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UTEP Announces 2019 Gold Nugget Award Recipients

Last Updated on July 15, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Originally published July 15, 2019

By UC Staff

UTEP Communications

The University of Texas at El Paso and the UTEP Alumni Association are proud to announce the 2019 Gold Nugget recipients.

The University of Texas at El Paso and the UTEP Alumni Association are proud to announce the 2019 Gold Nugget recipients.
The University of Texas at El Paso and the UTEP Alumni Association are proud to announce the 2019 Gold Nugget recipients.

For over 30 years, the University has recognized exceptional graduates from each of its colleges and schools who have excelled in their professions, given back to their communities and alma mater, and served as an inspiration for future generations of Miners.

“Our 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients are all contributing to a better world as leaders of nonprofit organizations, healthcare professionals, businessmen, engineers, data scientists and symphony conductors,” Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for alumni relations said. “These individuals were all selected for what they represent – UTEP at its best. Their backgrounds are diverse, but they all found their calling at UTEP and they’ve continued to have an enriching relationship with the University throughout the years. Their commitment to their respective communities and to important causes is making a difference in the lives of so many people and UTEP celebrates their dedication to excellence. As Gold Nuggets, they embody the Miner spirit and they are true role models for our students.”

UTEP’s 2019 Gold Nugget Award recipients are:


Salvador Balcorta / College of Health Sciences / Bachelor of Social Work, 1980

Salvador Balcorta has served as the CEO of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe since 1992. Balcorta transformed the neighborhood health center in South El Paso into a nationally recognized network of nonprofit community health clinics, health and human service programs, and a dual-language charter school.

His many accolades include Mexico's prestigious Ohtli Award and the National Association of Social Workers' Lifetime Achievement Award. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appointed him to the National Advisory Committee on Minority Health.

"UTEP taught me the value of hands-on knowledge," Balcorta said. "Your life and field experience is something that is just as valuable, if not more so, than book knowledge."


Paul Dipp / College of Business Administration / BBA Management, 1977

El Paso native, Paul Dipp, president of Economy Wholesale Grocers, credited UTEP's supportive and engaged faculty with his success. He has shown his gratitude through his involvement in the UTEP Centennial Committee, COBA's Business Advisory Council and as a lifetime member of UTEP's Alumni Association.

Dipp juggled academics with his responsibilities with two family-owned businesses. The double major - real estate and marketing - said he applied what he learned in class to his jobs in commercial real estate and as a wholesale grocer.

"I have the opportunity to represent all the COBA graduates, and I'm profoundly grateful and humbled to represent UTEP," Dipp said.


Carolyn Moody Drake / School of Nursing / BSN, 1975

For decades, Carolyn Moody Drake has served her community as an RN, then as a volunteer.

Among a wide range of community service, Moody Drake has focused much of her energy on the PARTNERS organization, which supports The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Cizik School of Nursing by raising funds for nursing scholarships and faculty research grants. She was the chair of PARTNERS in 2012-13 and continues to be involved as a lifetime member.

A popular presenter on health care topics, Moody Drake ebulliently shares her knowledge and passion about nursing with others. She also drives, cooks and opens her home for those in need - most recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey flooding in 2017 in southeast Texas.

A lifetime member of the UTEP Alumni Association, Moody Drake said, "UTEP taught me to value a high-quality education in a multicultural environment, and it solidified an ideology based on caring and kindness."


Edward Drusina / College of Engineering / B.S. Civil Engineering, 1974

Edward Drusina is highly respected for his accomplishments in engineering and water supply management. The former commissioner of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission led the development of critical international water management agreements between the U.S. and Mexico from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas. These agreements continue to help border agriculture, industry and municipalities to have access to clean water.

Recently, Drusina retired from federal service. He stays engaged in his profession as a UTEP adviser, Texas A&M Research Center adviser, and part-time senior project engineer for Weston Solutions, an environmental and infrastructure support services company.

“UTEP gave me the education I needed to have a highly successful career in the public and private sectors,” Drusina said. “I’m thankful to represent an institution that contributes so much to our community.”


D. Frank Hsu, Ph.D. / College of Science / M.S. Mathematics, 1975

D. Frank Hsu, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized pioneer and leader of data science research and education.

