Posts Tagged ‘Awards & Honors’

Katherine Franco (J.D. ’09)

Katherine Franco Recognized in Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2022
Houston Business Journal June 16, 2022
Blank Rome partner Katherine Franco was recognized in the Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2022.
The list of honorees recognizes business and community leaders who reside in the 10-county Houston area and are under 40 years of age as of December 31, 2021. While reviewing applications, the Houston Business Journal’s editorial team scored nominees on “leadership, overcoming challenges, and community involvement.” In a special edition of the publication, each honoree has a brief profile that highlights details about their backgrounds and recent successes they’ve achieved in their careers.

Katherine’s honoree profile, as published in the Houston Business Journal, is copied in full below.

Katherine Franco, 38
Partner, Blank Rome LLP
Hometown: Fort Stockton, Texas
College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, BS; University of Houston Law Center, JD
A long advocate for voter rights, Katherine Franco helped ensure Houstonians wouldn’t have to miss the polls in the 2020 election.
When news of the Covid-19 pandemic started spreading across the globe, Franco and a cohort of volunteer lawyers discussed the virus’s potential impact on the 2020 election just before the city shut down due to the pandemic.
Their goal was to ensure voters could still vote if the Covid-19 pandemic was still raging by election day. And, as we all know, it was. “I was invited to join a brainstorming session with the Harris County Clerk’s Office, who at the time was responsible for administering elections,” Franco said. “One of the ideas that came out of that session was drive-thru voting.”
Given her experience as an election judge and her extensive knowledge in election law, Franco was asked to assist in developing drive-thru voting. “Based on our research and legal position, the program survived two challenges at the Texas Supreme Court, a challenge at the Federal District Court level, and a challenge at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” she said. “Most striking to me was that by the final challenge, amicus briefs were filed from parties on both sides of the political aisle.”
Recent legislation has since put a stop to drive-thru voting, but it remains a standout moment for Franco.
“At a time when many people were hesitant to leave their home, much less stand in line or polling location with strangers, I was proud to be a part of expanding access to the polls in a safe, secure manner,” she said.

Edward Carrizales-Saucedo (’13)

University of Houston Student Edward Carrizales-Saucedo to Serve as UH System Student Regent
By Bryan Luhn 713-743-0954
June 8, 2022

Edward Carrizales-Saucedo, student regent on the University of Houston System Board of Regents
University of Houston graduate student Edward Carrizales-Saucedo is the first person in his family to go to college. Though he acknowledges the hard work of his parents, growing up he never thought a college education would be possible.
Not only was it possible, but Carrizales-Saucedo was appointed today by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to serve as the student regent on the UH System Board of Regents. He’ll work with the nine other members to make governing decisions for the system and each of its four universities. Although he won’t have a vote on the Board, Carrizales-Saucedo will be the voice of the system’s nearly 75,000 students.
“I am honored to be selected to the Board of Regents and look forward to bridging the gap between students and the administration as we work toward elevating all of the system universities,” said Carrizales-Saucedo, who is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at UH. “I really want to help our students get the best college experience they can.”
Carrizales-Saucedo graduated from UH with a degree in business administration in 2013 and started his career as a business analyst. He got involved in alumni groups and was a founding member of the UH Hispanic Alumni Association. It was there he discovered a passion for helping students find their voice. He is also currently a vice-chairman of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Alumni Council, and an Emerging Leader on the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Carrizales-Saucedo on his appointment to the Board of Regents. He is an exceptional student and leader that will bring a unique and valuable perspective to the Board. I am confident he will be an outstanding representative for all UH System students,” said UH System Chancellor Renu Khator.
Carrizales-Saucedo keeps a busy schedule. When he’s not studying, he works as an assistant vice president at Amegy Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. He felt the timing was perfect to apply for the student regent appointment.
“When I was an undergraduate, I worked full time, went to school and I was involved as much as I could be. But it’s always been my goal to be a student regent,” he said. “I just love the University of Houston and the impact it’s had on me. I hope I can make that same impact on the students of the University of Houston System.”

Stacey Neal Mayfield Combest (’87)

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Stacey Neal (Mayfield) Combest to the Texas Commission on Special Education Funding for a term at the pleasure of the Governor. The commission studies, discusses, and addresses specific policy issues and develops recommendations to address issues related to special education funding.

