The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor our alumni can receive. The award recognizes high-achieving individuals who stand out in their fields and have made significant contributions to society. Recipients of this award have honored the legacy of excellence at UTRGV and its legacy institutions through their accomplishments, affiliations, careers, and philanthropic endeavors.
From behind his camera, Sandesh Kadur sees the world from a very different angle. Through the use of images, both still and video, Kadur exposes the need for conservation and encourages protection of the world’s biodiversity. His photographs have been published widely in books and magazines. His documentaries on animals have been aired worldwide on the BBC Planet Earth, Discovery, and National Geographic networks.
Over the years, Kadur’s work has garnered many top awards including the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) Environmental Photographer of the Year Award, Nature’s Best Award, and the International Conservation Photographer Award. Kadur was also nominated for a Green Oscar at Wildscreen.
In 2013, Kadur was recognized by National Geographic Society as an Emerging Explorer. He received the North American Nature Photographers (NANPA) Vision Award in recognition of early career excellence and continuation of vision and inspiration to others in nature photography, conservation, and education. Kadur feels images have the power to move people in a way nothing else can, and he hopes to harness this power through his work and inspire his audience to protect and appreciate the wilderness.
Kadur is the founder of Felis Creations, a media and visual arts company that focuses on creating content that inspires conservation. He graduated from The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology in 2001.
Alice Rodriguez is the consumer banking executive responsible for Banking & Wealth Management in the greater Texas metro areas. She is responsible for total deposits and investments of $70 billion and 5,000 people. Rodriguez has over 29 years of extensive banking experience with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and its predecessors. Rodriguez holds a BBA in Management from The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College.
Active in the community and an established leader at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Rodriguez has been recognized with numerous awards and honors including:
As part of her commitment to leadership and her community, Rodriguez has served as a member of several boards including the following:
Rodriguez is married to Tom Kendall and they have a blended family of seven children.
Norma Teran is currently serving as executive vice president /chief nursing officer for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System where she leads a nursing workforce of over 1200 nurses. With 28 years of health care experience, Teran is focused on advancing the quadruple aim as delineated by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement: better patient outcomes, lower health care costs, improved patient experience and health care provider wellness.
Teran immigrated with her parents from Nuevo Progreso, Tamaulipas, Mexico to Elsa, Texas in the early 1970’s. After graduating from Edcouch-Elsa High School in 1981, Teran obtained her associate degree in nursing in May 1987 from Pan American University. Norma completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing in December 1995. Norma went on to complete her Master of Business Administration at UTPA in May 2002 and her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-Lubbock in May 2016.
Teran is a member of the American Organization of Nurse Executives, Texas Organization of Nurse Executives and South Texas Organization of Nurse Executives. She is also a member of the Texas Tech University chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society, the American Nurses Association and Texas Nurses Association. Teran is a member of the Policy Council for Texas Nurses Association. Teran has been married to Johnny Baize for over 33 years. They have three adult children and one grandson.
Michael J. Williamson is the Edinburg market president for PlainsCapital Bank. He manages and monitors strategic direction for the Edinburg market, including Edinburg, Donna and Weslaco, Texas. Williamson is also charged with implementing corporate strategic direction for areas of business development, product portfolio growth and management, community outreach, and officer engagement.
Williamson has fifteen years of experience in the banking industry with expertise in international relations, lending, special asset litigation, loan portfolio management, and bank oversight. He also has seven years of experience in international manufacturing including, overseeing audits and business finance consulting. Williamson was raised in Tampico, Mexico and demonstrates bilingual and bicultural values in his professional and personal life.
Williamson holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from The University of Texas- Pan American. He also attended the Southwest Graduate School of banking in 2014. He has received the Chairman’s Award from the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the RGV and the Directors Award from the Edinburg Rotary Club. Williamson is currently a UTRGV Foundation Board member, the Edinburg Rotary Club director, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce treasurer, a Texas International Produce Association member, and a member and advisor for the Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School Finance Committee.
He is married to Allison N. Williamson and they have two wonderful daughters, Lindsay (13) and Katherine (10). His family attends Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in McAllen. In addition to his profession, Williamson enjoys farming and traveling with his family.
Michael Ray Mancias has made a name for himself in the sports medicine world as personal trainer to LeBron James, forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mancias graduated from the University of Texas Pan American in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and a minor in Kinesiology. As a student at UTPA, Michael volunteered as an assistant basketball trainer and worked numerous basketball camps around the U.S.
After graduation, he accepted an internship with famed NBA sports trainer Tim Grover, Michael Jordan’s personal trainer. During that summer internship, Mancias helped train Jordan for a comeback with the Washington Wizards in 2001. This important internship opened the door for his career in the NBA. Mancias joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant trainer in 2004 and soon became personal trainer to James.
