2013 Alumni Awards Recipients
Distinguished Alumni Award
The late Roy Orbison
Singer, songwriter and rock 'n' roll legend Roy Kelton Orbison learned to play the guitar at age 6. In high school, he formed a country-music band called the Wink Westerners. He played with the band until 1954 when, as a student at North Texas, he thought they would achieve more success as a rock 'n' roll act. Re-invented as the Teen Kings, the band grew in popularity, playing throughout North and West Texas.
Sun Records in Memphis soon took notice, and Orbison recorded his first hit, "Ooby Dooby," a song written by two fellow North Texas students, for Sun in 1956. Despite that initial hit, Orbison and the Teen Kings struggled. The group disbanded, and Orbison signed a solo deal in 1959 with Monument Records. Throughout the 1960s, he co-wrote and recorded classics such as "Only the Lonely" (1960), "Blue Angel" (1960), "Running Scared" (1961), "Blue Bayou" (1963), "It's Over" (1964) and "Oh Pretty Woman" (1964). By 1965, he had sold 18 million albums. Elvis Presley called him "the greatest singer in the world."
In 1980, Orbison recorded the Grammy Award-winning duet "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again" with Emmylou Harris. In 1987, the movie Blue Velvet included his hit "In Dreams" on its soundtrack, and Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The next year, he taped a television tribute to his music, performing with many of his fellow rock legends and fans. He also released an album, The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1, with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne; the album won a Grammy Award. Rolling Stone placed Orbison at No. 37 on its list of the Greatest Artists of All Time and No. 13 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Orbison died in December 1988.
Samuel P. Golden ('74)
Samuel P. Golden graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration. Golden earned numerous athletic and academic honors as a member of the Mean Green football team. He also served as the student representative on the hiring committee that selected former football head coach Hayden Fry. Golden was part of the team that shared the Missouri Valley Conference title in 1973. Golden was also a proud chartering member of Kappa Alpha Psi social fraternity.
With nearly 34 years of executive leadership experience in the financial services industry, Golden currently serves as co-CEO of Alvarez & Marsal Financial Industry Advisory Services in Houston. Prior to joining Alvarez & Marsal, Golden served in a variety of leadership roles with the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which charters and regulates all national banks and federal savings associations. Golden is a lifetime member of the UNT Foundation's Board of Directors, the Chilton Society, the 1890 Society and a lifetime member of the UNT Alumni Association. He also is chairman of the Finance Council at Gethesmane Missionary Baptist Church and has served in a variety of leadership roles with the Fort Bend Education Foundation, both in the Houston area.
Golden and his wife, Valerie, have three children and two grandchildren. Their daughters Janna and Jaclyn, also UNT alumni, played on the UNT women's golf team.
Distinguished Young Alumni Award
Christopher Drake ('01)
Chris Drake's success story starts with his transition from military veteran to engaged university student. Drake started UNT in 1997 after finishing his military service as a paratrooper with the U.S. Army's storied 82nd Airborne Division. He immediately dedicated himself to academics and campus life, serving as an Eagle Ambassador and as captain of the state-championship-winning UNT rugby team. Drake earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in finance in 2001.
Drake is the founder and CEO of FireHost, a secure cloud hosting company focused on providing clients with security solutions for websites, applications and critical data. Under Drake's leadership, FireHost continues to grow at a rate of 200 percent year-over-year. In 2011, the company blocked more than 50 million hacks against websites and online assets.
Drake is now a sought-after speaker and writer on issues surrounding cloud computing, hosting and security. He's often quoted in major industry news sources such as VentureBeat, eWeek, Dark Reading and the Wall Street Journal and has spoken at leading cloud and security industry events. Drake also was recognized as one of the "40 Under 40" business leaders by the Dallas Business Journal.
The Eli Young Band -- Michael Eli Diaz ('04), James J. Young ('02), Jonathan Bradley Jones ('04) and Christopher J. Thompson ('04)
The Eli Young Band met during their time as UNT students in the late '90s and has been together as a successful touring and recording group for more than 12 years, making country albums with a hint of heartland rock. The band earned its first platinum record with "Crazy Girl" in 2011, selling more than 1.5 million downloads of the track.
