63rd Annual Awards Gala | May 6, 2017 | Westin Hotel - Memorial City

“We are extremely pleased to announce our 63rd Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Gala honorees.  This group represents the best and brightest that UH has to offer and it makes us proud to call them Cougars, each in their own way,” said Mike Pede (’89), Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations at the University of Houston. “It’s going to be another great night when we have them all together and bestow our highest honors upon them.”

Honorees will be recognized at the 63rd Annual Awards Gala on May 6, 2017, at the Westin Houston (Memorial City). Tickets are available for purchase at

Distinguished Alumni Awards are given to individuals whose professional accomplishments bring prestige to the University. Seven people are being honored in 2017:

  • J. Downey Bridgwater (’84) is President for the Houston market at Comerica Bank. He is also a member on the University of Houston’s Board of Visitors, as well as a former UHAA Foundation board president.
  • The Honorable Jarvis V. Hollingsworth (J.D. ’93) is a partner at the law firm of Bracewell LLP, where he serves on the firm’s six-member management committee. He has formerly served on the University of Houston System Board of Regents and acted as chairman from 2013 to 2014.
  • Star Jones (J.D. ’86) is a lawyer, journalist, writer and television personality. She is best known as one of the original hosts of the ABC weekday morning talk show The View, on which she appeared from 1997 to 2006. (Due to scheduling conflict, Jones will be honored at a later ceremony.)
  • The Honorable Melissa Noriega (’77, M. Ed ’83) is a former member of the Houston City Council. She is an educator and civic leader, as well as a former member of the Texas House of Representatives. Currently, she is the Vice President for Policy and Partnerships for Neighborhood Centers Inc.
  • Wade Phillips (’70) is the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, and is a veteran of 38 NFL seasons as a defensive coordinator or head coach.
  • The Honorable Sylvester Turner (’77) is currently the Mayor of the City of Houston, Texas. He served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1989 until 2016. He is Houston’s second African American mayor.
  • Brent Spiner (F.S. '71) is an actor, comedian and singer who is best known for his role at LT. Commander Data on the television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Spiner also played Dr. Brackish Okun in the hit film "Independence Day," and his subsequent film credits have included "Out to Sea," "I am Sam," and "The Avaitor."

The 2017 UHAA Distinguished Service Award recipients are Kim (’81) and John (’82) Clarke. This award is given to UHAA Life Members who are set apart by a history of service to the association and University. John Clarke is a Senior Vice President at Integrity Bank. He is also an UHAA Foundation board past president. Kim Clarke is the former Vice President and Chief Administration Officer at Key Energy Services, Inc. She was also the former chair of the UH College of Technology Advisory Board. Kim and John Clarke have dedicated years of service to UH by supporting UHAA programming and scholarships.

Nicolas Brines (’92) has been named the Outstanding Volunteer Award recipient. The Outstanding Volunteer Award recognizes alumni and University supporters who exemplify a spirit of volunteerism to advance UHAA’s mission. Brines is the owner of Keratase Experience Center in Houston’s Galleria. Brines has served on many UHAA committees and founded the LGBTQ Alumni Association.

Michael “Doc” O’Shea has been named the 2017 Chairs Award recipient, which honors non-alumni who have consistently and voluntarily given extraordinary support to the University of Houston. O’Shea has been the head athletic trainer at the University of Houston for more than 20 years. Over the span of his career, he has been recognized by his peers through numerous awards as one of the most talented athletic trainers in the field.

KTRK Channel 13 reporter and anchor Erik Barajas (’99) has been named UHAA’s Rising Star, which honors motivated young alumni who have excelled early in their careers.

The Outstanding Volunteer award is nominated and selected by the UHAA staff. All other honorees are nominated by alumni and the general public and presented to the UHAA awards committee, which selects the honorees and presents them to the UHAA Board of Directors. 

For more information on UHAA visit or call 713.743.0342.

J.Downey Bridgwater ('84)

The Honorable Jarvis V. Hollingsworth (J.D. ’93)
The Honorable Jarvis V. Hollingsworth
 (J.D. ’93)  

Star Jones (J.D. '86)

The Honorable Melissa Noriega
('77, M. Ed '83)

Wade Phillips ('70)

The Honorable Sylvester Turner ('77)

Brent Spiner (F.S. ’71)
Brent Spiner (F.S. ’71)

Kim ('81) and John ('82) Clarke

Nicolas Brines ('92)

Michael "Doc" O'Shea 

Erik Barajas ('99)



Click here to see all past honorees.



See the 2015 featured stories