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UTEP Announces 2012 Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nuggets


UTEP Announces 2012 Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nuggets

September 11, 2012

Every year, The University of Texas at El Paso and the Alumni Association honor a group of distinguished men and women whose achievements stand out as monuments to dedication, integrity and hard work – they are the Distinguished Alumni.

At the same time, outstanding alumni from each of the University's colleges and schools are recognized for their achievements and dedication. These "Gold Nuggets" are recognized because they inspire others – the current students who will follow their paths, guided by their bold examples.

"This year's Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nugget recipients are living examples of how preparation at UTEP coupled with hard work and perseverance can result in significant professional contributions," said Richard Daniel, Ph.D., associate vice president for university advancement and special projects, and executive director for alumni relations.

The Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nuggets will be officially recognized during UTEP's 2012 Homecoming Week.


Dennis C.K. Poon - B.S. in Civil Engineering '77

Poon is currently the vice chairman of Thornton Tomasetti Inc., a New York-based international engineering firm that has designed some of the world's tallest buildings, including, Taipei 101, a 1,667-foot-tall building in Taiwan that was the tallest in the world when it was finished in 2004, and the not-yet-completed 3,280-foot Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia.

Poon grew up in a public housing settlement in Hong Kong for Chinese families in the 1950s. His father was in construction and his mother was a homemaker taking care of five children and occasionally sewing clothes for a factory part-time from home. Neither of Poon's parents attended college.

His family shared a single room with no running water, no private bathroom and no kitchen. All seven members ate, slept and studied in that room, and Poon learned quickly how to make the most efficient use of space and time. He dreamed of living in a bigger, better place. He knew that to achieve this dream and to help support his family, ne needed an education. He chose The University of Texas at El Paso because of its affordability and because it offered a broad academic program in engineering.

Ignacio Urrabazo, Jr. - B.B.A. '70

Urrabazo grew Commerce Bank in Laredo, Texas from an idea in 1983 to a $560 million enterprise in 2012. The bank is a subsidiary of International Bancshares Corp., the largest minority-owned bank in the country.

Urrabazo grew up in the small border community of Del Rio as a third-generation Texan. Neither of his parents finished high school – his mother was a homemaker and his father worked for Southern Pacific Railroad and the city water department – but they always knew their son would go to college.

Today, he is chairman-elect of the Texas Bankers Association, a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Community Banking, and has been chairman of the National Bankers Association and Minbanc Foundation, which represent and support minority banks.

Urrabazo has testified before congressional committees twice and was invited by Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner to join a national panel discussion on job creation.


Alfonso Batres, Ph.D. – B.A. in Psychology, 1975 - College of Liberal Arts

In 1994, Batres became the Chief Readjustment Counseling Officer for the Veterans Health Administration. Under his resolute leadership, the quantity and quality of services provided through community-based Vet Centers nationwide were expanded and improved to meet the unique needs of an ever-growing number of combat veterans and their families. These services include specialized counseling, medical and benefit referrals, and job assistance.

Brant Capps, D.P.T. – M.S. in Physical Therapy, 1995 - College of Health Sciences

After earning a master's degree in physical therapy from UTEP in 1995, Capps went on to become the director of Rehabilitation and Therapy Services at Baptist St. Anthony's Health System in Amarillo, Texas. Capps oversees three departments and more than 100 clinical employees. The driving force behind everything he and his team do remains constant: helping patients. Capps also serves as the vice president of the Texas Physical Therapy Association.

Robert J. "Jacob" Cintron – Master of Business Administration, 1996 - College of Business Administration

Cintron has been CEO of Del Sol Medical Center since 2007 and was instrumental in establishing the hospital as a leading medical center on a national scale. He is rightfully pleased about its quality accolades, including being designated a top performer in key quality measures by the Joint Commission, a national accreditation organization, and being in the top 5 percent in the nation in maternity services, general surgery and gastrointestinal surgery.

Lillian W. Crouch – M.Ed. in Education Supervision, 1972 - College of Education

Lillian Crouch, a retired teacher and El Paso Independent School District administrator, is well known throughout the city for her tireless work to advance the region's quality of life. In fact, in 2003, the El Paso Times named her a "community hero." Her most notable achievements included being named EPISD's first African-American junior high principal and the first to reach the director level, becoming executive director of human resources in 1997.

Edward Escudero – B.B.A. in Accounting, 1992 - College of Business Administration

Escudero is president and chief executive officer of Sierra Finance, a company that provides capital alternatives to small and mid-size companies. He is also executive vice president and chief financial officer of C&R Distributing, a major distributor of fuel and industrial lubricants, and owner of numerous convenience stores in the region. One of his greatest professional achievements came in 2007, when he served as chief financial officer of Petro Stopping Centers L.P. and was instrumental in organizing the sale of the company for more than $700 million.

Thanh "Tommy" Hodinh – B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, 1976 - College of Engineering

Originally from Vietnam, Hodinh enrolled at UTEP as an engineering student in 1973. Today, he is founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Austin-based MagRabbit Inc., a $100 million global supply chain management, workforce solutions and software development firm recognized as one of the top 500 Asian-owned companies in the United States.

Keelung Hong, Ph.D. – M.S. in Chemistry, 1970 - College of Science

Hong, who resides in San Francisco, is founder, chief executive officer and chairman of Taiwan Liposome Company Ltd., a publicly traded Taiwan-based biopharmaceutical company with subsidiaries in the United States and the Netherlands. It is Taiwan's first global biotech company. TLC's drug delivery technologies are improving the treatment of cancer, ophthalmic conditions and infectious diseases, and advancing health outcomes in Taiwan and around the world.

Katherine Long – B.S. in Medical Technology, 1988 - College of Health Sciences

Long is a scientific specialist in medical diagnostic sales with Helena Laboratories in Dallas, and has testified more than 200 times as an expert in bloodstain pattern analysis and in forensic serology, paternity testing and DNA testing. Her expertise has contributed to such high-profile criminal cases as the murder of atheist leader Madalyn Murray O'Hair; Darlie Routier, now on death row for killing two of her sons; and the "Victoria 19" incident, in which smugglers allowed 19 migrants to suffocate in the back of a tractor-trailer.

Enrique Mata – B.S.N. in Nursing, 1997 - School of Nursing

As a senior program officer with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, Mata promotes regional health and disease prevention on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. His initiatives have resulted in major enhancements to the region's health and wellness infrastructure and in appreciably improved health outcomes among residents. Achievements include the creation of three major centers in Chihuahua, Mexico, to provide meals, transportation, physical activity and mental health support to several thousand older adults, and the development of a national model for coordinated school health that, in El Paso, resulted in a 13 percent decrease in the prevalence of obesity among fourth graders.

Jesus A. "Antonio" Rico – B.S. in Electrical Engineering, 1980 - College of Engineering

After graduating from UTEP, Rico worked for El Paso Electric and El Paso Natural Gas. He went on to start his own business and in 1994 founded ElectroSystems Engineers Inc., a telecommunications engineering and IT services company that he heads today as president. Rico is also chairman of the board of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the engineering chapter of UTEP's Alumni Association.


The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968

Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437

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