Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards 2011
College of Liberal Arts Honors Four Outstanding Alumni
February 2011—Four alumni of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas State University-San Marcos were honored with the College’s 2011 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award Saturday, Feb. 5. The award, which has been given since 2008, recognizes the accomplishments of alumni in their professions and communities.
Dr. Light Townsend Cummins (BEd History '68 & MA History '72), Sherman, TX. Cummins holds the Guy M. Bryan Chair of History at Austin College. A renowned teacher and scholar of Texas history, Cummins was named State Historian of Texas by Gov. Rick Perry in 2009. His recent biography of Emily Austin Bryan Perry, the sister of Stephen F. Austin, received the prestigious 2010 Liz Carpenter Award from the Texas State Historical Association, given to the best book of the year on Texas women. Cummins is a lifetime fellow of the Texas Historical Association, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas. He has been a Fulbright Scholar, and his teaching was recognized in 2006 when he was named a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor. See full biography.
Mr. Kelly Frels (BS Political Science '66), Houston, TX. An attorney and former managing partner of the Houston law firm Bracewell and Giuliani, Frels is one of the nation’s top authorities on school law. He led the legal efforts to create Houston’s community college system and the comprehensive magnet school system that made HISD’s integration possible. He helped to create the School Law Section of the State Bar of Texas and served as president of the State Bar. In conjunction with the Greater Houston Partnership, Frels recently led a successful effort to improve Houston’s air quality. In the process, he helped to create two organizations focused on the Texas environment, both of which he now chairs: the Texas Environmental Research Consortium and the Texas Clean Air Working Group. He also chairs The Center for Houston’s Future, a think-tank on Houston’s quality of life. He served as president of the Texas State Alumni Association and was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the University in 1974. See full biography.
The Hon. John Sharp (MPA Political Science '76), Austin, TX. Now principal in the Austin office of Ryan & Co., a Dallas-based tax consulting firm, Sharp has served Texas as state representative, state senator, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, and State Comptroller of Public Accounts. As Comptroller, Sharp established a number of programs that profoundly changed the way government does business, enabling citizens to observe and participate in government’s day-to-day operations and saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Recently, Sharp co-founded Texans to Cure Cancer, securing $3 billion to fund aggressive cancer research at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State in 1996. See full biography.
Dr. Melba Vasquez (BS English '72), Austin, TX. A psychologist in private practice, Vasquez is the 2011 President of the 152,000-member American Psychological Association. Her interests in ethics and social responsibility have transformed several areas of psychology. She has participated in revisions of the APA Ethics Code and produced groundbreaking books on ethics in psychotherapy and counseling. A co-founder of the APA’s Society for the Study of Minority Psychology, she trains psychologists around the country to evaluate clients’ mental health based on their cultural norms and values rather than only those of mainstream white culture. She will soon publish a book on the effects of racism and discrimination on mental health. As APA president, she is working to reduce prejudice and discrimination among psychologists who treat racial and ethnic minorities and members of other socially marginalized groups. She has also formed task forces to identify the actions psychology can take to improve the educational attainment of minority groups and to promote immigration reform from a mental health standpoint. She has received some three dozen local, regional, and national awards recognizing her distinguished professional contributions, social-justice advocacy, and lifetime achievement. See full biography.