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UNT Alumni Awards

April 8th, 2014 Posted in Alumni News

The University of North Texas will honor student creativity and outstanding alumni at the 2014 UNT Alumni Awards dinner at 7 p.m. on April 11 (Friday) in UNT’s Gateway Center, located at 801 North Texas Blvd.

The UNT Alumni Awards showcase the caliber of the university’s alumni and celebrate the depth and breadth of their professional accomplishments and service to the community.

Three UNT students have been named finalists for the first-ever Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Awards, made possible by a $350,000 gift from donors Bob and Bette Sherman. The first prize winner will receive $10,000, the remaining two finalists will each receive $2,000. The finalists will find out which prize they receive at the April 11 dinner.

The 2014 finalists, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Vishnu Dantu, a student in UNT’s Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) program, who created a smartphone-based blood glucose monitor for diabetic patients.
  • Jaicheng (Jason) He, also a TAMS student, who developed a computer algorithm to identify coronary artery ostium points to help doctors find blockages that can cause heart attacks.
  • Eva Polgar, a piano performance graduate student, who combines her piano performance, collaboration, composition and music education abilities through the introduction of select musical pieces and artistic projects, demonstrating how creative elements affect the musical community and concert audiences.

“The Inspiration awards celebrate what happens when you combine knowledge, creativity and innovation — everything that makes up the UNT spirit. That spirit is alive in our students and alumni so it’s fitting that we are honoring the success of both groups at our Alumni Awards dinner,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said.

Smatresk was a member of a six-judge panel that chose finalists for the Inspiration Awards from a pool of more than 30 students nominated by UNT faculty and staff members. Other judges were Adrienne Cornelsen, president and CEO of Insite; Art Goven, dean of UNT’s College of Arts and Sciences; Nancy Hong, executive director of the UNT Innovation Greenhouse; Tiffaney Dale Hunter, president and CEO of Tiffaney Dale Agency and UNT alumnus; and Robert Milnes, dean of UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design.

This year’s Alumni Award honorees include business and industry leaders; a family whose support has spanned several generations; and the members of UNT’s first social fraternity, the Geezles, an organization founded in 1927 to promote school spirit among the student body.

The 2014 UNT Alumni Awards recipients are:

peter-weller Peter Weller (’70), who will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, is best known for his starring roles in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite and Robocop, in addition to TV work including Sons of Anarchy, Longmire and Dexter.

Ernie Kuehne Jr. (’66), who also will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, is president and board chairman of Kuehne Oil Co., a member of the State Bar of Texas, the UNT McConnell Society and Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Alumni Advisory Board, and a lifetime member of the UNT Alumni Association and UNT Ex-Letterman’s Association. Kuehne is a 2014 UNT Athletics Hall of Fame inductee as the winner of Fred McCain Award for Outstanding Service and the 2013 recipient of the Ulys Knight Spirit Award. He established the UNT Kuehne Speaker Series on National Security in 2013. In August 2012, Kuehne chaired UNT’s Basketball Enhancement Committee, which raised more than $3 million in gifts for a new basketball training facility, a state-of-the-art scoreboard in the UNT Coliseum and additional funding for scholarships. As part of that campaign, Kuehne presented the athletic department with a cornerstone $1 million gift. ernie-kuehne

Terry-Brewer Terry Brewer (’65, ’70 Ph.D.), who will also receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in chemistry from UNT. He is the founder and CEO of Brewer Science, a global leader in the development and manufacturing of advanced materials and equipment for the microdevices used in tablet computers, smartphones, digital cameras, televisions and LED lighting.

Graham Douglas (’05), who will receive the Distinguished Young Alumni Award, was named one of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 in Marketing and Advertising for his award-winning work as creative director at the New York City-based ad agency Droga5. graham-douglas

gabriella-draney Gabriella Draney (’02), who will also receive the Distinguished Young Alumni Award, is the co-founder and CEO of Tech Wildcatters, named one of the Forbes Top 10 seed accelerators for its work connecting technology startups to resources.

C. Tait Cruse (’89), who will receive the Outstanding Alumni Service Award, is managing partner of the Northwestern Mutual—Dallas. Cruse supports UNT’s Northwestern Mutual Integrated Business Case Competition, the anchor element of the College of Business’ capstone course, which provides graduating seniors the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to solve a complex business problem. c.tait-cruse

melisa-denis Melisa Denis (’86, ’86 M.S.), who will also receive the Outstanding Alumni Service Award, is partner-in-charge of international executive services for KPMG—Dallas. She serves on the UNT Foundation Board of Directors and the College of Business Advisory Board. She and her husband, JF, were among those who lent philanthropic support to the construction of UNT’s Business Leadership Building.

The Geezle Fraternity, which will receive the Ulys Knight Spirit Award, counts among its members among their alumni business and civic leaders, professional athletes, UNT regents, university professors and scores of coaches, athletic trainers, administrators and teachers. The Geezles were instrumental in installing “Spiriki,” the bronze eagle statue at UNT’s Apogee Stadium. The name is an old fraternity greeting believed to be the combination of the words “spirit” and “kee,” the cry of an attacking eagle. c-dan-smith_v-lane-rawlins

Joe-Guerra The Family of Joe Guerra, who will receive the Generations of Excellence Award, owns and operates Rudy’s Tortillas and Food Products, one of the leading manufacturers of tortillas in the country. The family includes several UNT alumni: siblings Joe Guerra (’96), Rudy’s vice president of sales; Kathy Guerra Purser (’81), who works in accounting for the family business; and Linda Guerra Dyer (’90), a teacher in McKinney. Joe’s wife, Pauline (’05); the siblings’ aunt Esperanza Espinoza (’75); and Kathy’s daughter Rachel Purser (’09) are also UNT graduates. The Guerra family established the Rudy’s Tortillas Foundation Scholarship in 1996 to support UNT students; collectively the family has contributed nearly $77,000 to the university.

The event also will be broadcast live online at

More information about the Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Awards can be found online at

More information about the Alumni Awards dinner can be found online at

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