Visitors of Southwestern University.

  • Cile Spelce Elley ’91, Distinguished Professional

    For 25 years, Cile Spelce Elley ’91 has carefully assessed people, culture, and information as an award-winning journalist and documentarian. She began her career as a Cub reporter before working her way up to become a star on-camera field reporter, and then a major-market TV news anchor. Since co-founding her own media company, Elley has created, written, produced real-life stories for all types of media, including the nationally-acclaimed documentary television series Friday Night Tykes, currently in its fourth season.

  • Robert H. Simpson ’32, Medal of Honor

    With his pioneering efforts into hurricane research, meteorologist Robert “Bob” Simpson ’32 did more than earn a place in history. His legacy is an ongoing one that still impacts the way storms are tracked and categorized. Dr. Simpson is the co-founder of the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with its well-known one through five categories. He was also instrumental in the advancement of surge forecasting models to issue urgent warnings that have saved hundreds of lives through the years, and continue to do so today.

  • Dr. Traci Giuliano, Ms. Homecoming

    For the past 23 years, Traci Giuliano has held the title of Professor of Psychology at Southwestern University. But in truth, she is so much more than a professor to her students. Mentor, supporter, confidant, counselor, friend—all of these words are used to describe her.

  • Marc Erck ’88, Distinguished Professional

    Marc Erck embodies a love of music and a passion for teaching. His influence reverberates throughout the world, in the lives of the many students he has inspired, from middle school choir students in Austin to adult singers in Cameroon.

  • Laura Cordes ’91, Distinguished Humanitarian

    For advocating for the rights of sexual assault victims, the Southwestern University Alumni Association proudly presents Laura Cordes with the 2016 Distinguished Humanitarian Award.

  • Anita Fernandez ’06, Distinguished Young Alumna

    There’s purpose. And there’s social purpose. Anita Fernandez has both. Fernandez is one of the founders of The OCI Group, a consulting firm that guides businesses, educational institutions, individuals and organizations on increasing their social presence in the community and their respective industry. She focuses on nonprofit management, history and art.

  • Jacob Beswick ’07, Distinguished Young Alumnus

    How many Southwestern alumni have contributed to the U.N. Secretary General’s report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict? By our count, just one: Jacob Beswick, a 2007 magna cum laude graduate with a double major in political science and Spanish.

  • Carlie L. Sulpizio ’13, Distinguished Young Alumna

    Carlie Sulpizio’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Her interest in the world and its people knows no bounds—as evidenced by her three-year term in the Peace Corps as the Community Health Development Agent in Burkina Faso and her studies in anthropology, theatre and global health.

  • Blake Stanford ’81, Distinguished Southwestern Service

    Blake Stanford is a community leader, a husband and dad, a proud Kappa Sigma brother, and a fierce advocate for child nutrition. He is this year’s recipient of the award for Distinguished Southwestern Service. Stanford serves Southwestern University as a member of the Board of Trustees, charged with overseeing the system of governance, academic life, student life and the University’s fiscal affairs and served as president of the Southwestern University Alumni Association from 2012 to 2014.

  • Bob Bednar ’89, Mr. Homecoming

    This year’s Mr. Homecoming Bob Bednar, associate professor of communication studies, is a much beloved figure on campus known for his quiet, thoughtful, and intentional approach. His colleagues know him for playing a major role in building communication studies into the robust program it is today at the University.

  • F. Fleming Crim ’69, Medal of Honor

    Since 2013, F. Fleming Crim ’69 has been the Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) at the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he leads a staff of 160 and has an annual budget of $1.3 billion. MPS supports core research in astronomy, chemistry, physics, material science and mathematics; in his role, Crim oversees policy decisions for some of the most fundamental and creative science efforts in the United States.

  • Captain Thomas Herzig ’84, Distinguished Professional

    After earning his Ph.D. in pharmacology, Thomas Herzig ’84 chose a career in the Navy. Advancing in rank throughout the years, he was recently promoted to the high ranking officer position of Captain. Friends share that he has a depth and breadth of knowledge in medical research and business that is matched by few.

  • Megan McCarty ’09, Distinguished Young Alumna

    A gifted cellist, Megan McCarty ’09 distinguished herself as a Southwestern music major by winning the University’s concerto competition, working as special musicological assistant for a series of performances organized through a Mellon Integrated Scholarly Community grant, and becoming the first scholar to recognize the existence of a song cycle by Franz Liszt (1811-1886).

