UTEP’s alumni built our reputation for perseverance, innovation, creativity, and success. Our alumni community has grown from three mining engineering graduates in 1916 to the thousands of miners who earn degrees in more than 160 programs each year in the fields of science, engineering, healthcare, politics, business, law, entertainment, arts, and education.
Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala
Inspector General of the Marine Corps
By his own definition, Juan Ayala was a high school student in El Paso in the mid-1970s with a tendency toward “underwhelming” academic achievement. But UTEP saw something in Ayala that he knew he possessed in himself – the drive, commitment and determination to gain a university education and pursue a career in the Marines. Ayala did just that, earning his Bachelor of Business Administration in management and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marines, both in 1979. During more than 30 years in the Marines, Ayala has moved up the ranks and now serves as inspector general of the Marine Corps based in Washington, D.C. He previously served as chief of staff of the U.S. Southern command in Miami. In August 2011, he was promoted to Major General. Ayala firmly believes it was the opportunity UTEP gave him as a probationary student that made his goals a reality.
New York native and Olympic icon Bob Beamon titled his autobiography The Man Who Could Fly because of his record-smashing long jump during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The former Miner’s leap of 29 feet, 2-1/2 inches broke the old world mark by almost two feet and continues to be an Olympic record. Beamon, known for his explosive speed and natural ability, transferred to UTEP because of its reputation as a growing track power. As a Miner, the athlete won the long jump and triple jump NCAA indoor titles the same year. He also was the national AAU long jump champion in 1968 and ’69. Leg injuries led to his early retirement from the sport by 1972, but he stayed involved in athletics as a track coach. He also has spent time as a graphic designer, and community and social worker. He currently is CEO of Art of Olympians in Fort Myers, Fla. He is enshrined in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame (1977), the Olympic Hall of Fame (1983), and the UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame (2004). The so-called “leap of the century” spawned the word “Beamonesque” to describe major advancements in athletic performance.
Maria Castañón Moats
Chief Diversity Officer, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Nearly 20 years after completing a bachelor’s degree in accounting from The University of Texas at El Paso, Maria Castañón Moats earned a seat on the leadership team of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the world’s largest accounting firms, when she was named chief diversity officer in July 2011. Castañón Moats migrated to El Paso from Mexico with her family at a young age and began her college career at UTEP in 1986. Soon after graduating from UTEP in 1990, she passed the exam to become a certified public accountant and left El Paso for Dallas to begin working for Bank of America. Four years later, she was hired by PwC, where her hard work and dedication immediately made a mark at the firm. Now, as the first Latina in her new position as chief diversity officer, Castañón Moats focuses on strategies to diversify the firm’s leadership and advance the diverse talent within the company. She said her education from UTEP was critical in her development as an accountant, a professional and now a business leader.
Former chief White House correspondent, ABC News
Sam Donaldson has been a renowned newscaster for more than 50 years. A former White House chief correspondent for ABC News, he has covered every national political convention but one since 1964. A 1955 graduate of Texas Western College, now The University of Texas at El Paso, Donaldson has worked hard and passionately throughout his career as a former anchor for ABC News. His accolades include two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC; Broadcaster of the Year award recipient from the National Press Foundation in 1998; and winner of four Emmy Awards and three George Foster Peabody Awards. He also hosted “SamDonaldson@abcnews.com,” the first regularly scheduled Internet webcast produced by a television network. Not bad for a farm boy raised by a single mother. Donaldson – who returns to teach on campus and participate in the efforts of UTEP’s Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies – continues to be impressed by the progress manifesting at UTEP on many levels, not just the physical growth of the campus and its facilities. “I just think that so much is impressive about The University of Texas at El Paso,” he said. “I’m very proud of this school and I’m very proud to have gone here.”
Willarda V. Edwards
Former president, National Medical Association
Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., has been an advocate for medically underserved communities for more than 30 years, having served in many leadership roles involving African-American and minority health issues. Edwards, who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from UTEP in 1972, served as the 110th president of the National Medical Association, the nation’s largest organization representing African-American physicians. A doctor of internal medicine with a practice in Baltimore, Edwards focused on health equity issues during her one-year term from 2009-10, while working to increase the number of minorities in health care careers. Edwards earned her medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1977. After graduation, she served in the Navy and was chief of the Internal Medicine Department at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Edwards entered private practice in 1984 and became actively involved in public service. She was the National Health Advocacy director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2002-04 and president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America from 2004-09. In 2007, Edwards received the Congressional Black Caucus Health Brain Trust Award in Journalism as a co-author of The Black Women’s Guide to Black Men’s Health.
Former NBA All-Star
Former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway was recruited out of Chicago in 1985 to play basketball at UTEP for Coach Don Haskins. He thrived in the desert, helping the Miners reach four NCAA tournaments and being named All-WAC three times. In 1989, he earned the Naismith Award for best college player 6 feet or under, was named Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, and earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. The same year he was drafted in the first-round (14th overall) by the Golden State Warriors. During his 14-year career, he was a five-time All-Star best known for his “UTEP Two-Step” crossover dribble. He was on the U.S. team that earned a Gold Medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Hardaway averaged 17.7 points per game and 8.2 assists during his NBA career. He was the second fastest player in NBA history to reach 5,000 points and 2,500 assists after Oscar Robertson. Upon retirement, Hardaway became a basketball analyst for ESPN. He was elected to the UTEP Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Miami Heat retired his No. 10 jersey four years later.