Stacey Neal (Mayfield) Combest of Huntsville is an ADR Certified Mediator and a member of the Texas Association of Mediators. She is a parent and guardian of a son with severe IDD. She is legislative director for the Denton State Supported Living Center Family Association, legislative committee member of Parents and Allies for Remarkable Texans, and the former President of Texans for State Supported Living Centers. She is a Texan advocate for Voice of Reason and previously served on the Long-Term Care Subcommittee reporting to the Committee for Children with Special Needs (SB 643), and she continues to educate our state legislators to successfully pass pro-disability legislation. Stacey received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Houston and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of North Texas Dallas College Of Law.

Daniel O. Wong (’83, M.S.C.E. ’85, Ph.D. ’88)

Daniel O. Wong (’83, M.S.C.E. ’85, Ph.D. ’88) will be honored as the 2022 Engineer of the Year on 2.25.22.

Daniel O. Wong, Ph.D., P.E. is President and CEO of Tolunay-Wong Engineers, Inc., headquartered in Houston with 10 offices in Texas and Louisiana. He is a licensed engineer in Texas and has published a dozen peer-reviewed technical papers.

After arriving from Macau (a former Portuguese colony in China) in 1980, Daniel Wong graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S.C.E. in 1983, an M.S.C.E. in 1985, and a Ph.D. in 1988. He has a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Dr. Wong was the recipient of the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus from the University of Houston (2009) and was inducted into the UH Academy of Distinguished Civil & Environmental Engineers (2011).

He is an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Dr. Wong has been appointed by the Governor to serve on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2021. He is also a past gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers as a member (2006-2013) and Chairman (2013-2020).

He is a member of Texas Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers and American Council of Engineering.

He is the receipt of the John B. Hawley award from ASCE Texas Section in 1990, the Young Engineer of the Year by TSPE Houston Chapter in 1993, and the Distinguished Engineer from Texas Engineering Foundation (2016).

Dr. Wong is a former At-Large Councilmember for the City of Sugar Land (2002-2008). He served on the Board of the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Board of Texas Municipal League. Active in Fort Bend County, he is an officer for the Fort Bend Economic Development Council. He is a former board member of the Fort Bend YMCA and the Fort Bend American Heart Association.

He and his wife, Mei, reside in Missouri City, Texas.

David Keller (’74)

David Keller was awarded the Key to the City of Greenville by Mayor Knox White on April 26, 2021 for his 9 years of service on the Greenville City Planning Commission, including four terms as Chairman.

Taylor Ballard (’14)

Taylor Brione Ballard was honored as the 2021 Distinguished Young Alumni Awardee from the Hilton College Alumni Association. The purpose of this award is to recognize and honor young alumni who have excelled beyond the norm early in their careers, or young alumni who exhibit leadership, involvement, and hold key volunteer positions on campus or within the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Taylor Brione is the owner of Experiences By Taylor Brione, a boutique wedding and event management firm

Margo A. Costello (’79)

Bauer Alum Margo Costello was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO Awards. She is President and CEO of Riverway Business Services Inc.

The Q&A can be found below

What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style? It took about
two days after labeling Covid a
“pandemic” to really crystallize how
dramatically differently people handle
unprecedented stress. I’d always
known this deep down, but never
seen it so prominently displayed.
While some of our team took the
situation as “par for the course”
of life, others found themselves
panicked and fearful, and yet others
found themselves saddened and
overwhelmed. I fell somewhere in
the middle of all of these — it was a
rollercoaster of emotion. As a leader,
my job shifted to both acknowledge
and provide the solid ground from
which to navigate those emotions by
setting a clear, strategic plan. The
pandemic ended up being the biggest
trial of my ability to align the team
quickly — and it certainly required a
shift in my approach.
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
We saw a dramatic rise in the leadership
capabilities of some of my colleagues,
which gave us the space to rethink
our company structure and push more
leadership responsibility to those
closest to the work. Our plan is to
continue this natural progression, and
actively seek opportunities for leaders in
the company to truly step up and shine.
What has surprised you the most
since becoming a top executive?
When I started my company, it was just
me, a typewriter I had bought from a
local thrift store, and a phone book.
However, as my business began to
thrive and grow, and I began hiring
employees to help take over the
workload, there was a massive shift.
I was no longer responsible only for
my success, but for the success and
careers of other people who believed in
what I was doing enough to join me. I
never would have imagined the gravity
of that responsibility, but it was certainly

