Alumni and Faculty Excellence Awards announced at April 15 banquet
Posted: 04/22/2004
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Three outstanding faculty members, one academic department and a distinguished alumnus from The University of Texas-Pan American were recognized at the first jointly held Alumni and Faculty Excellence Awards Banquet April 15 at the University Ballroom.

Kicking off the evening of recognition, UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez said one of his proudest accomplishments was establishing the UTPA Alumni Association in the early 1970's.

"I often challenge our graduates to give back to the community and the University. There is no greater tribute than for those who have graduated to reach out to those who have helped you. This generosity is the basis of the Alumni Association," Nevárez said.

Edinburg attorney Alejandro "Alex" Moreno, 2004 UTPA Distinguished Alumnus
Introduced by R.D. "Bobby" Guerra, president of the UTPA Alumni Association, Edinburg attorney Alejandro "Alex" Moreno Jr. was recognized as the 2004 winner of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, which is sponsored by the UTPA Alumni Association.

A graduate of Mercedes High School, Moreno attended UTPA from 1964-1966 but transferred to The University of Texas at Austin where he received his bachelor's and Juris Doctor degrees. As a state representative for District 40 from 1983-1991, Moreno co-sponsored the legislation to merge Pan American University into The University of Texas System and worked closely with Nevárez, faculty and the local community to bring about the merger.

Congratulating Moreno, Guerra said as a state representative, Moreno was able to bring funding to help make the University what it is today.

"Alex knows what fight to take on to accomplish the goal that is needed. He understands compromise but he also understands where to draw the line in the sand," Guerra said.

Surrounded by a large group of family members, Moreno said he was honored and pleased to have been able to help the University while in the legislature. He said he was happy to see all the changes that have occurred over the years on the campus and to see so many students have the opportunity to learn.

"The merger was done in 1989 but we spent three terms setting it up. I feel like I gave it a good push," Moreno said.

The first ever Faculty Excellence Awards, which were initiated by Nevárez at the fall 2003 convocation, were presented by Dr. George Avellano, associate vice president for Academic Affairs.

Pictured at the 2004 UTPA Alumni and Faculty Excellence Awards Banquet are front Dr. Irmo Marini, Outstanding Teaching award winner; and rear left to right Dr. Ala Qubbaj, Outstanding Service award winner; President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez; Karen Lozano, Outstanding Research award winner; and Dr. Lokenath Debnath, accepting the Outstanding Academic Department award for the Math Department.
Awards were established in the three areas of nomination - outstanding teaching, outstanding research and outstanding service to the University and community. A departmental category was also established.

The Outstanding Teaching Award went to Dr. Irmo Marini of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services. Other nominees included Dr. Linda Matthews, College of Business Administration; Dr. Robert Gregorius, College of Science and Engineering; and Dr. Layne Jorgensen, College of Education.

Dr. Karen Lozano, College of Science and Engineering, took home the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award. Other nominees included Dr. Gokce Soydemir, College of Business Administration; Dr. Etzel Cardeña, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; and Dr. Bobby Guinn, College of Education.

Dr. Ala Qubbaj, College of Science and Engineering, was awarded the Outstanding Service Award, which recognizes service to the community as well as to the University. Other faculty nominees included Dr. Cynthia Brown, College of Business Administration; Dr. Uzer Raajpoot, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; and Dr. Leo Gómez, College of Education.

The winner of the University Academic Department Award was the Mathematics Department in the College of Science and Engineering. Accepting the award for that department was Dr. Lokenath Debnath, chair of the Mathematics Department. Other departments nominated were Management, Marketing and International Business, College of Business Administration and Rehabilitation Department, College of Health Sciences and Human Services.

Avellano described the faculty excellence award process established by Nevárez as unprecedented.

"Not only will the department receive a substantial amount of money for faculty development and research but each of the faculty members that are recognized will also receive a check to further their scholarship and recognize their achievements," Avellano said.

A national selection committee made up of faculty members from universities throughout the United States chose among candidates selected from local nominees by a UTPA campus committee. The national committee also chose among departments submitted for the Outstanding Department Award. Nominees took home a $1,000 check while the service winner was awarded $5,000 and the teaching and research winners were each given $7,500. Providing monetary support for the awards was the UTPA Foundation.