2020-21 Distinguished Alumni
Every year, The University of Texas at El Paso and the UTEP Alumni Association honor a group of men and women whose achievements stand out as monuments to dedication, integrity and hard work – they are the UTEP Distinguished Alumni. The 2020-21 recipients are shining examples of the Miner spirit whose determination and drive to succeed propelled them to the pinnacle of success in their chosen professions.
J. Steve DeGroat
BBA, 1972 | MBA, 1975
As a UTEP alumnus, J. Steve DeGroat has remained engaged with the University as a volunteer and a philanthropist. He has served as president of the Alumni Association and as a member of multiple boards to include Friends of the Library, Legacy Campaign Cabinet, and the College of Business Administration Advisory Council.
In line with his belief in access to higher education, DeGroat and his wife, Martini, have established and funded two UTEP scholarships — the J. Stephen DeGroat and Martini DeGroat Endowment Scholarship and the Robert C. Heasley Endowment Scholarship in Business. Additionally, DeGroat and some of his colleagues established the L. Marcus Fry Endowment Scholarship Fund.
DeGroat retired in 2019 as the longtime owner of Lincoln Financial Advisors’ El Paso branch, a financial planning firm. The leadership experience he has honed has yielded opportunities to serve the El Paso community as chairman of the board at University Medical Center and the YMCA, president of the Ronald McDonald House and the Sun Bowl Association, and currently as chairman of El Paso Health.“Giving back is a way to pay back those who helped me in my growth, development and education,” DeGroat said. “Once I got involved in community activities, more and more opportunities came my way and I was enriched by my participation.”
Joe M. Gomez
B.A. History, 1970
Joe M. Gomez serves as the director of business development and community affairs at Jordan Foster Construction in El Paso. He has served the El Paso community tirelessly and has received numerous awards and accolades for his service, such as the City of El Paso’s Conquistador Award and the McDonald’s Hispanos Triunfadores Award, and was inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2017, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appointed him to serve on the Pathways to Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) Advisory Council.
Gomez’s contributions to the University have been numerous. He served on UTEP boards, raised money for various departments and programs, and provided pro bono work for several campus projects. In 2006, the College of Liberal Arts selected him as one of its Gold Nugget Award recipients.
For decades, Gomez has been known for his steadfast dedication to promote and preserve the history of the 1966 Texas Western College (now UTEP) men’s basketball team that won the NCAA Championship. He has worked on three documentaries about the team’s accomplishment, assisted the Disney production team on the 2006 film “Glory Road” by providing historical artifacts and memorabilia used in the movie that told the team’s story, and was awarded the El Paso Historical Society Hall of Honor Award for his work to preserve the team’s history.
“I graduated but never really left because of my love for UTEP, and wanted to make things better through time or treasure,” Gomez said.
B.S. Physics, 1977 | M.S. Physics, 1979
The National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico, immediately recruited Buzz Graves after he earned his graduate degree from UTEP to assemble its refractive solar coronagraph telescope. Two years later, he joined Kitt Peak Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, where he pioneered the use of digital sensors for ultraviolet, visible and infrared observations. In 1989, Graves traversed the Pacific Ocean to join the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, home to some of the world’s largest optical telescopes atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island.
While in Honolulu, Graves obtained funding for 11 years from the National Science Foundation to invent adaptive optics, a concept that revolutionized astronomical observations. Ground-based telescopes with larger apertures could now surpass the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope once the atmospheric blurring could be removed. This emerging technology brought notoriety for Graves through abundant publications, citations and a place in astronomy textbooks.
In 2000, Graves founded Laplacian Optics Inc., which later became AOptix Technologies, in Campbell, California. At AOptix, he applied his adaptive optics experience to obtain 20 patents in areas of free space laser communications and iris identification. In recent years, Graves has worked as a consultant with Koshla Ventures, KLA-Tencor and SA Photonics. Today, he is a full-time employee with Apple who works on current and future products.
“I owe a great debt to so many people I have been privileged to know and work with over my career, understanding that accomplishing major goals is not a solo adventure, it is the collective work of many who can reach for amazing things,” Graves said. “UTEP was critical in helping mold a work and relationship ethic that lives with me today.”
R. Noel Longuemare
B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1952
R. Noel Longuemare began his professional career with Westinghouse, where he played a lead role in the development of modern radar and avionics systems for airborne, land and surface applications, as well as advanced space systems. The Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group later named him corporate vice president and general manager of its systems development and technology divisions.