Hsu is the Clavius Distinguished Professor of Science, a professor of computer and information science, and the director of the Fordham Laboratory of Informatics and Data Mining at Fordham University in New York. In that role, he has helped develop solutions to real-world problems by harnessing the power of data science, machine learning, cognitive computing, informatics and model fusion.

Throughout his career, Hsu has authored or edited 40 books and published more than 200 technical papers. He received a Distinguished Teaching Award from Fordham in 2001 and an IBM Faculty Award in 2012, among other honors. He holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan.

"My experience at UTEP has impacted my life and career tremendously," Hsu said. "I am proud and passionate about being a Miner and look forward to sharing my experiences and expertise with students and alumni of UTEP."


Maggie Morales-Moody / College of Education / B.S. Elementary Education, 1986 / M.Ed. Educational Administration, 1994 / College of Liberal Arts / B.A. French, 1985

As an elementary-level educator, counselor and administrator for 28 years, Maggie Morales-Moody earned recognition at the campus and state levels for her efforts to serve underrepresented students with unconditional dedication. She may now be retired, but her devotion has not wavered.

In 2015, Morales-Moody, with the assistance of family, friends and donors, opened GiGi's Playhouse El Paso, the state's first achievement center for people with Down syndrome and their families. The playhouse is part of a national network that offers free educational, therapeutic, career and social programs. She thanked all who helped her succeed, to include her UTEP faculty members.

"They took personal interest in each one of their students and encouraged us to look at each child as an individual, full of promise and hope," Morales-Moody said.


Claudio Ordaz / College of Liberal Arts / B.M. Music Performance, 2001

A love of music lured Claudio Ordaz to The University of Texas at El Paso in the late 1990s, and that passion eventually led him to Eastern Europe.

The native of Chihuahua City, Mexico, picked UTEP to study violin from legendary Abraham Chavez, a longtime music professor.

The first-generation college student earned his master's and Ph.D. degrees in orchestral conducting in 2008 and 2015, respectively, from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Estonia. In 2013, he founded the Savonlinna Camerata Orchestra in Finland. He serves as the group's artistic director and conductor. He was the first Mexican to start and conduct a European orchestra.

He lives in Finland and is a professor of music at the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences.

"My time at UTEP was one of the most extraordinary and inspiring of my life," he said.



Lisa Lavigne Saucedo / College of Business Administration / MBA, 2015

Lisa Lavigne Saucedo is the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates Inc., or CASA, an agency that provides advocacy for abused and neglected children in the family court system.

Saucedo pursued UTEP's Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree to enhance her leadership skills and build on the business acumen required to run a nonprofit. She already had years of managerial experience before she transitioned to executive director.

The New England native said the University's decision to select her as a Gold Nugget surprised and humbled her. She said her time at UTEP bolstered her leadership skills alongside a diverse cohort.

"Pursuing this degree really instills confidence and brings out your best attributes," Saucedo said. "It teaches you to think differently about everything, and that the work that we do, from a multimillion-dollar company to a local nonprofit, can make a difference in the world."


Patricia "Patty" Tiscareño / College of Liberal Arts / B.A. English Literature, 2004

Patricia "Patty" Tiscareño, executive director of the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation, said a liberal arts degree often comes in handy. The El Paso native said her duties demand the ability to communicate with board members one minute and patients from all demographics the next. She could follow those conversations with an analysis of her $13 million budget and a creative summit to discuss a future fundraiser or program development.

Others have recognized her abilities and sought her presence on numerous health, academic and community boards. Tiscareño has earned various awards through the years to include the 2016 Woman of Impact Award and her induction in 2018 into the El Paso Commission for Women Hall of Fame. She stays involved with UTEP socially and professionally.

"My interactions with UTEP always positively impact my life," Tiscareño said.


Dorothy Truax / College of Liberal Arts / B.A. Sociology, 1973

As a social worker for more than 30 years, Dorothy Truax has helped people of all ages and backgrounds to improve their lives.

Truax has served as director of social services at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless since 2014, and as director of the Reynolds Home, a shelter for women and children, since 2006. She received a bachelor's degree in sociology from UTEP in 1973 and a master's degree in social work from New Mexico State University 31 years later. She has mentored nearly 30 UTEP undergraduate and graduate social work students through the years.

"In social work there is always something new, a new challenge every day," Truax said. "So as long as you enjoy what you do, it is not a job. It's something you love."

The University will officially recognize these Gold Nuggets during UTEP's 2019 Homecoming events Sept. 29 - Oct. 5.