Click here to download a 2017 UTEP Distinguished Alumni Award Nomination Form.
2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Eric J.C. Chan
From an early age, Eric J.C. Chan had a savvy business sense. He fondly remembers the first profit he ever made, purchasing stink bombs at a department store in Hong Kong and taking them to his elementary school in Vientiane, Laos. He would put on demonstrations for his classmates that resulted in selling out his supply in one shot.
Chan was born in Vientiane and grew up in Hong Kong. In 1973, he left Hong Kong to attend Riverside High School in El Paso through an international exchange program. After graduation, he decided to stay and attend UTEP.
“I treasure my education from UTEP,” Chan said. “It taught me the fundamentals to be an entrepreneur and taught me to develop a sense of completeness. It has definitely broadened my mind and taught me new approaches to analytically think through problems and define predicaments.”
Shortly after earning his Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from UTEP in 1978, Chan moved back to Hong Kong and, with help from his father and a few business partners, started his first business – a contracting company for fitting out interior spaces in buildings, making them suitable for occupation.
Today, Chan is the founder or co-founder of four companies in Hong Kong and China, including one that sells American rice in Hong Kong and another that deploys a citywide free wireless mesh network in Guangzhou City, China, by turning moving vehicles like taxis, buses, and trams into hotspots.
Catalina E. García, M.D.
Catalina E. García, M.D., began to dream of becoming a doctor at the age of five. She saw how much her parents revered her female doctor from the county clinic near the housing project in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio where she grew up, the oldest of six siblings.
García would admire the large homes at the top of the Franklin Mountains and ask her parents, “Why can’t we live in a house like that?” Her parents’ response was clear: “Get an education, and you can have a house like that one day.”
“My parents saw education as a means to get a good job,” García said. “Mother completed fourth grade, and my father graduated from a technical high school, but they read a lot and were both mainly self-educated. They were very aware that education was the key to success.”
García heeded her parents’ advice and went on to graduate from Texas Western College, now UTEP, in 1961 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences. She then become the second Hispanic woman to graduate from UT Southwestern Medical School.
Today, García is a highly regarded anesthesiologist with Dallas Anesthesiology Group, P.A., as well as a mentor and advocate for education and women’s issues, particularly those of Latina women.
Mario T. García, Ph.D.
As a young man, Mario T. García, Ph.D., had a profound admiration for the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city, Raymond L. Telles. He looked up to Telles because, for the first time, he was able to see a relfection of himself on a successful public figure: they were both Mexican-American, and both graduated from Cathedral High School. The iconic former El Paso mayor and U.S. Ambassador demonstrated to García that nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.
García obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1966 and his master's in history in 1968, both from UTEP. Today he is a distinguished professor of history and Chicano studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been a faculty member for 41 years. He has authored numerous books and biographies on Chicano history, including “The Making of a Mexican American Mayor: Raymond L. Telles of El Paso,” the biography of his early hero; “Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920” and his most recent book “The Chicano Generation: Testimonios of the Movement.”
García has received many awards and fellowships for his teaching and research, including the distinguished Guggenheim Fellowship. In addition, he served as a history and American studies professor and director of ethnic studies at Yale University from 1990-92.
“I grew very much during my years at UTEP that prepared me not only for life but my career as a university professor,” García said. “Being successful in my classes empowered me and made me feel that I could achieve my goals if I worked hard enough. Preparing for my classes added to my sense of discipline that has carried on in my later life and career.”