The band's last album, Life at Best, was released in August 2011. Known for its popular live shows, the Eli Young Band (EYB) has toured nationwide supporting the album, joining Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes Nation Tour" and The Cadillac Black for many successful dates. EYB won Song of the Year at the 2011 Academy of Country Music Awards and is nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "Even If It Breaks Your Heart." EYB's previous album, Jet Black & Jealous, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Country Albums chart in 2008. The band has performed on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." EYB also nabbed a nomination from the Academy of Country Music for Top New Vocal Group of the Year.
EYB's success began at UNT. Thompson, who earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy; Young, who earned a bachelor's degree in applied arts and sciences; and Jones, who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, formed an instant friendship and started performing around Denton when they were students in 1998. Diaz, who earned a bachelor's of business administration degree in marketing, came into the picture when he enrolled at the school the next year, first playing duo shows with Young, then singing lead as the group of four officially made its live debut in October 2000.
Outstanding Alumni Service Award
Michael Friedman ('72)
Community service is a priority for Michael Friedman. Friedman is perhaps best known for the decades he spent as "Smiley the Clown" bringing laugher and joy to terminally ill children at Children's Medical Center of Dallas and Medical City Dallas. But he's involved in a variety of philanthropic endeavors.
Friedman currently serves on numerous boards, including the Board of Trustees for the Plano Independent School District, the Cancer Foundation for Life, Jewish Family Services and Legacy Senior Communities of Plano/Dallas. Friedman also has a long list of past volunteer service with organizations including the Juvenile Diabetes Association of Dallas, the Jewish Federation of Dallas and the Bicentennial Lions Club. Friedman proudly serves both his alma maters -- UNT, where he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, and Harvard University, where he earned a master's degree in design studies. Friedman is on the board of the UNT Alumni Association, the Harvard Real Estate Initiative and the advisory board for the UNT Jewish Studies program.
An Eagle Scout and two-time president of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, Friedman also has an impressive list of professional accomplishments in commercial real estate. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Stemmons Service Award.
Ulys Knight Spirit Award
Ernie Kuehne ('66)
Ernie Kuehne Jr., a native of Mart, Texas, came to the university in 1962 on a track scholarship. After earning his bachelor's degree in political science in 1966, Kuehne earned a law degree from Baylor University in 1969.
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. Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Kuehne to the University of North Texas System Board of Regents in January 2013.
Kuehne is president and board chairman of Kuehne Oil Co. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas. He is a member of the UNT President's Council, UNT McConnell Society and Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Alumni Advisory Board, and a life member of the UNT Alumni Association and UNT Ex-Letterman's Association.
Kuehne is a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and a volunteer for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and Greater Dallas Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. He is also past chair of the Farmers and Merchants National Bank Board of Directors, past president of the American Junior Golf Association and a past member of the Park Cities YMCA Sports Committee. Kuehne is very proud of his family members, particularly their successes on the golf course. The Kuehne family, Ernie's children -- Kelli, Trip and Hank -- have won more United States Golf Association championships than any family in history.
Generations of Excellence Award
The Family of C. Dean Davis ('53)
The family of former UNT Board of Regents Chairman C. Dean Davis ('53) has a rich history with the university that includes nearly 40 alumni going back to 1910.
Davis' parents, aunt, uncles, cousins, sister and many extended family members attended North Texas, as did he. He was a national debate champion and student government representative before earning an honors degree in government and economics. Upon graduation he attended law school at the University of Texas at Austin, accepting a position in the Texas Attorney General's Office before moving into private practice, focusing on health care legislation and litigation.
Davis was appointed to the UNT Board of Regents in 1967 and again in 1983. He served as chairman of the UNT Board of Regents and what is currently the UNT Health Science Center Board of Regents in 1987. As a UNT Regent, Davis was instrumental in establishing the UNT Foundation in the early 1970s, serving as its first secretary-treasurer. Davis earned UNT's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.
"I am very pleased to accept this very thoughtful acknowledgment. It will have a very special place in my heart because it is the recognition of my family and my extended family, and what this university has meant to that very large group of people," Davis says. "Without the start we received here on this campus, we would have been denied a lifetime of memories."