Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Five Distinguished Alumni Among Ten Individuals Honored at Luncheon

CONTACT: Dan Gaines
(361) 593-3917 or daniel.gaines@tamuk.edu 


KINGSVILLE (October 27, 2012) — Five Distinguished Alumni and a Rising Star were among ten individuals honored by the Javelina Alumni Association and Texas A&M University-Kingsville during the university’s Homecoming festivities on Saturday, October 27, 2012.  They were recognized at the Distinguished Alumni Luncheon held in the Memorial Student Union Building’s Grand Ballroom, an event that was presented by IBC Bank.

Distinguished Alumni are chosen based on their professional and civic accomplishments and are those individuals that have brought special honor to the university through service and support.  The Rising Star Award recognizes graduates of the university who have experienced professional success early in their careers.  Special consideration is given to those alumni who have graduated in the last fifteen years.

The recipients of the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award are:

Dr. Arturo Almendarez, Class of 1972, of Corpus Christi
Eugene Dawson, Jr., P.E., Class of 1982, of San Antonio
Carl Paul, Class of 1963, of Austin
Robert J. Underbrink, Class of 1983, of Houston
Chief Justice Rogelio Valdez, Class of 1976, of Harlingen

The recipient of the 2012 Rising Star Award is:

E. Annette Hernandez, Ph.D., Class of 1997, 2003, 2007, of Lubbock

Other individuals that were honored included:

Distinguished Teacher Award - Dr. Bart Ballard, Associate Professor & Researcher, CKWRI &  
Department of Animal & Wildlife Sciences
Distinguished Researcher Award – Dr. Lori Kupczynski, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership & Counseling Department
Javelina Heritage Award – accepted by LTC Jason Blevins on behalf of the late MAJ Virgil E. Blevins,
United States Army
President’s Excellence Award – Lisa Turcotte, Director, Marc Cisneros Center for Young Children

About the Distinguished Alumni Award recipients

Dr. Arturo Almendarez has enjoyed a successful career in academic administration since earning a Master of Science degree, Supervisor’s Certificate and Superintendent Certificate from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.  After serving as assistant principal at Falfurrias High School and principal of Odem High School, Almendarez assumed the superintendent role for the Odem-Edroy Independent School District (1984-1992) and then the Calallen Independent School District (1992-2000), a role that he returned to in 2005 and serves in today.  His career path has also placed him as the deputy commissioner for Programs & Instruction at Texas Education Agency (2000-2002) and the assistant superintendent for Instruction for the Corpus Christi Independent School District (2002-2005).

Almendarez has also served on numerous education boards and associations including the Citizens for Educational Excellence, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Region II Education Service Center, Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas Association of School Boards, Texas Association of Mid-Sized Schools, State Board of Education Certification, Texas Principals Leadership Initiative and the Texas Business & Education Coalition among many others.

His list of accomplishments are equally impressive, with notable achievements in the implementation of an electronic curriculum management system, the development of a Scope & Sequence in the four major core areas for the Calallen school district, reformatting of the District Continuous Improvement Plan in CCISD and the reformation of class schedules at all high schools and middle schools.  In 2010 Almendarez was recognized for his achievements as the Texas Association of School Board’s Superintendent of the Year.  He also served one tour in the Vietnam War (1970-71) and received the Bronze Star Medal for his service.

Under the leadership of Eugene Dawson, Jr., Pape-Dawson Engineers, Inc. has continued its ascent of excellence to the forefront of engineering firms in Texas.  Serving as president of the firm, Dawson has continued the legacy of the family business, completing an extensive list of impressive and ambitious projects across the state.

Dawson’s achievements are numerous, and are highlighted by both professional and civic leadership accolades.  In 1991 he was selected as the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, Bexar Chapter, Young Engineer of the year, a distinction he repeated as Engineer of the Year in 1999.  He was also honored by the YMCA of San Antonio as its Volunteer of the Year in 2000.  And in 2009 “The Dawson Family” was inducted into the San Antonio Business Hall of Fame by Junior Achievement. 

Dawson is a member of a number of prestigious professional organizations including the American Society of Civil Engineers, National Society of Professional Engineers, Texas Society of Professional Engineers, Consulting Engineers Council, Greater San Antonio Builders Association and many others.

He is also active in the community serving on the Board of Directors for the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, Greater San Antonio Builders Association, Bank of San Antonio and Alamo Bowl (Chairman 2009), among many other organizations.  He is also a member of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville, President’s Leadership Council.

Carl Paul’s story is one of self-made success and commitment to a vision.  From the simple beginnings of a typewritten, hand illustrated catalog, Paul founded Golfsmith International Holdings, Inc. (1967), a company that would revolutionize the custom golf club industry.  Paul’s leadership was the driving force behind Golfsmith’s success, transforming an idea into a corporate icon and household name.