After 41 years at Westinghouse, Longuemare accepted a four-year appointment by President Bill Clinton to serve as the principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology at the Pentagon, where he was responsible for the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) $100 billion acquisition budget. Within that assignment, he served as Acting Under Secretary of Defense, and represented the United States on the NATO Defense Ministers panel in Brussels, Belgium. Additionally, he hosted the 1997 Tri-Lateral Defense Conference in Vancouver, Canada. For his many contributions, he was awarded three DoD Distinguished Public Service awards and the prestigious David Packard acquisitions award.
Throughout his career, Longuemare has served in top-level management and technical positions for the DoD and the aerospace industry. Additionally, Longuemare holds eight patents and 17 patent disclosures.
Today, he oversees Longuemare Consultants Inc. and continues to participate in studies and advisory boards for the government and industry. He is a member of the executive advisory board for the U. S. Navy, the Strategic Red Team for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Lincoln Laboratories, and UTEP’s Engineering Advisory Board.
“Attending UTEP was a pivotal point in my life,” Longuemare said. “It opened up amazing new doors, and gave me the confidence to take advantage of the many resulting opportunities.”
Roberto Coronado, Ph.D. / BBA Accounting and Economics, 2000 / M.S. Economics, 2002
Roberto Coronado, Ph.D., currently serves as senior vice president in charge and senior economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, El Paso Branch.
After earning his bachelor's degree in accounting and economics, Coronado eagerly returned to UTEP to pursue his master's degree in economics. Shortly into his graduate program, he landed an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, El Paso Branch. What began as a temporary, unpaid position led to an 18-year career. The young, ambitious economist continued his education at the University of Houston, where he earned his doctorate in economics, which helped him ascend the organization's ranks.
Today, Coronado oversees the bank's economic research and outreach functions in West Texas and Southern New Mexico, and recruits branch board members.
"UTEP was very welcoming and offers a lot of support to students like me," Coronado said. "If you are determined that you want to be successful, UTEP provides the resources to make it happen. Trust me, if I could do it, you can do it."
Miguel Fernandez Jr. / BBA, 1998
Rodrigo Fernandez / BBA, 2001
Miguel Fernandez Jr. and Rodrigo Fernandez are brothers from the Paso del Norte region who co-founded a telecommunications network with three other people to provide communication services in previously underserved communities in Mexico. It evolved into a business that employs hundreds and created a fiber-optic network that spans approximately 8,000 route miles.
In 2001, the two collaborated to create Transtelco, a telecommunications service provider that covers the United States and Mexico and provides voice and data services to Fortune 1000 companies and other businesses. Its coverage area stretches from Los Angeles and Dallas in the United States to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, at the southern tip of Mexico.
"Students need to have their eyes open and realize there are a lot of opportunities, and the people who are able to leverage that are the people who understand what the border is about," Rodrigo Fernandez said. "That was me."
Andrea C. Gates-Ingle / B.A. Special Education, 1999
Stephen Ingle / B.A. Graphic Design, 2003
Creative Kids, a nonprofit organization established 20 years ago, began as a labor of love for Stephen Ingle and his then girlfriend, now wife, Andrea C. Gates-Ingle who met while attending UTEP.
Creative Kids has grown since then. The nonprofit has earned national recognition for providing a high-quality creative youth development program that utilizes the visual arts to empower children with cognitive or physical disabilities, children battling illness, underserved children or just those with an artistic knack.
As for receiving the UTEP Distinguished Alumni Award, the pair said they were humbled and proud of the recognition.
"It is amazing for someone to see what we've done and recognize it," Ingle said. "This is something that we will really cherish and carry as an accomplishment. We have won awards from the city and other recognitions, but this award is from our school, where we learned to do what we do. Getting this award makes it all worth it and we are proud to be part of the UTEP legacy."
Curtis Parkin, Ph.D. / B.S. Physics, 1963The U.S. Army allowed Curtis Parkin, Ph.D. who also was in Texas Western College's Army ROTC program, to delay his active duty service in order to study nuclear and radiation physics at Vanderbilt University's U.S. Atomic Energy Commission postgraduate fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, where he then earned his master's and doctoral degrees in experimental plasma physics.
In 1968, the Army assigned Parkin to active duty at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He applied his studies to work on magnetometers, equipment that would measure magnetic fields on the moon's surface for the second manned mission to land on the lunar surface, Apollo 12 in November 1969.
Parkin said the success of the magnetometer on Apollo 12 led to funds for four additional magnetometers for the Apollo 14, 15 and 16 missions. He became co-investigator for each project.
He separated from NASA in 1979 and continued to work in related fields in California until he retired in 2015. To this day, Parkin maintains contact with several members of the UTEP fraternity that helped him on his celestial career path.
"One thing I'll be saying to other students, 'Study hard and don't neglect your friends and your connections at the University because they can be helpful for the rest of your life,'" Parkin said.
