Six Honored as Distinguished Alumni During Javelina Homecoming Celebration

KINGSVILLE - October 27, 2015

Contact: Adriana Garza-Flores
or Phone: 361-593-4979


(DAA CAPTION: Pictured from left to right are Distinguished Alumni Award Winners Tom Best, Nancy Rabalais and Dr. Arnold Gonzales.)

From a president of a community college to a scout for a Super Bowl-winning team, the 2015 Class of Distinguished Javelina Alumni is comprised of leaders in their fields and communities.

            Six alumni were honored during the Distinguished Alumni Awards sponsored by IBC Bank Friday, October 23. The banquet was part of the Javelina Homecoming Celebration.

            “Javelina Alumni are doing amazing things across the country and around the world,” said Justin Muñoz, Director of Alumni Affairs. “These six men and women demonstrate the value of hard work and commitment, while always remaining dedicated to service. They exemplify the Javelina spirit and we are so proud of all they continue to accomplish,” Muñoz said.

            In addition to honoring distinguished alumni, the Javelina Alumni Association also recognized two Texas A&M University-Kingsville faculty members. Dr. Nestor Sherman, Regents Professor and Coordinator, Exercise Pre-Physical Therapy Program, received the Distinguished Researcher Award and Dr. Mauro Castro, Professor of Chemistry, received the Distinguished Teaching Award. Castro is also an alumnus.

The alumni honorees include:


Tom Best is President and Partner of Premier Vacuum Service, Inc., a company he restarted in 2011 after selling the assets in 2005. Premier Vacuum provides vacuum truck salt water haulers. He also is Managing Partner for TBGH In­vestments LTD., a real estate investment firm. Best received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas A&I University and his master’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M-Kingsville. Best is a member of the Advisory Board for the College of Business Administration and is one of the college’s Executives in Residence. He is a member of the Javelina Club, a board member of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Foundation and a member of the President’s Legacy Society. Tom and his wife, Glenda, established the Glenda & Tom Best Endowed Scholarship in the College of Business Administration.


Dr. Arnold Gonzales has dedicated his life to public service, education and art. A native of Corpus Christi, Gonzales began his career as a teacher. In 1976, Gonzales was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, representing District 48-A in Nueces County. While in office, Gonzales passed significant legislation related to education, the environment, health and women’s issues. He served as Deputy Land Commissioner from 1982-1987. In 1996, Gonzales became the first Mexican American elected to an at-large seat on the Corpus Christi City Council, where he served until 2001. In addition to his legacy of service, Gonzales is a gifted artist whose works have been on display across the country. In 2014, Gonzales’ Mujeres a Traves del Tiempo mural, which depicts the women who helped shape South Texas, was unveiled in the Ballrooms of the Memorial Student Union Building on the A&M-Kingsville campus. Gonzales gradu­ated from Texas A&I in 1965 and went on to earn a master’s from Eastern Michigan in 1972 and a doctorate from The University of Michigan in 1975.


Dr. Nancy Rabalais is currently Executive Director and Professor at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium at the DeFelice Marine Center in Chauvin, Louisiana. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Texas A&I University before earning her doctorate in zoology from the University of Texas. Rabalais is the 2012 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the 2008 Ruth Patrick Award from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and the 2002 Bostwick H. Ketchum Award for Coastal Research from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Her work in marine biology played a key role in bringing attention to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

DR. ROBERT H. VELA, JR. | CLASS OF ‘94, ‘98, ‘03

Dr. Robert H. Vela, Jr. is in his second year as President of San Antonio College, having served as Vice President for Stu­dent and Academic Success and Vice President of Student Affairs during his tenure. Vela earned all three of his degrees from Texas A&M-Kingsville, including his bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology with a minor in Spanish; a master’s degree in counseling and guidance; and a doctorate in educational leadership. He is a National Certified Coun­selor by the National Board for Certified Counselors and a Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Vela was a member of the 2014 Leadership San Antonio Class of 39 from the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.


Edwin Scott Dodds is a 2003 graduate of Texas A&M University-Kingsville and currently serves as a National Scout/ Special Project Pro Personnel with the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks. For eight years, Dodds has assisted in scouting, evaluation and player development for the Seahawks, who were National Champions in 2014 and National Football Conference Champions in 2015. Dodds also works on special projects for the team’s general manager. Prior to working for the Seahawks, Dodds was a scout for the Oakland Raiders. While earning his bachelor’s in marketing at A&M-Kingsville, Dodds also served as a student coach. A dedicated Javelina, Dodds continues to give back to the university through participating in Javelina Athletics Player and Coach Development, by participating in Javelina Football Pro-Day.


Nationally recognized as one of the premier grant writers in her field, Dr. Mary L. Gonzalez has acquired more than $55 million in Support Services funding for A&M-Kingsville since 2001. Gonzalez serves as the Associate Vice President for Student Access at A&M-Kingsville. Gonzalez oversees one of the largest number of TRIO and state-funded programs in the country with 11 competitive, federally funded major grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The programs fund initiatives that assist disadvantaged minority students that rely heavily on support services. Under Gonzalez’s leadership, her department serves 1,500 participants each year. Gonzalez’s accomplishments reflect the university’s mission of access and opportunity for all. She earned two bachelor’s degrees from Texas A&I, a master’s from Texas A&M-Kingsville and a doctorate degree from Texas A&M University.