Six Honored at ’17 Awards Gala

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the spring 2018 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
UT Dallas President Richard Benson (third from left) posed with gala honorees (from left) Mike Brodie BS’76, Tahir Hussain BS’94, Deborah Hankinson MS’77, Russell Cleveland, Dr. Solomon C. Luo MS’78 and Dr. Peter Balyta MBA’03.
Six distinguished honorees shared the spotlight at the 2017 UT Dallas Awards Gala.
Russell Cleveland, founder, president and CEO of RENN Capital Group Inc., received the Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award, a recognition named for the one-time president of the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies, the precursor of UT Dallas. Cleveland is an ardent supporter whose contributions have helped shape the UTD guitar studies program.
Dr. Peter Balyta MBA’03, of Texas Instruments, earned the Green and Orange Award for Alumni Service. “For whatever mark I may have left on the University through volunteerism, UT Dallas has forever left a mark on me,” said Balyta, a member of the UT Dallas Development Board.
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Mike Brodie BS’76, broker/owner at Keller Williams Realty, came to UT Dallas intending to study computer science, but “quickly learned that Fortran and COBOL were not my languages.” He switched his focus to business and finance and now credits his UT Dallas experiences with helping him achieve a life goal. In the fall, he was selected as the chair of the President’s Council.
Deborah Hankinson MS’77, a partner at Hankinson LLP and Distinguished Alumni Award honoree, began her career with the Plano Independent School District, educating students with severe and profound disabilities in a field that, at the time, was relatively new. Hankinson, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, is nationally recognized for her commitment to equal access to justice.
Similarly committed to pursuing his passions, Tahir Hussain BS’94, CEO and managing partner at Collide Village LLC, relocated to Dallas in 1991. He dreamed of launching a business in the vibrant city, and by 2000, he founded his first venture. “I strongly believe that the program that UT Dallas has offered here to me actually created a foundation for what I am today,” said Hussain, a Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
Honoree Dr. Solomon C. Luo MS’78 also built a foundation during his time as a student. A first-generation immigrant, he left Taiwan to study at the University, where he found the support of longtime professor Dr. John Jagger. Luo, partner, president and CEO at Progressive Vision Institute, credits Jagger’s unfailing encouragement with his decision to attend medical school.
Sponsors of the 2017 gala were Axxess, Central Market, Ericsson, State Farm, Texas Instruments and Toyota.
(Watch for news of the 2018 Awards Gala — the first to be held in the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center — in the fall 2018 issue.)