Crystal Long is a first-generation college graduate who currently serves as president and CEO of GECU, the largest locally owned financial institution in El Paso.
Long was born in Lubbock, Texas and moved to El Paso with her family when she was eight years old. She began her career at GECU as an entry-level file clerk in 1979. Later, Long pursued higher education to advance her career and worked toward a college degree while maintaining a full-time job and raising a family. Her persistence paid off when she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Management and later an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
Long progressively moved up the ranks at GECU to a teller, supervisor, manager, and vice president. Already a top leader at her institution, her desire to keep learning and growing professionally wasn’t satiated. In 2011, she became a proud Miner when she joined The University of Texas at El Paso’s Executive MBA Program (EMBA).
Long says she is humbled and honored to be recognized as a Distinguished Alumna, a recognition she feels should be shared with her family, friends, colleagues and community members, who all have been part of her journey.
“Having become a UTEP graduate, I believe I’m better positioned to advocate for the value of a college education in the workplace and am proud that, through my example, others have chosen to attend college,” Long said. “You simply can’t help but be changed by exposure to new concepts, people and perspectives. I am very grateful for that.”
B.A. Electronic Media / Communication, 1998
Karla Martinez is the co-host of Univision’s highly rated national live morning show, “ Despierta America.” While a student at The University of Texas at El Paso, the Chihuahua native got her start in broadcasting at KINT-FM (Channel 26), Univision’s affiliate station in El Paso. In 1995, the young reporter was scouted by the Univision Network, becoming a Texas correspondent for the national newsmagazine “ Primer Impacto.” Later she served as a reporter for the network’s top entertainment news show, “ El Gordo y la Flaca,” and host of Univision's popular youth-oriented lifestyle program, “Control.”
In addition to her role with “ Despierta America,” Martinez has co-hosted numerous Univision specials and in 2013 co-hosted ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “The View” alongside one of her role models, Barbara Walters. She has been named one of People en Español’s 25 Most Beautiful People and 25 Most Powerful Women, and one of Vogue Mexico and Latin America magazine’s 2018 100 Most Influential People.
Recently, Martinez added Emmy award winner to her list of accomplishments when “ Despierta America” won an Emmy for Outstanding Morning Program in Spanish. She also has authored “ El Poder de Una Sonrisa” (The Power of a Smile), a book focused on ways to overcome life’s bad moments.
“I am an example of a dreamer and am happy to be able to represent UTEP students with my story,” Martinez said of her recognition as a Distinguished Alumna. “This is a recognition for all of them. Being an immigrant makes me feel so proud to be recognized for not only what I accomplished but the example I leave others; showing them that anything, no matter where you come from, your story or past, anything is possible.”
Maria Castañón Moats
U.S. and Mexico Assurance Leader, PwC
Maria Castañón Moats was born in Juárez, Mexico and grew up in El Paso. She graduated from UTEP in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She made partner at PwC in 2004 and was later appointed as the firm’s U.S. Diversity Leader from 2011-16, where she reported to the company’s U.S. CEO and served on the U.S. leadership team. Currently, Castañón Moats serves as the first woman and first Hispanic to hold her position at PwC and recently claimed the No. 2 spot on Fortune magazine’s inaugural list of the 50 Most Powerful Latinas.
“I’m incredibly humbled by being named as a Distinguished Alumna,” Castañón Moats said. “UTEP means so much to me – it’s where I learned the value of hard work and was exposed to a variety of people, cultures and information, all of which contributed to both the person I’ve become and the fulfilling career I have today.”
CEO and President of University Medical Center of El Paso
Jacob Cintron started out doing odd jobs in the Engineering Department of Thomason Hospital, now University Medical Center (UMC), when he was 17 years old. Cintron earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from UTEP in 1983 and returned to the University to earn an MBA and a Master of Accountancy. He became director of engineering at Thomason and, later, assistant administrator of the hospital. He stayed at Thomason for 17 years before moving on to executive positions at major health care systems in Chicago, Illinois; San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego, California. Cintron returned to El Paso in 2006 to become CEO of Del Sol Medical Center, a position he held for 10 years before being named CEO of UMC.
“I am blown away, proud and humbled by being named as one of UTEP’s Distinguished Alumni,” Cintron said. “If it weren’t for UTEP, I would have settled for something else, and my life path would have been very different. Thanks to UTEP, I am in a place where I’d never thought I’d be.”
Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Drillinginfo
Allen Gilmer attended Rice University intending to become a lawyer. While at Rice, he enjoyed his geology classes and ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1984. Gilmer returned to El Paso and attended UTEP, where he earned his master’s degree in geological sciences in 1987. He worked several years as a geophysicist at Marathon Oil Co. and went on to co-found several companies in the oil and gas sector before starting up Drillinginfo, a leading provider of cloud-based data and analytics software for the oil and gas industry. Professionally, Gilmer has received numerous accolades. He was selected as Large Company CEO of the Year for Central Texas in 2014, Top 7 North American Prospect Expo Influencers in 2014, Texas' Outstanding Geoscientist in 2012 by Texas Monthly magazine and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Central Texas in 2012.
