Posts Tagged ‘Awards & Honors’

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.


Alex López Negrete (FS ’81)

Alex López Negrete (FS ’81), President and CEO of Lopez Negrete Communications is proud to receive the “2021 American Advertising Federation’s Mosaic Champion Award for Diversity and Inclusion”.

Lopez Negrete Communications is the nation’s largest independent, Hispanic-owned and operated full-service advertising and marketing services agency.

Alex’s insightful leadership has guided Lopez Negrete from a pioneer to the vanguard agency it is today. He is truly bicultural, calling both Mexico City and Houston “home.”

His passion for advertising excellence, creative brilliance, and helping clients’ growth and profitability is infectious, and has fueled the success of the agency and the Lopez Negrete team as a whole. Alex’s leadership also extends to the community, where his passion is felt across his major roles on local and nonprofit boards.

Susan Soto (M.Ed ’99)

UH Grad Susan Soto was selected to Rising Stars for 2021. Rising Stars is an exclusive list of top-rated attorneys in specific practice areas who were chosen after thorough evaluation of numerous criteria.

John J. Hammerle (’65, M.Ed. ’69)

John J. Hammerle (Music Education, ’65, M.Ed., ’69), retired Executive Director of Fine and Performing Arts, Dallas Independent School District, named top Director of Fine Arts in North Texas and recipient of the Hummer Award by the Score a Goal in the Classroom, served as Adjunct Professor, Dallas County Community Colleges, is currently a private instrumental music instructor, and has been a professional performer with the Houston Symphony, American Wind Symphony, and the Dallas Wind Symphony. He has taught in public schools throughout Texas, as well as serving as Supervisor of Music in San Angelo Texas, and Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Texas at Austin. His Internationally famous Westchester High School Band, of the Spring Branch Independent School District, achieved 11 continuous Sweepstakes and numerous Special Awards and trophies. It was the featured band at all Oilers Football home games in the Astrodome. It also captured the coveted Six Flags Over Texas Best of class, topping over 55 bands from 11 states, and won the top honors in the New York Macy’s Parade with 15 minutes of international coverage as the first high school band from Texas in the NY Macy’s Parade. Gov Preston Smith declared an Honorary Day for Hammerle and the band. He is currently an Adjudicator and consultant for National Festivals and consultant for school districts throughout the U.S., most recently serving on the North Central Association of Accreditation of the Chicago Public School Districts.

Elmo Wright (’75, MBA ’85)

Football 2/22/2021 8:00:00 AM 

Wright’s Legacy Lives On

College Football Hall of Famer made lasting impact

HOUSTON – Elmo Wright’s first appearances on the gridiron had little to do with football.
As a member of the school band in his adolescence, the soon-to-be College Football Hall of Famer, NCAA record holder and 1970 first-round draft pick stepped out onto the field at halftime to entertain fans. At that time, Wright was more interested in time with the saxophone and the piano.
When the seventh grade rolled around, time spent alongside the sport sparked some curiosity.
“After band rehearsal, the football guys would still be out there hitting,” Wright recalled. “When the band director would leave some of us would go over and join the football guys. I found out right away that what I liked to do best was catch the ball.”
By the time Elmo reached 10th grade, his older brother L.C., a fullback on the team, finally convinced him to give the game a shot.
“I wasn’t very good at first, in fact, I was one of the least-talented reserves,” Wright said. “I was so far down that it was unbelievable. But the coach had a lot of faith in me and he kept my interest in the game.”
That interest peaked as a junior when the Brazoria, Texas, native made the transition from defense to a split back. On offense, Wright led Sweeny’s Carver High School to a state championship and the next fall, helped newly integrated Sweeny High School to a state title.
The two-time all-state performer became a highly touted recruit, drawing interest from programs in-state and out of state. According to an interview with Brazosport’s The Facts, Wright stopped counting scholarship offers after 50 and vowed he was the luckiest man in the world, choosing to continue his education and playing career with head coach Bill Yeoman at the University of Houston.
“I had always cared a lot about my education, and I wanted to go somewhere near home that had a good math and engineering program as well as a good football team,” Wright said. “UH had to have both, as far as I am concerned.”