  • Rev. Milton Jordan ’62, Distinguished Southwestern Service

    Rev. Milton Jordan ’62 has spent his life not only teaching his children the Golden Rule, but also being a living example of “treating others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.” A tireless advocate for those less fortunate, Jordan is calm and non-confrontational in his efforts to help others and has inspired many to treat all people with fairness and respect.

  • Stephanie Braccini Slade ’02, Distinguished Professional

    Humanity benefits greatly from her contributions to the well-being of the animal kingdom. The global perspective Stephanie Braccini Slade ’02 has achieved through her work with primates allows her to see—and share with others—that humans aren’t the only part of humanity; that human and animal lives are connected, influencing and relying on one another.

  • Hal Haskell, Mr. Homecoming

    “I have never heard a bad word about him; he is as good as they come,” says a faculty colleague of Hal Haskell, who has been a professor of classics at Southwestern for more than 30 years.

  • Teresa Coble Sherwood ’77, Distinguished Humanitarian

    With her degree in psychology from Southwestern, Teresa Coble Sherwood ’77 has served for nearly 20 years as Director of Mission at First United Methodist Church Mansfield, where she has developed and overseen global mission and disaster response efforts around the world, as well as programs to respond to the needs of the local community.

  • Steve Raben ’63, Distinguished Southwestern Service

    Steve Raben ’63 is known far and wide for being laser-focused on what is best for his beloved alma mater. His efforts toward the betterment of the University improve the quality of the experience students receive at Southwestern and further the healthy survival of the University’s rich traditions.

  • Lloyd Minick ’08 and Michael Hanan ’10, Distinguished Young Alumni

    Lloyd Minick ’08 and Michael Hanan ’10 have an inspiring story of fraternity brothers turned business partners. Both active on campus in the Kappa Sigma fraternity, the two have now come together to start the urban farming company Ten Acre Organics, with the aim of creating sustainable farming practices with high yields in urban areas.

  • H. Reginald “Reg” McDaniel ’58, Distinguished Professional

    H. Reginald “Reg” McDaniel ’58, graduated with honors from Southwestern with a double major in chemistry and biology, and completed medical school at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He has since spent 30 years practicing anatomical and clinical pathology, including positions as the Director of Pathology & Laboratories and Director of Medical Education at Dallas-Ft Worth Medical Center. He has also been on the clinical faculty as an instructor at Southwestern Medical School since 1966.

  • Eric Batch ’97, Distinguished Professional

    Commitment to service leadership is one of the defining characteristics of Eric Batch ’97. As a Southwestern student, Batch was active on campus and in the Georgetown community. His Southwestern Experience was more than just life on campus; it was about applying his education to improve the community in which he lived.

  • David Olson, Mr. Homecoming

    For more than 22 years, David Olson has been an assistant professor and Director of Communications Studies Internships at Southwestern. He has inspired students to chase their dreams and to believe in themselves — tools that they will carry with them throughout their careers.

  • Adam Winkler ’04, Distinguished Young Alumnus

    Adam Winkler ’04 has spent the past decade as a reporter, not only covering local sports, but breaking national news stories as well. He has received countless recognitions for his work as a writer and broadcaster, including two Lone Star EMMY nominations and, earlier this year, a Barbara Jordan Media Award for First Place TV Feature from the Texas Governor’s Office. And all of this without a degree in journalism.


  • Jay Richards ’89, Distinguished Professional

    Jay Richards ’89 has devoted his career to his beliefs and to the pursuit of truth. As a result, his professional accomplishments speak volumes. He is currently a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, where he directs the Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality. He is also an author, producer of documentaries, and frequent speaker on the topics of science and faith.

  • Susannah Prucka ’03, Distinguished Young Alumna

    Susannah Prucka ’03 is an assistant attorney general for the state of Maryland, and is known not only for her ambition, leadership and knowledge of the law, but also for bringing people together and making them feel comfortable. She has even organized a lunch group in her office that quickly became the “place to be” at noon.

  • Eric Selbin, Professor of Political Science and University Scholar, Mr. Homecoming

    The Mr. Homecoming Award is an honor bestowed upon a member of the Southwestern University faculty as a token of the affection and respect of former students. One student of Eric Selbin, professor of political science and University Scholar, who now considers Eric a friend and mentor, says he was and continues to be his champion and motivator.