The company achieved rapid and sustained success.  In the late 1960s Golfsmith established its first storefront in an unused army barracks.  In 1970 Golfsmith offered the first golf club maker training programs to teach custom club fitting, assembly and repair.  In 1975 The Golfsmith Store accessory catalog was made.  A year later the company first grossed over $1 million.  Golfsmith established the Golf Clubmakers Association (GCA) in 1980 to support the growing number of clubmakers around the globe.  The company moved to its present headquarters in 1992, and in 1995 retail stores were opened in Houston, Denver and Dallas.  In 2006 the company had its initial public offering of stock on NASDAQ.  As of August 2010, Golfsmith operated 76 stores in 21 states.

Golfsmith has initiated several other successful ventures, including a partnership with GolfTEC to provide golf lessons in 57 Golfsmith stores, the development of the Golfsmith Learning Center and numerous business acquisitions.  Golfsmith has been recognized for its exemplary customer service by the E-tailing Group (2007 & 2008) and was named among the top 100 list of best e-commerce sites in 2009 and 2010. 

As President and CEO of King Ranch, Inc. Robert J. Underbrink, is one of the most influential figures in agriculture and ranching today.  Underbrink rose through the ranks of King Ranch since he was a management trainee in 1984.  In 1987 he became general manager of the company’s Florida Operations and then was promoted to Vice President of its Farming Operations in 1998.  He became President and CEO of Consolidated Citrus in 1999 before taking over leadership of King Ranch, Inc. in 2010.

Underbrink manages 60,000 acres of cotton and grain sorghum in South Texas, 20,000 acres of sugarcane and sod in Florida, and 825,000 acres on the home ranches in South Texas and King Ranch Minerals.  He also manages Young Pecan, the company’s major pecan processor and Texas Turfgrass, the largest turfgrass producer in Texas.

Through his career Underbrink has taken leadership positions in a number of agriculture associations and organizations including Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Florida Land Council, Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership, South Florida Fair and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.  He has also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from AgNRHS and was recognized by Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Human Sciences with its Hall of Fame award in 2006.  Underbrink is also a member of the President’s Leadership Council at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Chief Justice Rogelio Valdez has been lauded for his professional achievements and service to the Texas community throughout his 30-year career in law.  He began his judicial career in 1983 as a Cameron County Court at Law Judge in Brownsville, Texas.  He also served as a District Judge for the 357th District Court of Cameron and Willacy Counties. Currently he serves as Chief Justice for the Thirteenth Court of Appeals, a post he has held since 2001.

Valdez is a former chairman for the State Council of Chief Judges and former director for the Texas Center for Judiciary.  He has held memberships with the American, Cameron County, Mexican-American and Texas Bar Associations as well as the Texas Judges Association.

He has also received many honors including being named Alumnus of the Year from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Hispanic of the Year by Image Brownsville, Outstanding Citizen by Harlingen Jaycees, the Pro Bono Honoree by the Cameron County Pro Bono Project and the Exemplary Former Migrant Student by the Texas Education Agency.

About the Rising Star Award recipient

After Elma Annette Hernandez, Ph.D. earned Bachelor of Science (Civil Engineering) and Master of Science (Environmental Engineering) degrees from Texas A&M-Kingsville, she became the first female Hispanic Ph.D. graduate from the Environmental Engineering program at the university in 2007.  She was also the only female Hispanic graduate in the field at the doctorate level in the entire U.S. that year.  She is now an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Hernandez is a Fellow of the Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) Teaching Academy, and member of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE), American Water Resources Association (AWRA), and Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

Her academic pursuits include teaching classes in water resources and the mentorship of three female and one male Hispanic students toward doctorate degrees.  She has also led student design teams to deliver clean water to the Naso Tribe in Panama.  Hernandez has diligently worked on improving water quality in the Pernambuco River Basin in Brazil as well.  Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB), Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP).

About the Javelina Heritage Award recipient

MAJ Virgil Blevins
graduated from then Texas A&I University as a Distinguished Military Graduate.  As a flight platoon leader of the “Headhunters” through some of the heaviest combat in the Vietnam War, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal for Valor, twenty-two Air Medals and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor.  He returned to Vietnam during the Tet Counteroffensive in 1969 to command the AmeriCal’s assault helicopter company, the 174th Aviation Company “Dolphins”.  After that tour, he was awarded the Silver Star twice, the Distinguished Flying Cross (second thru sixth award), the Soldier’s Medal, the Air Medal for Valor, 30 combat flight duty Air Medals and several Republic of Vietnam awards to include Vietnam’s highest award for valor, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.

After returning from Vietnam in 1969, MAJ Blevins was diagnosed with liver cancer and passed on June 22, 1974. LTC Jason Blevins, who serves as the Commander of 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment at Ford Hood, TX, accepted the Javelina Heritage Award on his father’s behalf.


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