The annual Alumni Awards Dinner set the stage for highly esteemed honors bestowed by the Alumni Association and Division of Advancement upon UNT alumni and other university contributors April 16 in the Gateway Center.
First presented in 1965, the Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award is the university’s most prestigious for alumni and is presented for distinguished professional prominence and extraordinary contributions to society. This year’s honorees were Rhys J. Best (’69), Kristin Farmer (’95 M.Ed.) and John Robert “Bobby” Ray (’69).
“The Alumni Awards provide a unique opportunity for us to see what our graduates have done to improve our world,” said then-Interim President Phil Diebel, who presented the awards this spring. “Each of the honorees embodies an excellence in knowledge, creativity, enterprise and community engagement — all the things that UNT values and tries to impart in its graduates.”
Rhys J. Best
Shortly before earning his degree from North Texas, Best began a 20-year banking career. In 1985, he capped it with a presidential post at First City Bank in Dallas, which was the fourth largest bank in Dallas at the time. He later joined Lone Star Technologies Inc., a public holding company that manufactures steel tubular products for the energy industry, becoming president, chair and CEO, a role he kept until Lone Star merged with U.S. Steel Corp.
Best serves on several public and private corporate boards and is chair of the board of Crosstex Energy LP. In 2006, he was recognized as an Ernst and Young Regional Entrepreneur of the Year. Throughout his career, he has been active in various community and civic affairs and has served as a member of the UNT College of Business Board of Advisors.
Leldon E. Echols, a fellow board member with Best at Trinity Industries Inc. and Crosstex Energy LP, says, “Rhys is an outstanding business professional who conducts himself and treats others in a completely honest, straight-forward, courteous manner, with high integrity.”
After earning a master’s degree in special education with a concentration in autism and behavioral disorders, Farmer treated children in public schools in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., and in San Diego, Calif., as an autism and behavioral specialist. Later, she became a private behavioral specialist, providing therapy in home and community settings.
In 2002, she co-founded La Casa Center for Autism, a nonprofit organization that caters to patients who cannot afford services. In 1996, she began Autism Comprehensive Educational Services. Through personalized treatment and applied behavioral analysis, ACES has had an impact on more than 10,000 individuals and families dealing with autism, developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders.
Bridgette Anderson, an occupational therapist in San Diego’s Developmental Therapy Center, says Farmer was her peer, mentor and boss.
“One of her greatest strengths is her inability to accept ‘no’ for an answer to a dream, goal or inspiration,” Anderson says. “Instead, she finds a different path.”
John Robert ‘Bobby’ Ray
Born and raised in Denton, Ray earned his bachelor of business administration degree from North Texas, and after working at Texas Instruments, began a career in homebuilding. He became president and partner of one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s top homebuilding companies. After selling the company to K. Hovnanian, Ray remained with the new company serving as a group president.
Ray was appointed to the UNT Board of Regents in 1995 and served until 2007. During his final eight years, Ray was elected chair. In his tenure on the board, UNT experienced enrollment growth, a significant increase in campus building projects and the creation of the College of Engineering and Discovery Park.
In nominating Ray for the award, Jim Grandey (’67) — who has known Ray since the first grade in Denton — and his wife, Diane Moore Grandey (’68), say not only did his leadership on the UNT board help propel the university forward, but Ray “has continued to look out for UNT interests as a member of the Select Commission on Higher Education and Globalization and also the Task Force on Higher Education Incentive Funding.”
Ray serves on the Plano Presbyterian Hospital board and the advisory board for Northern Trust Bank of Texas.
Presented to individuals who have given extraordinary service and support to UNT either by enhancing its reputation or by helping the university accomplish its mission.
- Judith Garrett Segura (’70 M.A.,’77 M.F.A.)
A writer, artist and private consultant for history and archives projects, historical exhibits and art acquisition and installation, Segura is a former president of The Belo Foundation, retiring in 2004 after a 24-year career. She previously served as curator of Belo’s 300-piece collection of Texas art, including many pieces by UNT graduates.After her retirement, she chronicled Belo Corp.’s dynasty from its inception in 1842 to today. Three of her designs were incorporated into the architecture of the first building at UNT-Dallas.
- Delva Cotton King (’72)
King and her husband, Johnnie (’71), have worked closely with administrators to promote diversity on campus. They are frequent lecturers in the Mayborn School of Journalism’s advertising classes and have offered internships at their advertising firm, The King Group Inc. a 20-year-old company that specializes in ethnic marketing. Additionally they developed a specialty service, where King has taught diversity training and research for the restaurant industry. They are current owners of KG Concessions in partnership with T.G.I. Friday’s, Pappasito’s and Pappadeaux restaurants at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.She is a UNT Foundation board member, and she and her husband serve on the Mayborn’s newly introduced advisory board.
Outstanding Alumnus Service Award
Presented to honor individuals who have provided exceptional volunteer service to UNT.
- John Moranz (’71, ’72 M.B.A.)
Moranz has worked with such companies as IBM, Oracle and NC4 and operated an information technology consultancy for several years.With his assistance, NC4 donated its E Team Crisis Management software and incident monitoring service to UNT’s Department of Public Administration, providing the university and its students with the latest technology for situational awareness and response.
Green Glory Award
Presented to acknowledge individuals — not necessarily alumni — whose assistance to UNT has enabled the university to provide a standard of excellence in its endeavors.
- Cragg Hines (’67)
For more than 35 years, Hines has worked on the Houston Chronicle’s Washington, D.C., staff as a correspondent, bureau chief and columnist, covering local and national politics. In 2001, he was named one of the top 50 Washington journalists and the top representative of a regional publication.Reporting from virtually every state and more than 40 countries, Hines provided political coverage spanning the Richard Nixon presidency to the prospective election of President Barack Obama.
- E. Douglas McLeod (’65)
A U.S. Marine and attorney, McLeod is chair of the board of Moody Gardens Inc. and director of development for the Moody Foundation in Galveston. He was an elected official for 14 years, as a member and president of the Galveston school board, mayor pro-tem, city councilman, and a three-term member of the Texas House of Representatives.McLeod was honored with the “Citizen of the Year” distinguished service award by the Galveston Chamber of Commerce.
Ulys Knight Spirit Award
Presented to an individual or group that has made noteworthy efforts to sustain spirit among the UNT family. Ulys Knight (’28), a basketball player named most popular man on campus, was later known as “Mr. North Texas” for his participation in alumni activities.
A community organization that promotes friendship with international students at UNT and Texas Woman’s University, Global Interact is made up of Denton residents interested in diverse cultures and interaction with international students. Founded by the late James Riddlesperger (’37), a government professor at North Texas from 1950 to 1978, Global Interact connects residents and students through events such as an American Thanksgiving dinner and a picnic in the spring.