Posts Tagged ‘Awards & Honors’

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.

Amanda H. Tullos (’03)

Hines College of Architecture alum Amanda H. Tullos was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO Award. She is CEO and principal at GreeNexus Consulting 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?

The pandemic revealed how we deal with multiple
emergencies at one time; and our
ability to see how they connect.
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
We will continue to work in the cloud
for those that prefer it. We changed
our weekly calls to half developmental
topics and half check-ins, instead of
dividing our team into smaller groups,
like what many businesses suggest. I
want to keep us as a focused whole,
even if only a few folks check in every
other week. This gives us time to learn
together and be a resource to each
other for solutions.
What has surprised you the most
since becoming a top executive?
The mindset change has surprised
me the most. When I first started the
company, I felt the need to be the
subject matter expert on all things
sustainability, but over time, I learned
to delegate and be the leader so
that others can grow. My focus is on
breaking barriers to growth for both
the company and our team.
What advice would you give to
emerging leaders? Care about your
team. Find out who they are, what they
love, and what their goals are. Each
person is unique and has their own
goals. Remember that everyone is free
to leave your company and should be
appreciated as such!

David Baluk (J.D. ’11)

Attorney David Baluk Named to Texas Rising Stars for 2021

(Houston, TX) Attorney David Baluk of the Houston personal injury
law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner has
been recognized on the Texas Rising Stars list for 2021. This marks
David’s fourth consecutive year to be included on this annual list,
which is published in the Texas Rising Stars issue of the Super
Lawyers magazine and Texas Monthly magazine.
Attorneys named to the Rising Stars list go through the same
extensive selection process as Super Lawyers and are selected
based on nominations, independent research by Super Lawyers, and
peer evaluation by practice area. To be eligible for inclusion,
attorneys must be under the age of 40 or in practice for 10 years or
less. No more than 2.5 percent of eligible attorneys are named to
the Rising Stars list, which indicates that David is among a
prestigious list of top young lawyers in Texas.
David has been practicing personal injury in Texas for the last 10 years and is admitted to practice
in the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of Texas and the United
States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. His legal practice at Abraham Watkins focuses on a
wide range of personal injury matters, including catastrophic injuries, workplace injuries, product
liability, premises liability, wrongful death, and 18-wheeler, commercial vehicle, and automobile
David is a magna cum laude graduate of Washington and Lee University. After graduating with a
degree in Economics and being inducted into Omicron Delta Epsilon, an International Economics
Honor Society, David moved to Texas and attended the University of Houston Law Center. During
law school, he served on the board of the Houston Journal of International Law, earned the honor
of Editor of the Year, and was a Law Clerk at Abraham Watkins, where he received his first
exposure to plaintiffs’ personal injury work.
Following graduation from the University of Houston Law Center, David practiced at two
prominent trial law firms in Houston, a plaintiffs’ firm and a defense firm, where he litigated cases
in over 23 states and obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and favorable settlements on behalf
of his clients. He now applies this experience and the skillset he honed in courthouses throughout
the United States to his cases at Abraham Watkins which he joined as an Associate in 2021.
Please join Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in congratulating David Baluk on
being named to the Texas Rising Stars list for 2021. To learn more about David or to contact him,
please email him or call 713-222-7211.

Jim Penn (’78)

Jim Penn Named Outstanding CFO: Finance Team at D CEO’s Financial Executives Awards


Fort Worth, TX – (May 17, 2021) – Whitley Penn Co-Founder, Partner and CFO, Jim Penn, has been named as Outstanding Chief Financial Officer: Finance Team for the 2021 DCEO Financial Executives Awards. Through the collaborative efforts of the editors at D CEO, the Association for Corporate Growth, the Dallas CPA Society, and Financial Executives International, this awarded the top financial executives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

In addition to serving as the firm’s CFO, Penn is also a partner in the Forensic, Litigation & Valuation Services practice group and is a frequent public speaker on litigation and valuation topics. He is a certified public accountant (CPA) and Accredited in Business Valuations (ABV).   

Penn earned his BBA from the University of Houston and has been instrumental in the firm repeatedly achieving the “Cougar 100” recognition from his alma mater for being one of the fastest growing UH Cougar-owned and Cougar-led businesses.

Penn currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and has been a supporter of the hospital for more than 40 years. Additionally, he has served on numerous civic organization boards throughout his career and is past Chairman of the Board of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Chamber of Commerce.  Penn is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) including the Forensic & Valuation Services Division, Fort Worth Chapter of Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TXCPA), Financial Consulting Group, LC, and the Dallas & Tarrant County Bar Association Family Law Sections.

“It is an honor to accept this award for Outstanding CFO: Finance Team on behalf of our Team.  I am completely humbled and couldn’t have done it without our hard-working finance and accounting team. It was truly a team effort,” stated Penn.