Texas State honors 5 Distinguished Alumni, 3 Rising Stars for 2020

Alumni Impact

Jayme Blaschke | July 7, 2020

The Texas State University Alumni Association has bestowed its highest honor upon five notable Texas State alumni for 2020. Dr. Deborah Bergeron, Gloria Campos Brown, John L. Navarrette, James Samuel Taylor and Johnny R. Weisman are this year’s recipients of the association’s Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Additionally, the Alumni Association named three Young Alumni Rising Star Award recipients—Mark Estrada, Cortney Lebens and Kuro Tawil.  

First given to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1959, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the Alumni Association’s most prestigious honor. Award recipients are Texas State graduates who have distinguished themselves in their chosen occupations and whose leadership serves as an example for the Texas State community.  

This year’s honorees represent a range of degree fields, professions and accomplishments.

Bergeron, class of 1987, is the director of the Office of Head Start and Office of Early Childhood Development in the United States Administration for Children and Families, where she works to transform how the nation prioritizes early child programming and create a more collaborative, cohesive environment for children, families and staff. She has spent three decades in pre-K-12 public education and during that time has also started, grown and sold her own educational services company.

Campos Brown, class of 1976, is a retired award-winning news anchor for WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth. After her 40-year career in television news, Campos Brown remains a sought-after speaker and moderator, having moderated discussions with Sonia Sotomayor, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Jill Biden, Gloria Steinem, Molly Ringwald, Cynthia Nixon and many others.

Navarrette, class of 1987, is president of CenturyTel Investments of Texas, Inc. He began has career in the telephone industry as an installer/repairman for San Marcos Telephone Company in 1975 and has since been heavily involved with the Texas Telephone Association (TTA), serving on their board and various committees to advance telecommunications. His efforts have earned him several industry awards, including the TTA’s highest award, the Neville Haynes Award.

Taylor, class of 1981, is founding partner of strategic advisory firm Vianovo LP, where he helps clients understand business strategies and branding opportunities to be successful in multi-national markets. During his 20 years of experience in cross-border consulting, he has started and grown several multi-million dollar companies and advised high-profile business and governmental leaders in Mexico and the United States.

Weisman, class of 1972, is owner and president of Hunter Industries, Ltd. For more than 40 years, he has owned and operated three businesses that support the construction and expansion of roadways in the state and federal highways systems. He has served two terms as the president of the Texas Associated General Contractors of Texas – Highway Heavy Division.

The Young Alumni Rising Star Award was created in 2015 to honor Texas State alumni who are under the age of 40. Recipients of this award demonstrate a level of excellence which positively represents the university, and serve to inspire current students and other recent graduates to excel in their work and recognize the important impact of their experience as a student at Texas State.  

Estrada, class of 2006 and 2010, is superintendent of schools for Lockhart ISD. He has served in numerous capacities within the district, having assumed increasing responsibilities and leadership roles over the past eight years. Estrada’s many contributions to the district include securing almost $10 million in grants through the University of Texas at Austin's GEAR UP program and establishing an internet partnership that will provide the entire district with free high-speed internet access. 

Lebens, class of 2010, is co-founder and chief executive officer of resort management business Muy’Ono Hospitality. As CEO, she expanded the portfolio from a single resort property to a diverse set of nine highly successful resorts, four tour operations, a destination management company and a travel agency. She also co-founded a lifestyle movement named Live Large that creates communities of inspiring individuals to promote purposeful and intentional living. 

Tawil, class of 2012, is the founder of KUROS, an Austin-based online retailer with a nonprofit component to provide pepper spray to women living in at-risk communities. Since 2014, KUROS trademarks have been licensed on more than one million products in North America and the company’s international efforts have impacted the lives of tens of thousands of women in India, South Africa, El Salvador and the Philippines.

For more information, please visit the Texas State Alumni Association’s website at https://alumni.txstate.edu/.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922