NFL head referee
Former Miner Ed Hochuli leads a double life. During the week he is a successful trial lawyer for Phoenix-based Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, P.L.C., but during the fall he spends his weekends as a head referee with the National Football League. The Milwaukee native was an all-around athlete who grew up in Tucson, Ariz. He played linebacker for UTEP from 1969-72. He earned All-Western Athletic Conference academic honors and his bachelor’s in government arts and science in 1972. Four years later he received his Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona Law School. While he was working on his law degree, he became involved in officiating youth football. He progressed through the ranks and was hired by the NFL in 1990. He has officiated two Super Bowls and five conference championships. In the courtroom, he specializes in civil litigation such as professional liability and product liability defense, and has made the list of Best Lawyers in America since 2003 and Southwest Super Lawyers since 2007. His interest in weightlifting has been noticed by fans and the media, who have called one of the NFL’s most recognizable referees “Hochules” because of his large biceps.
S.L.A. “Slam” Marshall
Prominent Military Historian
Brigadier General S.L.A. “Slam” Marshall studied history at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy (now UTEP) from 1919 to 1920. He went on to become one of America’s most prominent and prolific military historians. Marshall spent the majority of his life writing articles, reports, or histories about the U.S. military in conflicts from World War I to Vietnam. He wrote more than 30 books, including Pork Chop Hill: The American Fighting Man in Action, which was made into a film by the same name in 1959. In 1950, he was honored as the University’s first Outstanding Ex (the equivalent of today’s Distinguished Alumni Award). Marshall later donated his professional library to his alma mater. The collection of more than 17,000 volumes established the S.L.A. Marshall Military History Collection in the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department. In addition to his professional library, UTEP also houses the S.L.A. Marshall Papers, a collection of more than 100 document boxes of material ranging from personal records to professional correspondence to family history and photographs. The presence of the collection at UTEP also highlights the significance of the border and Fort Bliss in a national military narrative.
Univision Morning Show Co-Host
Karla Martínez is one of UTEP’s most recognizable graduates. As co-host of “Despierta América,” the longest-running weekday morning show on the Spanish-language television network, Univision, audiences throughout Latin America have been waking up to her since 2006. Before joining the program, Martínez hosted the network’s popular teen-oriented show “Control” for five years. The Chihuahua native, who earned her bachelor’s degree in electronic media in 1998, started her career with an internship at KINT-Channel 26, Univision’s El Paso affiliate station. She would eventually become the El Paso correspondent for the network’s newscast “Noticiero Univision” and newsmagazine “Primer Impacto.” She also was a reporter for the network’s weekday entertainment news show “El Gordo y La Flaca.” Throughout her career, Martínez has co-hosted numerous Univision specials and participated in important public service campaigns. In 2002, she was named one of People en Español’s 25 Most Beautiful People. She also is the author of El poder de una sonrisa/ The Power of a Smile, a book focuses on ways to overcome life’s bad moments.
First Latina Governor
Susana Martinez, a 1981 criminal justice graduate of The University of Texas at El Paso, is the first female Hispanic governor in United States history. Born and raised in El Paso, Martinez comes from a hard-working, middle class family. Her father and mother started a security guard business with $400 in their pockets, building their business with Martinez’s mother doing paperwork in the family kitchen and Martinez working as a security guard while attending UTEP during the day. After earning a law degree from the University of Oklahoma, Martinez returned to the Southwest and served as assistant district attorney for six years, and then as the district attorney for the Third Judicial District in Doña Ana County, N.M. for 14 years. Like many UTEP Miners, Martinez started from humble beginnings and has put her education to work for her – achieving incredible success. She has twice been named New Mexico’s “Prosecutor of the Year.” Martinez won the office of Governor of New Mexico in November 2010 and was sworn in Jan. 1, 2011. In April 2011, Hispanic Business magazine named her “Woman of the Year.”
Federal Highway Administrator
Victor M. Mendez firmly believes that his career success began in the halls of UTEP. It helped shape him into the person that President Barack Obama appointed to head the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2009, where he carried out the strategies and policies of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Mendez was challenged to put Americans back to work using the $26.6 billion budget for improving the nation’s infrastructure through highway and bridge projects. Under Mendez’s guidance, 13,000 jobs were created and states met all milestones outlined in the Act. After graduating from UTEP in 1980 with a civil engineering degree, Mendez went on to earn a master’s degree at Arizona State University. He began his professional career with the U.S. Forestry Service in Oregon. He later became a Transportation Engineer with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), moving up to Deputy Director and serving eight years as the Director of ADOT. Prior to joining the FHWA, Mendez served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team.