Mancias has traveled to two Olympics with James and worked with him during his time with the Miami Heat. Mancias rejoined the Cavaliers’ staff after James announced his return to Cleveland in July 2014. Michael Mancias is a Brownsville, Texas native who graduated from Homer Hanna High School in 1995. He met his wife, Heather Bravo (BS ’08) at UTPA. She graduated with a double major in psychology and criminal justice.
Heriberto Reynoso is the founder of Reybotics, the premier robotics manufacturing center of South Texas. He is also a mentor and a presenter who travels to schools across the Rio Grande Valley, speaking on the importance of robotics. While Reybotics sells their high quality robots, the company also aims to inspire the next generation of roboticists.
Reynoso runs the Robotics Summer Valley Program funded by the Texas Workforce Commission. The Program accepts 48 area high school students every summer and exposes them to the field of robotics for an entire month. Students at the camp are encouraged to dream big, seek out their curiosities, and embrace their creativity. They are exposed to engineering, physics, and computer science. Campers build and program robots for a series of competitions.
Reynoso is a Brownsville, Texas native and attended the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. As a UTB/TSC student, he participated in programs with the University of Southern California’s Robotics Embedded Systems Laboratory (2008), NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory under the Mobility and Robotics Systems section’s Arial Systems Perception group (2009) and under the Mobility and Manipulation group (2010), and the PhoneSat team at NASA’s Ames Research Center (2011).
During his last two internships, Reynoso helped develop robots used for space exploration. Reynoso has been recognized academically by the South Texas Academic Rising Scholars, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and Google. He was a NASA Student Ambassador and a scholar for the NASA Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology program.
Alicia Torres is senior vice president and chief financial officer at Altarum Institute, a non-profit health systems research and consulting organization, headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI.
Torres joined Altarum Institute in October 2013. She oversees the Institute’s finance, accounting, legal, human resources, facilities, and information technology operations and manages the Institute’s investment portfolio.
Torres has almost 30 years of experience in a variety of sectors within the health care industry. She has held positions as CEO and entrepreneur, corporate consulting director, and hospital finance executive. Torres has in-depth experience across a broad range of management functions, with principal skills in operational and financial controls, sales, and identification of growth opportunities.
Prior to joining Altarum, Torres was a global practice leader in health care for Zebra Technologies, a $1 billion public company. She was also founder and CEO of Rosebud Solutions, a health care software firm focused on process improvement solutions of critical assets and related personnel for hospitals. McKesson, Inc. purchased Rosebud in March 2008. Torres served as director of the Health Economics Group for Kinetic Concepts, Inc., a medical device manufacturer. Her consulting work focused on maximizing reimbursement, asset management, and clinical outcomes of the company’s products. Torres received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from The University of Texas-Pan American in 1983. She served on the College of Business Administration’s Advisory Council. She is also a UTRGV Legacy Society member and was a member of the UTPA President’s Circle in 2009. Torres is married to Frank Legacki who is also her business partner. Legacki, now retired, has held numerous executive positions, including CEO of Kaepa Athletics. He graduated both undergraduate and graduate school (MBA) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Lauryn Gayle White is a Dallas business owner and esteemed philanthropist, generous with both her time and financial support. For more than 35 years, she has shown her commitment to helping others through her involvement with a diverse range of organizations, from political causes to individual charities.
White is a member of The Crystal Charity Ball Committee which raises millions of dollars each year for underprivileged children of Dallas County. She is presently a board member and former luncheon chairman for KidneyTexas, which raises money for research and new equipment for Dallas hospitals. The organization also pays for children suffering from kidney afflictions and undergoing dialysis to go to Camp John Marc, which enables them to be around other children with similar challenges. White is also on the Advisory Board for The Cattle Baron’s Ball which raises millions of dollars each year for cancer research.
White was a long-time advocate and key fundraiser for UTRGV’s legacy institution, UTPA (formerly Pan American University). She was appointed to the Board of Regents of Pan American University from 1983 to 1989. She was Chairman of the Board in 1988 and worked on the merger of Pan American University with the University of Texas System.
White also served as UTPA’S chairman of development for several years. She raised funds from the Meadows Foundation to benefit the University. She also traveled to New York and Connecticut to meet with influential companies like PepsiCo and General Mills.
White is an Edinburg, Texas native and attended The University of Texas-Pan American (formerly Pan American College) where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1969. While attending college, she met Tom Willingham White. They married in March 1968. Tom and Lauryn Gayle have three sons. Brad White and his wife, Lee, reside in Greenwich, Connecticut. Parker White is currently working and living in Dallas, Texas. Allen White and his wife, Christina, also live in Dallas, Texas. White has four grandchildren.