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Hometown Heroes: UTEP’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni

Last Updated on October 04, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Originally published October 04, 2017

By Christina Rodriguez

UTEP Communications

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.

“We are extremely proud to celebrate this year’s Distinguished Alumni, who represent the very best of UTEP excellence – our highly talented students and the educational programs that enable them to achieve their full potential,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “These three highly accomplished UTEP graduates clearly set high aspirations for themselves and, upon completing their UTEP degrees, have achieved extraordinary success in their chosen professions. Their stories serve as a powerful inspiration for all of us at UTEP today – students, faculty and staff – to continue building a culture of excellence across the campus.”

The 2017 Distinguished Alumni recipients include:


Jacob Cintron

B.S. Industrial Engineering, 1983

MBA, 1996

Master of Accountancy, 2002

UTEP alumnus Jacob Cintron exudes Miner spirit. The CEO and president of University Medical Center (UMC) of El Paso, formerly known as Thomason Hospital, has such a fondness for his alma mater and his time spent as a UTEP student that he still has his senior class industrial engineering project tucked away neatly on a shelf in his office. From time to time he likes to peruse the large, hardbound book filled with engineering facts and figures that, coincidentally, involved Thomason Hospital.

Growing up in central El Paso, Cintron never considered a college education a possibility. His parents divorced when he was young, and he and his two siblings were raised by a single mother who was a self-taught bookkeeper. The family struggled financially, and as soon as Cintron was old enough to work, he would walk to his job bagging groceries at Safeway and later to a job his mother helped secure at Thomason to help support the family.

At the hospital, Cintron did various jobs in the engineering department. His co-workers took him under their wings and taught him everything from how to drive a stick shift to electrical and mechanical work.

During a business trip with the administrator of Thomason at the time, John Stinson, Cintron’s perspective on college changed. He recalls Stinson turning to him and saying, “Jacob, you need to go to college.” His response was, “I can’t. I have to work to help out my family.” Stinson assured him they could accommodate his school schedule, allowing him to work and go to school.

In 1976, Cintron enrolled at UTEP, four years after he had completed high school. He excelled in industrial engineering and served as president of the student chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineering.

“I started college late and felt I had forgotten so much since high school, but I loved it,” Cintron recalled. “Anything you do as far as furthering your education is an investment in yourself, not in a car that depreciates, clothes that go out of style or electronics that eventually break. You are investing in your capabilities and success.”

Cintron earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from UTEP in 1983 and returned to the University to earn a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Accountancy.

As Cintron’s education level advanced, so did his rank at Thomason. He went from doing odd jobs in the Engineering Department at the age of 17 to director of engineering and, later, assistant administrator of the hospital. He stayed at Thomason for 17 years before moving on to hold executive positions at major health care systems in Chicago, San Antonio and San Diego. 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.

“If it weren’t for UTEP, I would have settled for something else, and my life path would have been very different,” Cintron said. “Thanks to UTEP, I am in a place where I never thought I’d be.”


Allen Gilmer

M.S. Geological Sciences, 1987

Beginning in his childhood, The University of Texas at El Paso played a significant role in Allen Gilmer’s life. His father was a proud alumnus of Texas Western College (TWC), now UTEP, and growing up on Kerbey Street, just blocks away from campus, the family had many friends who were professors at the University.

As a child, Gilmer recalls the excitement of exploring the Franklin Mountains and collecting rocks and arrowheads. He even fondly remembers a quest to find the Lost Padre Mine with his grandfather. Unfortunately, the pair never discovered the legendary mine, but Gilmer did find something significant – his love of geology.

Philip Goodell, Ph.D., professor of geological sciences at UTEP, was one close friend of the family who helped further Gilmer’s early geological interests by giving him part of his impressive rock collection; some specimens were even etched with actual dinosaur tracks.

Enticed by his parents allowing him to take his mint green Chevy Camaro along, Gilmer left home to attend Rice University with the intent to one day become a lawyer. While at Rice, he thoroughly enjoyed his geology classes and ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1984.

For his graduate studies, Gilmer returned home and attended UTEP.

“I really liked the vibe at UTEP,” Gilmer said. “The geology professors were excellent and did a lot of work on the border and in Mexico. As a master’s student studying geology at UTEP, you had the ability to do research in big areas; your thesis was more like a dissertation.”

At UTEP, Gilmer’s professors left a lasting impression on him. He credits his adviser at UTEP, Professor Emeritus Kenneth Clark, Ph.D., with inspiring him and having a transformative impact on his life by teaching him discipline and the importance of hard work.

Gilmer earned his master’s degree in geological sciences in 1987. He went on to work for a mining company before making the transition to the oil and gas industry. 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.

Today, Gilmer is the co-founder and executive chairman of Drillinginfo, a data analytics company for energy exploration decision support that is a leading provider of cloud-based data and analytics software for the oil and gas industry.

Professionally, Gilmer has received numerous awards and 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, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Central Texas in 2012, and a Top 100 Energy Influencer in 2011.

“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.”


Maria Castañón Moats

BBA Accounting, 1990

“It doesn’t cost anything to dream, so dream big.” That is the message Maria Castañón Moats’ mother always drilled into her daughter. It still resonates with Castañón Moats, who now passes along these words of wisdom to her team at PwC, one of the world’s largest professional services firms, where she is the U.S. and Mexico Assurance Leader.

Castañón Moats is 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. Her success, however, was not an easy feat and required not only lofty dreams but lots of tenacity and hard work.

Castañón Moats was born in Juárez, Mexico. Her parents had a sixth-grade education but believed strongly in the American Dream and came to the U.S. when Castañón Moats was very young. They wanted their children to have access to opportunities they did not, including a college education.

Since childhood, Castañón Moats was curious and loved to learn new things at school. Math and science were particularly enjoyable for her. She knew early on that attending college would be in her future. When the time came, she decided to attend UTEP so she would be close to home.

Throughout college, Castañón Moats juggled being a full-time student and working part-time. She graduated from UTEP in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

After graduation, Castañón Moats began her career as an internal auditor with Bank of America in Dallas, Texas. She soon discovered that being a Hispanic female CPA in the male-dominated financial services industry in the early 1990s was a challenge.

“There weren’t many women, let alone Hispanic women as CPAs,” she said. “I had to constantly prove myself, show my worth and the value I brought to my profession.”

Castañón Moats applied for a job at PwC through an ad and was hired on the spot after just one interview. She worked her way up at the firm and made partner in 2004. She served as PwC’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.

“My story is not unique, and with hard work, it’s possible to fulfill your biggest dreams,” she said. “You can have a career that makes an impact not only for yourself, but also for others.

“I’m incredibly humbled by being named as a Distinguished Alumna. 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.”