Before going on to travel to space and work for one of the most well recognized agencies in the world – NASA – Danny Olivas earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UTEP. Olivas says he was just a “middle-of-the-road” student growing up in El Paso, but his parents inspired him to work hard on his education. When he was in middle school, he proudly watched his mother receive her diploma at a UTEP commencement. His father earned an associate degree while in his 50s. Today, Olivas holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University, six patents, and has walked in space for more than 34 hours on shuttle missions. He hopes his story will inspire others to work hard and strive for excellence in everything they do. He reminds students that they have a responsibility to take advantage of the education offered to them and to pursue a rewarding life and career. Olivas left NASA in 2010 and has been working with Olivas and Associates, a consulting company in Los Angeles. His next move is to merge the company with a local El Paso forensics-engineering firm.
One of the first Microsoft employees
Who knew that a college kid from a farming family in the Texas Panhandle with dreams of becoming a tennis coach would end up as the 7th original employee of what is now the No. 1 software and programming firm on the Global Forbes 2000 annual ranking of top public companies? That company is Microsoft – a global household name; and that kid was Robert O’Rear, a 1964 graduate of Texas Western College (now UTEP) who changed his major from physical education to mathematics after his Hudspeth Hall dorm mates dared him to take a calculus class. O’Rear went on to earn a master’s from UT Austin and began his career working for a defense contractor on NASA’s Apollo Space program. He heard from a friend that two young guys in Albuquerque were looking to hire a mathematician for their new software start-up – those two guys were Bill Gates and Paul Allen. At Microsoft, he served as the project leader for the company’s legendary MS-DOS personal computer operating system. He retired in 1993.
Dennis C.K. Poon
Engineer of the world’s tallest buildings
Dennis C.K. Poon was the chief engineer in the design of Taipei 101, a 101-story, 1,667-foot-tall building in Taiwan that was the tallest in the world when it was finished in 2004. His firm Thornton Tomasetti Inc. also designed the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and is involved with the not-yet-completed Shanghai Tower and Ping An International Finance Center in China, and the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. In addition to the supertall buildings, his company played a key role in designing the Chicago O’Hare Airport; Yankee Stadium; the MGM CityCenter hotel, casino and convention center complex in Las Vegas; and dozens of other projects. But the journey started at UTEP. Poon grew up in a public housing settlement in Hong Kong for Chinese families in the 1950s. He chose The University of Texas at El Paso because of its affordability and because it offered a broad academic program in engineering. After only six semesters at UTEP, Poon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1977 and went on to earn a master’s in civil engineering from Columbia University in 1979. In December 1977, Poon became a junior engineer at the New York City engineering firm that later became Thornton Tomasetti. Today, he is vice chairman of the 700-person firm and heads the company’s international operations.
Jerry I. Porras
Jerry I. Porras’ book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, has sold more than 1 million copies. Porras is the Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and Change, Emeritus, at Stanford University. He started his long career in education with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1960 from Texas Western College, now UTEP. Born and raised in El Paso, Porras worked as an engineer at Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. and General Electric Co. after college and a stint in the Army, but realized that his interests were in managing. After completing his M.B.A. at Cornell University in 1968, he went on to earn his Ph.D. in management at the University of California, Los Angeles, and started teaching at Stanford in 1972. He has since written three books. Porras directed the Stanford University Graduate School of Business’s Executive Program on Leading and Managing Change for 16 years. He has served on advisory boards for three State Farm insurance companies and as a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz
As one of the country's most distinguished writers, Benjamin Alire Sáenz not only serves as a teacher and role model for his creative writing students at UTEP, but his prose about life along the U.S.-Mexico border has enriched the lives of readers across all boundaries. Sáenz, chairman of UTEP’s Department of Creative Writing, is the first Hispanic writer to be selected as the winner of the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his collection of short stories titled Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, published by Cinco Puntos Press. A graduate of UTEP’s Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program, Sáenz joined the University’s faculty in 1992. He has produced several acclaimed works including Calendar of Dust, his first collection of poetry, which was honored with an American Book Award in 1991. He has also earned a Southwest Book Award, nominations for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Latino Literary Award for Best Novel, Best Children’s Book award from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Paterson Book Prize, the JHunt Award, and many more. In 2013, in addition to his PEN/Faulkner honor, Sáenz was awarded the American Library Association’s Pura Belpré Award and the Stonewall Book Award for his latest young adult novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
Mary Lou Valdez
Mary Lou Valdez credits her experience as an undergraduate student at UTEP for paving the way to her successful career as associate commissioner for international programs with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The University provided her with a rich intellectual environment where she learned that science-based decisions about public health are the cornerstone for a global public health policy. An El Paso native who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from UTEP in 1986, Valdez understands the value of bridging cultural differences – a lesson she’s applied while working to improve global product safety and quality to ensure that safer food, drugs and medical devices are entering the U.S. from foreign countries. Valdez earned a Master of Science in management degree from the University of Maryland. She has worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 1991, serving in capacities ranging from domestic to international programs. From 2003-08, Valdez served as the deputy director of the Office of Global Health Affairs.