  • Farhana Mahmood Qazi ’96, Distinguished Humanitarian

    Farhana Mahmood Qazi, ’96 is an analyst, writer, lecturer and a senior Pakistan instructor on the AFPAK Regional Training Team at Booz, Allen & Hamilton, where she designs multiple courses on Islamic civilization and all-things-Pakistan for U.S. government analysts and officers.

  • Georgianne Hewitt ’90, Distinguished Southwestern Service

    Georgianne Hewett ’90 personified the phrase “Be Southwestern” long before it became popular among students and alumni. Her love of her alma mater was obvious in everything she did while a member of the Southwestern staff. A long time colleague of Georgianne’s wonders who knew that her hiring of another “Texas cheerleader type” (like herself) would prove to one of the best professional decisions she’s ever made and would have such an amazing impact on Southwestern’s alumni program.

  • Sherry Adrian, Ms. Homecoming

    Associate Professor of Education Sherry Adrian has said that preparing future educators is both challenging and exhilarating, but it is her relationship with students that strongly influences why and how she teaches. She believes that the best way to teach effectively is to know her students and to be known by them.

  • Steve Cotton ’77, Distinguished Professional

    Steve Cotton ’77 has had a rich and multifaceted career in investments, business, government, public affairs, media relations and marketing for 30 years.  Currently the Managing Partner of the Cotton-Adams Financial Group, he has previously helped develop public policy in the U.S. Congress and the Texas Legislature and has served a major Texas university among many other responsibilities.

  • Mike Lade ’88, Distinguished Humanitarian

    Mike Lade ’88 is a seasoned senior financial executive and strategic thinker who has spent half of his 25-year career developing a company that helps families navigate one of the most emotional and challenging purchases they will ever make—a funeral.

  • Susan Youens ’69, Distinguished Professional

    Susan Youens ’69  has lived in South Bend, Indiana for many years, but she was born in Houston, and has the lovely lilting hint of a Texas drawl - as one of her colleagues puts it - to prove it.

  • John “J” Wehrley Chapman ’60, Distinguished Professional

    With a Bachelor of Science degree from Southwestern and a Ph.D. from Duke, John “J” Wehrley Chapman ’60 was a professor of physics at the University of Michigan for more than 30 years, achieving emeritus status in 2008. J has had no less than 14 research papers published in as many years. And, he can claim approximately 400 additional publications prior to 1998.

  • Anne Olson ’08, Distinguished Young Alumna

    After graduating magna cum laude from Southwestern with a BA in sociology, Anne Olson ’08 went on to work for Public Strategies Inc., a corporate communications and crisis management firm, as a fellow and account executive; and then as a public policy specialist with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission in Austin.

  • Blair Quinius ’05, Distinguished Young Alumnus

    In 2008, Blair Quinius ’05 had a vision to combine his love of working with young people and his love of Honduras, where he taught at the Mayatan Bilingual School. This vision resulted in the first UrbanPromise site in Central America, where Blair now lives with his wife, Lauren, and serves as Executive Director for the organization.

  • Marjorie Stripling Schultz ’70, Distinguished Southwestern Service

    Daniel R. Stultz ’72, Distinguished Professional

    Joan Bray ’67, Distinguished Humanitarian

    Sylvia Mayer ’01, Distinguished Young Alumna

    Pamela Gregory Rossman ’72, Ms. Homecoming

  • Peter A. Sessions ’78, Medal of Honor

    Russell J. Ramsey ’66, Distinguished Southwestern Service Award

    Harland R. DeWitt III ’92, Distinguished Humanitarian

    Robert W. Dupuy ’69, Distinguished Professional

    Taylor H. Garrett ’00, Distinguished Young Alumnus

    Lauren Niver Paver ’05, Distinguished Young Alumna

Previous Alumni Awards Recognition Process

In 2009, the Southwestern University Alumni Association charged an Awards Task Force with reviewing the current Association awards program, making recommendations about how the program might be enhanced and stating that The Association awards program should recognize those whose achievements and contributions represent the very best of theSouthwestern Experience, and by doing so inspire the Southwestern community and beyond. They submitted their report on July 11, 2009. Subsequently, a new set of awards criteria was approved by the Alumni Council Sept. 11, 2009 and the Alumni Assembly Jan. 24, 2010. The first of the new awards (see above) were presented in 2010.

Although the awards listed below are no longer given, we are proud to recognize and honor the recipients.