Posts Tagged ‘Awards & Honors’

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.

Crystal Evuleocha (’15)

Crystal Evuleocha was named in Forbes’ 30 under 30 healthcare list for her success with Kiira Health, a telemedicine company focused on providing a safe, confidential platform for women at colleges and universities. Crystal founded Kiira Health because of her own confusion in finding medical help as an undergrad. The platform offers 24/7 phone, video, and chat capabilities with primary care, OB/GYN and mental health clinicians through a mobile app.

Yun D. Chin (Ph.D. ’97)

Y. Doreen Chin, PhD, PE, ASME Fellow and President at Yunka Energy LLC, wins the 2020 SPE International Award for Projects, Facilities and Construction, for her significant contributions to Flow Assurance, renewable and clean energy, her leadership and mentorship to academia to prepare next generation of oil and gas engineers, service to Offshore Technology Conference, Society of Petroleum Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and her strong project delivery record.

About the Award,
The SPE International Award for Projects, Facilities and Construction recognizes individuals who made outstanding achievements and/or significant technical and professional contributions to the advancement of the petroleum engineering profession and to the worldwide oil and gas industry, in the area of projects, facilities and construction.

About the recipient: (

Y. Doreen Chin is president and founder of Yunka Energy. She had been a plant operator, scientific researcher, professor, engineer, oilfield operator, leader, and entrepreneur, with 38 years of experience in academia, power generation, and oil and gas industries, including project delivery, technology development, engineering design, research, and teaching. She has broad industry experience with major oil and service companies, encompassing deepwater offshore/subsea engineering and onshore shale oil and gas production operations. She was assistant professor of thermal energy at Beijing Technology University, project discipline team lead at Shell International E&P, surface engineering discipline adviser at Shell Oil Company, and senior vice president and partner at Subsea Engineering Technologies.

Chin is currently a member of the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) Board of Directors and was chairperson of the 2014 OTC Program Committee. She has published more than 50 technical papers in international journals and conferences as well as a technical book on heat exchangers. She is the recipient of the SPE Regional Projects, Facilities, and Construction Award, the SPE Outstanding Technical Editor Award, and the OTC/ASME Arthur Lubinski Best Paper Award.

She holds a BS degree in thermal engineering from Northern China University of Energy, an MS degree in thermophysics from Tianjin University, and a PhD degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston. Chin is a licensed Professional Engineer in Texas.

Bensen Kwan (’19)

Sugar Land-based musician Bensen Kwan, 25, took first place at this year’s Philadelphia International Music Festival (PIMF) Virtual Concerto Competition. The grand prize is a full scholarship to Music House International, PIMF’s immersive, 17-day summer program.

Every year, aspiring musicians from around the world submit recorded auditions for a chance to attend PIMF’s summer music program. Kwan won based on his performance of Keiko Abe’s ‘Prism Rhapsody’ on the marimba.

“[It’s] basically like a festival where many people just come together and play orchestral and chamber music,” Kwan said. “I’ll get to play a solo recital as well.”

The program will take place next summer. Participants will get private lessons with PIMF’s faculty as well as a chance to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Kwan will be a featured performer on PIMF’s You Tube channel.

A graduate of Sugar Land’s Stephen F Austin High School, Kwan credits his decision to become a musician to his high school teacher Brian Stevens.

“It wasn’t that I already knew in high school that I wanted to be a professional musician,” he said. “I just really wanted music to be a part of my life. And I knew that it could also influence other people positively.”

Kwan went on to study Music Education at the University of Houston.

The marimba, a large wooden percussion instrument similar to the xylophone, has gained popularity in recent years, Kwan said.

“Keiko Abe, the composer, is one of my biggest heroes because she was the first person in the world to really popularize it,” said Kwan. “The marimba is an up-and-coming solo instrument that people are, I think, taking more seriously. There’s only one or two graduate programs where you major in just marimba performance. Otherwise you learn all percussion.”

The youngest of three siblings, Kwan grew up in a musical family and started piano at age four. He attributes his marimba-playing to his older brother and sister, who encouraged him to choose band as an elective in middle school.

“My siblings recommended I do percussion because it was like, the coolest instrument out of all,” Kwan said. “At first, I didn’t like it because it was something they forced me to do. But eventually I really started to love it and majored in it.”

Kwan said he spent up to six hours practicing the marimba before the lockdown. He has won numerous awards and accolades, having traveled to Germany last year to study at the Hochschule fur Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

“I got to see the music culture there [Germany]– widely supported by the public and also the government and organizations,” he said. “I think it would benefit everyone, if we had more music, supported by everyone and more performances.”

In addition to piano and marimba, Kwan is also passionate about his steelpan, which, he explained with a smile, is transportable unlike the marimba.

“It comes from Trinidad and is such a lovely instrument,” he said. “I love my steelpan.”

Kwan had the following advice for young musicians:

“Focus on being a better person and the music will follow,” he said. “There’s enough selfish musicians out there.”