Travis S. Crabtree (’00)

UH Law Center alum Travis Crabtree was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO awards. He is President of Swyft Filings


What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style? Empowerment
works. Empowerment has been one
of our core values since day one. We
help empower our customers to start
their own businesses, and we empower
our employees through trust and
communication. After the pandemic
started, we began doubling down, and
it’s the resiliency of our team that got us
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
Before the pandemic, we believed we
had to make a choice between being
customer-focused and team-focused.
We’ve now learned the best case for
success is becoming both. It doesn’t
have to be a binary choice — we
can support both our team and the
customer. We’re continuing to find
ways to combine the two to support
customers and employees at the same
time. We serve an incredibly diverse
set of small business customers, and
we found we could support them while
also providing fun activities for our
What has surprised you the most
since becoming a top executive?
Just because someone has a “high title”
doesn’t mean they know everything. We
go through the same processes at the
executive level as the rest of our team.
There are lots of things you don’t know
out there and you just have to figure
it out. We encourage an atmosphere
of admitting when we don’t know
something and arming people with the
power and tools to learn the answers.
What advice would you give to
emerging leaders? Hire people
smarter than you, learn from them, and
feel comfortable delegating things to
them. This goes hand in hand with who
you hire. If you’re afraid to delegate
to someone, you don’t have the right
person. Manage your leadership by
building up your team and being able
to move on from one task to the next by
leaving it in good hands.

Ali Dhanani (’90)

Bauer alum Ali Dhanani  was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO Award.  He is CEO of Haza Foods LLC

The Q&A can be found below

What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style?

I learned not to
take anything for granted. I started to
appreciate everything in life, especially
my family, friends and people who
work with me and for my company. It
shed light on how at the blink of an
eye, things can change and nothing is
in our control.

What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?

Before, I would never have thought of
allowing people to work from home;
however, I plan to continue allowing a
hybrid model of coming to the office
and working from home.

What is your leadership philosophy?

Empower your people and set them up
for success. You take care of them, and
they will take care of your business!

What advice would you give to
emerging leaders?

Have passion for
what you do. Work hard, as there are
no shortcuts to success. Be patient and
stay humble.
How do you relax/unwind?

Family,prayers, exercise, food, music and

Who would play you in a movie?

Robert Downey Jr! I feel he
has a serious side, yet a bit of light
heartedness, style and swag — and,
of course, he does play my favorite
superhero: Iron Man!

Anthony L. Marre (’06)

UH Law Center Alum Mr. Anthony L. Marre was a recipient of  the HBJ most admired CEO Award. He is managing shareholder at Wilson Cribbs + Goren.


The Q&A can be found below

What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style? I learned that
one of the most critical aspects of
being a good leader is having empathy
for your fellow human beings. The
pandemic affected everyone in a unique
way — I’m not sure any two people
had the same experience. Listening,
understanding, and accommodating
the needs/concerns across the entire
spectrum of pandemic experiences was
very necessary. I tried to make sure I
spoke to each employee personally at
different times during lockdown. We
tried not to talk about work, but just
about their experiences and how they
were handling things. I always tried to
end the conversation on a positive note.
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
Our entire team of attorneys meets
every Monday to go over our active
list of real estate deals. In the past,
we have all crammed into our large
conference room for lunch together.
However, during the pandemic, we
opted to host the meeting over Zoom,
which proved to be very effective. We
barely fit in the conference room as it
was, and since the beginning of the
pandemic, we have added more to
our team. So, it makes sense to keep
the meeting virtual. We are also going
to continue to be flexible with remote
working arrangements.
What advice would you give to
emerging leaders? I learned early
on that you can never be too close to
the action. I think young professionals
tend to want to go hide in their office,
keep their head down, and just do the
work they were hired to do — they’ll
figure out how to lead later if they
ever get the opportunity. Try to resist
that temptation and put yourself in a
position to see your senior-level people
in action. You will learn so much just
from listening to them talk on the
phone to clients, referral sources,
suppliers, and other colleagues.