Alumni Awards Gala

2015 Awards Gala

The 61st Annual Alumni Awards Gala proved to be one of the most successful to date with 500 members of the University of Houston (UH) family gathering on May 2, 2015 to celebrate the University we all hold dear and honor some of our remarkable graduates and supporters.

Spotted in the crowd along with UH President Renu Khator and UHAA Board President Joe Pogge were new Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek and Head Football Coach Tom Herman, as well as recently appointed Dean of the UH Law Center, Leonard Baynes, and Coach Bill Yeoman. UH Deans Latha Ramchand (C. T. Bauer College of Business), John Bowen (Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management), Joe Tedesco (Cullen College of Engineering), Dana Rooks (UH Libraries), Bob McPherson (College of Education) and Bill Monroe (The Honors College) were in attendance. UH System Board of Regents members Paula Mendoza and Asit Shah also were in attendance, as well as President’s cabinet members Eloise Dunn Stuhr and Provost Paula Short.

During the reception, guests were treated to demonstrations of some of the innovative technologies being developed at UH, including a brain-controlled exoskeleton from Dr. Pepe Contreras-Vidal and his students; a video game designed by Dr. Chang Yun and the Computer Science Game Design student group; and Dr. Seamus Curran’s Shun Coating, a new stain resistant product.

As the evening’s formal program began, attendees were entertained with a musical performance by Henry Darragh (’08, M.M. ’10) on a Cougar red Steinway piano, a tribute to University’s efforts to become an All-Steinway institution. This was followed by an electrifying show from speed painter Dan Dunn, who had the crowd on the edge of their seats as he completed three amazing artworks in a matter of minutes, including an exclusive painting of our mascot, Shasta. A spirited live auction ensued and, in fact, there was so much enthusiasm that we are offering additional hand-painted versions of the exclusive Shasta artwork for sale online [click here].

Order Your Shasta Painting Here

You can also watch the video of Dan Dunn’s ‘Paintjam’ here.

Following this exciting opening, recognition of the evening’s honorees got underway.

Sports journalist and ESPN anchor Robert Flores (‘92) kicked off the program by Skyping in live from Las Vegas—where he was covering the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao boxing match—to accept his Rising Star award, in recognition of his excellence beyond the norm early in his career.

Next, John T. McNabb and Drue DaSilva (‘93, M.S. ’99) were presented with Outstanding Volunteer Awards. McNabb is chairman and chief executive officer of the Willbros Group, and Founding Chair of the University’s Board of Visitors. DaSilva is manager of inside sales at ShoreGroup and is an active volunteer with many alumni organizations including Moores School of Music, UH’s College of Technology and Chi Omega.

Cedric Bandoh, Charles Haston and Kelly Poblete accepted the 2015 Chair’s Award on behalf of the UH student body. The award honors non-alumni who have consistently and voluntarily given extraordinary support to UH and, in this case, the award was presented to recognize the significant role students have played in making improvements to the University’s culture, diversity, experience and external profile over the past five years.

The 2015 UHAA Distinguished Service Award recipient was Laurie Rutherford (‘86, M.B.A. ‘91, M.S. ‘04), director of Enterprise Risk Management at CenterPoint Energy.

The evening concluded with the presentation of Distinguished Alumni Awards to the following individuals:

  • Aylwin Lewis (76, M.B.A. ‘90), president and chief executive officer of Potbelly Corp.
  • Bill Worrell (‘69), the play-by-play announcer for the Houston Rockets.
  • Rushion McDonald (‘83), executive producer of the Emmy-winning “Steve Harvey Show.”
  • Ken Bailey (‘69, J.D. ‘72), a founding partner of the civil litigation law firm Bailey Peavy Bailey, PLLC.
  • Dominic Ng (‘80), chairman and chief executive officer of East West Bancorp Inc. and East West Bank.

Videos featuring all of our awardees can be viewed online on UHAA’s YouTube channel [click here].

From L to R: Dominic Ng (’80), Cedric Bandoh (’14), Drue DaSilva (’93, M.S. ’99), Rushion McDonald (’83), Kelly Poblete, UH President Renu Khator, Laurie Rutherford (’86, M.B.A. ’91, M.S. ’04), Bill Worrell (’69), Charles Haston, Aylwin Lewis (’76, M.B.A. ’90), Ken Bailey (’69, J.D. ’72), John McNabb, Mike Pede (’89)

From L to R: Dominic Ng (’80), Cedric Bandoh (’14), Drue DaSilva (’93, M.S. ’99), Rushion McDonald (’83), Kelly Poblete, UH President Renu Khator, Laurie Rutherford (’86, M.B.A. ’91, M.S. ’04), Bill Worrell (’69), Charles Haston, Aylwin Lewis (’76, M.B.A. ’90), Ken Bailey (’69, J.D. ’72), John McNabb, Mike Pede (’89)

UHAA also recognized UH Outstanding Faculty nominees and announced the winners. The nominees were primarily suggested by students for their commitment to student success. The winners are:

  • Dr. Abdeldjelil Belarbi (M.S.C.E. ’86, Ph.D. ’91) – Professor for UH Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Dr. Micheal Cottingham – Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance
  • Dr. Daniel O’Connor (Ph.D. ’02) – Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance
  • Dr. Julia Wellner –Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Several previous Alumni Awards Gala honorees were present to cheer on the newest members of this prestigious group:

  • Rising Star Awardee – James Hong (’05)
  • Outstanding Volunteer Awardees
    • Cynthia Oliver Coleman (’71)
    • Patty Godfrey (’89, M.B.A. ’97)
    • Sharon Spillman (‘97, M.Ed. ’03, Ed.D.’11)
    • Yuen-Yee Ma (M.B.A. ’77)
    • Red Vaselka (’77)
  • Chair’s Awardee – Coach Bill Yeoman
  • Distinguished Service Awardees -
    • Billie Schneider
    • Cathy Coers Frank (’80)
    • Robert Planck (’71)
    • Willie Burns (’58)
    • Sharon and Murray Stinson (FS ’68)
  • Distinguished Alumni Awardees -
    • Leroy Hermes (’66)
    • Dorothy Nicholson (’77)
    • David Bertman (M.M. ’98)
    • Bill Sherrill (FS ’50) -- (the oldest living awardee)

Special thanks to Gala Underwriting Committee Chairs Kimberly (’93) and Trey Wilkinson (’92, M.B.A. ’02), as well as all of the evening’s sponsors. Funds from the Alumni Awards Gala support student scholarships, alumni programs, legislative advocacy and new recognition and student programs. In 2014, UHAA gave over $200,000 in scholarships to deserving Cougars.

Aylwin Lewis
Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree
Aylwin Lewis
(‘76, M.B.A. ‘90)
Bill Worrell
Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree
Bill Worrell 
Rushion McDonald
Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree
Rushion McDonald
Ken Bailey
Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree
Ken Bailey
(‘69, J.D. ‘72)
Dominic Ng
Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree
Dominic Ng
Laurie Rutherford
Distinguished Service Award Honoree
Laurie Rutherford
(‘86, M.B.A. ‘91, M.S. ‘04)
John T. McNabb, II
Outstanding Volunteer Award
John T. McNabb, II
Drue DaSilva
Outstanding Volunteer Award
Drue DaSilva
(‘93, M.S. ‘99 )
Robert Flores
Rising Star Award for Achievement
Robert Flores
(‘92 )

Chair’s Award

The UH Student Body 

2015 Chairs Award Recipient – UH Student Body

Click here to see all past honorees.

See the press release


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