Houston’s program continued to ascend prior to Wright’s arrival in the fall of 1967. The Cougars finished the ’66 season with an 8-2 mark and No. 17 ranking in the final coaches’ poll while leading the NCAA in total offense with 437.2 yards per game.
Wright had a strong freshman season but his progressed slowed in the spring due to a broken finger on his right hand and what he called at the time, a lack of mental toughness.
“I just wasn’t tough enough mentally, so I went back home this past summer and got myself in great shape and I got my confidence back up a little,” Wright said at the time. “When I came back this fall, I was ready, but I was never certain I could start until just before the beginning of the Texas game when coach told me to go in there.”
In his first game with the varsity squad, Wright caught three passes for 162 yards and two scores against Tulane. He continued to pile on that season, hauling in seven catches for 249 yards and four touchdowns against Idaho as well as eight receptions for 244 yards against Cincinnati.
As a sophomore, he caught 43 passes for 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns. Houston led the NCAA in total offense during that 1968 season (562.0 yards), helped in part by Wright who set an NCAA record with eight 50-plus yard touchdown receptions.
His junior season, he was named to the All-America second team, hauling in 63 receptions for 1,275 yards (third nationally) and 14 touchdowns (second nationally). His 20.2 yards per catch in 1969 broke the NCAA mark (set by Utah State’s Mike O’Shea) by a full yard.
“He does everything exceptionally well,” offensive line coach Bill Willingham told the Houston Post heading into Wright’s senior season. “He could probably play for the pros right now. We’ve got him for one more year, though, and we’re going to take advantage of his presence. We may never see another one like him.”
His final year featured more fireworks. Despite facing double coverage, he caught 47 passes for 874 yards and nine touchdowns, earning consensus All-America honors. He played in the East-West Shrine Game, Hula Bowl and College All-Star Game.
“Because of his speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field, we never see a normal defense,” Yeoman once told the Houston Post. “He sets up our running game because no one man can ever cover him. As soon as you put another man or two on him, it opens up a hole somewhere else.”

Wright capped his career as Houston’s all-time receptions leader (153) and leader in receiving yards (3,347) during a time when freshmen were not eligible to play varsity. His 34 touchdown catches and 21.9 career average per catch set NCAA Division I records. He received his engineering and technology degree from Houston in 1971.
For his efforts, Wright became the first player from Houston selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. He won the Mack Lee Award as the team’s top rookie in 1971. Five years later, the University of Houston elected Wright to its Hall of Honor.
“I can’t imagine a better receiver than Elmo,” Yeoman once said. “He can do so much after he catches the ball, but he helps our running game, too. He’s really improved as a downhill blocker. There’s no doubt he’s one of the game’s finest all-around players.”
Unequivocally known as the “founder of the Touchdown Dance,” breaking out high-stepping endzone celebrations, Wright was among 17 players and two coaches selected to the 2020 induction class for the College Football Hall of Fame. He joins his former coach, Yeoman, along with Andre Ware and Wilson Whitley as the fourth Cougar to receive the illustrious honor.
Now retired, Wright earned an MBA after his football career and worked for more than 25 years for Harris County in Houston. His performances on the field and support of his alma mater, including serving as a mentor for students in the University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business, won’t soon be forgotten by Cougar faithful.
“Elmo Wright creates his own excitement,” Mickey Herskowitz wrote in the Houston Post on Nov. 20, 1968. “Remember the name. Someday he might be a big star in pro football, endorsing saxophones on the side.”

Amanda Beabout (’09)

Whitley Penn is pleased to announce that Amanda Beabout, Audit Senior Manager, has been named to the Women’s Finance Exchange Houston Chapter’s Board effective, January 1, 2021. Beabout will serve as the Vice President of Communications for the coming year.

