UTEP Leaders and Educators Honored at Annual McDonald’s Triunfadores
Three UTEP educators were honored for their impact on Hispanics in the community at the 21st Annual McDonald's Triunfadores Luncheon.
The UTEP-affiliated recipients included José O. Rivera, Pharm.D., founding dean of the School of Pharmacy; Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D., director of the Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI) and research associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Romy Saenz Hawkins, art instructor at UTEP's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
The awards, which celebrates the culture and the contributions of Hispanics in El Paso during Hispanic Heritage Month, is a collaboration between the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Richard Castro, the founder of the annual awards ceremony and the owner of McDonald's restaurants in West Texas.
UTEP’s Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Operations and Strategic Initiatives Louie Rodriguez, who served on the award’s selection committee, said that the achievements from the UTEP-affiliated winners also reflect the University’s mission.
“We're so proud of the impact that our faculty and staff make in the community through their work,” he said. “As the country’s leading Hispanic-serving university, part of our mission is to serve students through our culture of care and engagement in high-impact practices. These three individuals demonstrate this commitment to our students, and we honor their achievements.”
The awardees were recognized in a ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.
Rivera, who was honored in the education category, has demonstrated leadership in educating pharmacists who will serve the region, Castro said.
"Rivera's approach to preparing pharmacy students for the reality of life and needs of pharmacists today is so different, but yet so necessary in today’s world," he said. "For example, requiring that UTEP pharmacy graduates study and be able to communicate in Spanish gives them such an advantage in states like Texas and California where the state Hispanic populations will soon represent the largest cultures in these two states."
Castro also mentioned Rivera's role in UTEP's vaccination clinic at a critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021.
"His out-of-the-box plan in January 2021, when there was such a need for quick COVID vaccination of UTEP students and the El Paso community, was another example of his 'can-do' philosophy," he said.
Rivera reflected on the recognition and highlighted the vaccine clinic's goal of serving the community.
“I am extremely proud to receive this award," he said. "I must say, however, what we did with the COVID Vaccination Campaign was for the sole purpose to help our community. To be of service to the community is very significant for the UTEP School of Pharmacy, and what we achieved through all the contributors in the vaccination campaign is a prime example of this."
Echegoyen was recognized in the STEM category based on her work in securing national research grants at UTEP, Castro said.
"These research grants she helps secure are not only a great path for learning for these students, they also may provide key findings that may be used to better our world in the future,"he said.
Echegoyen thanked the community for the recognition.
"It is an honor to be selected for this award given by a community that welcomed me with open arms a little over a decade ago and made me feel right at home," she said. "I have to thank the students who took advantage of the opportunities my team gave them to shape their future and are now pursuing fulfilling careers in the STEM disciplines. There is nothing more joyful than having a positive impact on someone else’s life."
Castro praised Saenz for her passion for art and use of various media and global influences.
"That same passion for art is illustrated in the fact that she is teaching others how to create this style of art," he said "It shows a true dedication to the arts and her willingness to share her knowledge and talents with others."
Saenz, who has also taught at the El Paso Museum of Art and has had work displayed in national shows, stated that her work helps highlight the culture of the region.
"I am honored to be a recipient of this very prestigious award and to be recognized with a group of people who do so much for this community of El Paso," she said. "My art allows me to teach, promote and preserve the rich culture of our roots through the promotion of the arts."
Other recipients included attorney Iliana Holguin in the community service category, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez in the government service category, and Aztec Contractors President Frank Spencer in the business category.
Last Updated on September 29, 2022 at 12:00 AM | Originally published September 29, 2022
By Elizabeth Ashby UTEP Marketing and Communications