2014 Alumni Awards Recipients
Distinguished Alumni Award
Dr. Terry L. Brewer ('65, '70 Ph.D.), will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, is president of Brewer Science, the company he founded in Rolla, Mo., in 1981 to commercialize his invention of anti-reflective coatings. Brewer Science creates, develops and manufactures specialty materials, equipment and process solutions for applications in semiconductors, advanced packaging/3-D ICs, MEMS, sensors, displays, LEDs and printed electronics.
Under Brewer's leadership, Brewer Science has grown into an international company with offices in North America, Europe and Asia. The company has successfully commercialized many government-sponsored technologies and is actively consulted by government leaders for guidance on U.S. advanced technology, manufacturing and small-business development policies.
Ernest W. Kuehne Jr. ('66), will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, came to the university in 1962 on a track scholarship. After earning his bachelor's degree in political science in 1966, he earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Baylor University in 1969.
Kuehne is a 2014 UNT Athletics Hall of Fame inductee as the winner of the Fred McCain Award for Outstanding Service, and the 2013 recipient of UNT's Ulys Knight Spirit Award. He established the UNT Kuehne Speaker Series on National Security in 2013. In August 2012, Kuehne led an effort that raised more than $3 million in gifts for a new basketball training facility, a state-of-the-art scoreboard in the UNT Coliseum and scholarships. Kuehne is an attorney and president and board chairman of Kuehne Oil Co.
Peter Francis 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. He received an Academy Award nomination for his direction of the 1993 short Partners, in which he also acted.
Weller attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was also accepted by and studied at the Actors Studio in New York City. A published art historian, Weller holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater from UNT and a master's degree in Italian Renaissance art history from Syracuse University. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Italian Renaissance and ancient Roman art history at UCLA.
Distinguished Young Alumni Award
Graham Douglas ('05), 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.
Gabriella Draney ('02), will 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.
Outstanding Alumni Service Award
C. Tait Cruse ('89), 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.
Melisa Denis ('86, '86 M.S.), will 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.
Ulys Knight Spirit Award
The Geezle Fraternity, which will receive the Ulys Knight Spirit Award, counts among its members 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.
Generations of Excellence Award
The Guerra Family, 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.
Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Award
Vishnu Dantu, a student in UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science program, received the inaugural Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Award April 11 at the UNT Alumni Awards ceremony, winning the $10,000 top prize. Runners-up Jaicheng (Jason) He, also a TAMS student, and Eva Polgar, a piano performance graduate student, each earned $2,000 prizes.
The awards, established by longtime UNT supporters Bob and Bette Sherman, were open to students in any discipline and welcomed entries in any medium, from original works of art to new medical technologies. UNT President Neal Smatresk, who served on the judging panel for the award, says Dantu's entry -- a smartphone-based blood glucose monitor -- could "rock the medical world."
Dantu, who was nominated for the award by Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, materials science and engineering professor, says the monitor could provide cost-effective and painless health information to diabetic patients worldwide, particularly those in rural areas and Third World countries who may not have access to reliable health care.
"The Inspiration Awards celebrate what happens when you combine knowledge, creativity and innovation -- everything that makes up the UNT spirit," Smatresk says. "These students are truly remarkable."