Distinguished Alumni Gala 

October 22, 2021, Yvette Mendoza 

Sam Houston is known not only for the service of its students, but also the service and success of our alumni. Nothing displays that more than the annual  Distinguished Alumni Gala, hosted by the Alumni Association at SHSU.

From the elegance of the Lowman Student Center ballroom flowing with orange crush and white roses, to the gourmet food being served, the whole event was magnificent, and the guests, sponsors, and LEAP Ambassadors were eager to learn more about our alumni. We were grateful that Mr. And Mrs. Woodward invited us; it was very generous, and it was lovely to spend the evening with them.

It was also a special night for me, because I was able to meet Russell Martinez and Andrea Scott, and be reintroduced to Wayne Scott. The Martinez and Scott families sponsored my scholarship, the Andrew and Ila Martinez Scholarship, and it was great to spend time with them!

Attorney and SHSU Alum Chris Tritico emceed the event…

… and he was joined by SHSU President Dr. Alisa White…

… and SHSU Alumni Association Board President, Scott McCarley.

They spoke with pride and passion, touching on the accomplishments of the University. These included the football team winning the National Championship, the beautiful renovation and reopening of the Newton Gresham Library, and our new College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. White’s motivational and gracious speech ended by thanking the sponsors and attendees for continuing to express their Bearkat spirit and their love for the SHSU. 

As we ate our delectable grilled steak with asparagus and creamy mash potatoes…

…Chris Tritico began to introduce the six Sam Houston State University alumni who have made significant contributions to their occupations, society, and our great university. They were either awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award, Outstanding Young Alumni, or the Service Award. 

A short video played for each awarded recipient before they began their speech. The videos briefly told the stories of the recipients and their time at SHSU. As currently enrolled students, it is sometimes hard to see beyond the next 3 years, but to hear from successful and established SHSU graduates provides a good example of how to approach a career.

Brian Hall was the first recipient honored. Mr. Hall is a Small Business Liaison Officer for Shell Oil Company and founded Friday Harbor, a Houston based non-profit organization providing free temporary housing for cancer patients/families seeking treatment. 

Following Mr. Hall was Edgar Reeves, a dairy-farm owner in Aldine, Texas, who represents the Sam Houston livestock organization with pride. While he was not able to be present for the award, his son accepted it on his behalf.

Awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni award, Stephen C. Morgan has held leadership roles as the Chief Executive Officer and President of TransTex Treating, a leading provider of natural gas. 

Ray Burgess, is a practicing attorney who had a remarkably successful civil litigation practice and was quite humorous in his speech. 

Adding to the diversity of different careers that were honored, the next recipient was world-renowned artist, James Surls. 

Following the event, the LEAP Ambassadors were even lucky enough to get his autograph on a picture of his “Around the Flower Wall,” an art piece that hangs in the Gaertner Performing Arts Center Lobby. 

Last, Terry Williams was a recipient who has been involved with SHSU and has impacted Huntsville by establishing the well-known and loved H-E-B as a Regional Vice President. He even pointed out our steaks we enjoyed from the fine dinner were from H-E-B! 

Our evening was brought to a close when the SHSU Marching Band marched in playing our alma mater and fight song, and we were able to meet some of the evening’s VIPs.

We could not have had this opportunity if it were not for Mr. and Mrs. Woodward, and we would like to extend another huge thanks to them for this wonderful evening at the gala. And, of course, Charlie Vienne, Director of the Alumni Association at SHSU, did a wonderful job planning and hosting the event.

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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