“Throughout the history of TWC and UTEP, there have been some true giants who have earned their degrees at this outstanding university,” Gilmer said. “I am amazingly humbled by being recognized as one of UTEP’s Distinguished Alumni.”
2016Eric J.C. Chan, '78
Catalina E. García, M.D., '61
Mario T. García, Ph.D., '66, '68'
2015Blanca Enriquez, ‘79, ‘85
Gaspar Enriquez, ‘70
Renard U. Johnson, ‘95
2014UTEP’s 100th Anniversary: All Past Distinguished Alumni Honored
2013Sally A. Hurt Deitch, ‘90, ‘94
Kathy Patrick, ‘82
Gary Wagner, ‘73
Robert V. Wingo, ‘73
2012Dennis C.K. Poon, '77
2011Bob Black, '77
Jerry Porras, '60
2010Hank Cohen, '78
Mike Loya, ’77
Ceci Miles Mulvihill, ’69
2009Victor Arias, Jr., '78
Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., '72
Victor M. Mendez, '80
Vernon G. Hunt*, '50
2008J. James Rohack, M.D., '76
Ruben Salazar*, '54
Paul Yetter, '80
2007Harriet Bennett May, '71
Robert W. O'Rear, '64
John F. Rechy, '52
2006Dr. John D. Olivas, '89
Reese M. Rowling*, '51
2005Steffen E. Palko, '71
Danny L. Vickers, '77 & '92
2004Juan Roberto Job, '73 & '78
Pat Mora, '63 & '67
2003Lieutenant General (Ret.) Stanley E. Green, '77
Robert A. Malone, '74
Ralph Ponce de Leon, '60
2002The Honorable David Briones, '69
The Honorable Philip R. Martinez, '79
Gerald J. Rubin, '65
Stanlee N. Rosenberg Rubin, '65
Russell A. Vandenburg, '70
2001Larry K. Durham, '66
2000William L. Kiely, '64
1999Dr. John D. Boice, Jr., '67
Margaret Belding de Wetter, '43 & '46
1998Dr. Edward Egbert*, '47
1997Rosa Ramirez Guerrero, '57 & '77
1996Richard E. Pearson*, '69
1995James E. Paul, '71
1994Nolan Richardson, '65
1993Hughes S. Butterworth, Jr.*, '54
1992The Honorable Jaime Oaxaca, '57
1991C. Allen Born, '58
1990Richard W. Mithoff*, '46
1989UTEP's 75th Anniversary: All Past Distinguished Alumni Honored
1988Robert C. Heasley, '53
1987Dr. Daniel W. Foster, '51
1986Ellis O. Mayfield, attended '33-'35
1985Maury P. Kemp, '52
1984Abraham Chavez, Jr.*, '59
1983Major General James P. Maloney, '54
1982Hector Holguin, '58
1981Paul H. Carlton*, '40
1980The Honorable Donald S. Henderson, '56
1979Hazel Cooper Haynsworth*, '45
1978Dr. Vernie A. Stembridge, Jr.*, '43
1977George B. McBride*, '48
1976Sam A. Donaldson, '55
1975A. Ross Moore*, '39
1974Dr. Eleanor Lyon Duke*, '39
1973The Honorable Wallace E. Snelson, '46
1972Dr. Gordon L. Black, '40
1971Dr. Raymond A. Gardea*, '51
1970Rodolfo F. Tellez*, '52
1969David O. Leeser, '43
1968Thaddeus A. Steele, Sr.*, '33
1967B. Marshall Willis*, '42
1966E. Ray Lockhart*, attended '29-'32
1965H. Brooks Travis*, '35
1964Eugene M. Thomas, '26
1963Dr. Robert M. Stevenson, '36
1962The Honorable Joseph F. Friedkin*, '32
1961Ing. Salvador F. Trevino*, '41
1960Fred W. Bailey*, '20
1959Colonel Hugh D. McGaw*, '29
1958The Honorable Charles A. Steen*, '43
1957Mary Vance Guinn*, '37
1956Dr. Lloyd A. Nelson*, '16
1955Berte R. Haigh*, '25
1954Sheldon P. Wimpfen*, '34
1953John K. Hardy*, '23
1952Dr. Thomas Clements*, '22
1951John Payne, Jr.*, '31
1950Brigadier General (Ret.) Samuel L. A. Marshall*, attended '20
* = deceased