Beabout is a trusted business advisor and consultant for clients in industries such as: energy, manufacturing and distribution, construction, professional services, private equity investment companies, and employee benefit plans. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TXCPA), Construction Financial Management Association, was a member of the Bauer College Alumni Association Board of Directors at the University of Houston for three years and is a current member of the Women’s Finance Exchange — Houston where she has been on the Board for four years and served as the President in 2020. She was also named as a Woman Who Means Business by the Houston Business Journal in 2020.

“Amanda has played an integral role in the overall growth and success of our audit department and she will continue to be a great asset to the Women’s Finance Exchange of Houston. We are proud of Amanda’s accomplishments within the firm and her many leadership roles in the community,” stated Nathen McEown, Partner in Charge of the Firm’s Houston Office and Lead Audit Partner for the market.

Natalia Rodriguez (’17)

University of Houston Class of 2017 College of Natural Science and
Mathematics (NSM) alumna, Natalia Rodriguez, MPH, was selected as a
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2021 Ambassador for
the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. Rodriguez is one of 12
Ambassadors across the U.S. who will work with local leaders to promote
CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign efforts by disseminating HIV
messaging, materials and other CDC resources in the cities that are
identified for campaign implementation efforts. Natalia has a Bachelor’s
degree in Mathematical Biology and is a recent graduate of the University
of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, where she earned her
Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology with a concentration in Public
Health Informatics.
CDC Let’s Stop HIV Together website:

Mishell Parreno Taylor (’99, JD ’03)


HOUSTON (January 15, 2021) – Mishell Parreno Taylor, office managing shareholder of the San Diego office of Littler, the world’s largest employment and labor law practice representing management, has been appointed to serve on the Hispanic National Bar Association’s (HNBA) Latina Commission. Parreno Taylor was selected for this position based on her outstanding achievements, deep commitment to the advancement of diverse attorneys in the profession, and active involvement in the HNBA.

The HNBA Latina Commission serves its community and the legal profession by identifying and studying barriers to the professional development and advancement of Latina lawyers. The Commission develops programs and strategies for Latina lawyers and students to overcome barriers to enter and advance in the profession. Its mission is to inform and shape the policies and priorities that affect women lawyers and the legal culture in which they practice, creating forums to understand the views of Latina lawyers and serving as a voice to advocate for these views.

“I am truly honored to have been selected to serve on the HNBA Latina Commission,” said Parreno Taylor. “I believe strongly in the HNBA’s mission, and I look forward to working alongside leadership to further expand opportunities for Latina lawyers across the legal industry.”

Parreno Taylor has been an active member of the HNBA and has served on HNBA panels addressing leading edge employment law trends related to pay equity and building successful diversity and inclusion programs.

At Littler, Parreno Taylor is a member of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and the Mexico board of directors, and she previously served as co-chair of Littler’s Reunión Affinity Group – which supports the firm’s Hispanic and Latinx attorneys.

In her practice, Parreno Taylor represents employers of all sizes, ranging from local to global corporations on a broad spectrum of employment law issues. She has extensive experience in handling employment litigation in federal and state courts and administrative agencies across the country with a focus on California and Texas. Parreno Taylor distinguishes herself from many of her peers with her ability to effectively handle employment compliance and litigation in circumstances involving a multilingual and multicultural workforce. In addition, she is committed to helping clients build strong workplace cultures focused on equity and inclusion.

About Littler

With more than 1,600 labor and employment attorneys in offices around the world, Littler provides workplace solutions that are local, everywhere. Our diverse global team and proprietary technology foster a culture that celebrates original thinking, delivering groundbreaking innovation that prepares employers for what’s happening today, and what’s likely to happen tomorrow. For more information, visit


Javier Marcano (’12)

University of Houston ’12 alum Javier Marcano, AIA, WELL AP received the Emerging Professional Young Architect Award from AIA New Orleans — an award recognizing “young architects (those licensed for ten years or less) who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the profession.”

Javier’s most important project to date while at EskewDumezRipple has been rounding out work on the Bruce Museum expansion and renovation.