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TWU to honor alumni and student excellence at Accolades Luncheon


DENTON— Texas Woman’s University and the Texas Woman’s University Former Students Association (TWU FSA) will present the TWU Accolades Luncheon on Friday, April 17.

The event will recognize the recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Hallmark Alumni honoree and the Outstanding TWU Students.

Tickets for the Accolades Luncheon are $25 each, payable to the TWU Former Students Association. The event begins with a reception at 11:30 a.m. in Hubbard Hall, followed by the luncheon at noon, also in Hubbard Hall. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (940) 898-2586.

The 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Lillie Biggins, RN, FACHE, M.S. 1981, president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth; and Dr. Linda C. Hilgenbrinck, Ph.D. 2001, adapted physical education specialist, Special Education Services, for the Denton Independent School District.

The 2015 Hallmark Alumni Award recipient is Dr. Anne Utech, M.S. 2005 and Ph.D. 2012, deputy national director of nutrition and food services for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The Hallmark Alumni Award salutes graduates who have had a significant, positive effect on their chosen profession or on their community.

Since the 1960s, the FSA has honored selected graduating students for their excellence in scholarship and service by naming them Outstanding TWU Students. The 2014-2015 recipients are:

Candace Henslee of Denton, history and government major;
Dava Hernandez of San Antonio, majoring in dance with a graduate certificate in women’s studies; and
Jairus Reddy of McKinney, a Ph.D. candidate in molecular biology.


Lillie Biggins

Lillie Biggins earned her master of science in nursing from Texas Woman’s University in 1981.

Ms. Biggins worked her way from a housekeeper position at John Peter Smith Hospital to her current position as president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth in 2012. In this role, she has the responsibility of enhancing performance, cost effectiveness, clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction for the 730-bed trauma center. Ms. Biggins led the development and expansion of a 100-bed emergency care center on the campus of Texas Health Fort Worth, which was much needed in the community. Her vision of taking care of the elderly and improving access to healthcare services led to the opening of the first Senior Health Center on the Fort Worth campus.

Ms. Biggins was elected chair of the DFW Airport Board in February 2014. She also serves on the Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County Board, the Texas Hospital Association Committee on Trauma, the North Texas LEAD Advisory Board, the CareFlite Board of Directors and the University of Texas at Arlington Nursing Advisory Board.

Ms. Biggins has received The President’s Volunteer Call to Service Award, the nation’s highest honor for volunteer service; the Health Industry Council’s Top 12 Women in Health Care in North Texas; the American Heart Association Board Member of the Year; Partnership Award from the American Cancer Society; Safe Haven Legacy of Women Award; and the Dallas Business Journal Women in Business Award. She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

Dr. Linda C. Hilgenbrinck

Linda C. Hilgenbrinck earned her Ph.D. in kinesiology from Texas Woman’s University in 2001.

As an adapted physical education (APE) specialist in the Special Education Services Department of the Denton Independent School District, Dr. Hilgenbrinck is responsible for the assessment of students with disabilities; designing or modifying programs to meet specific student needs; and providing direct APE services to students with disabilities in a variety of settings.

Dr. Hilgenbrinck was recognized by the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education and Dance (TAHPERD) as the 2011 Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year. In February 2012, the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Dance (AHPERD) named her the Southern District Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year and, in the following month, she received the National Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year award. As the National APE Teacher of the Year, Dr. Hilgenbrinck was invited to be involved with the NASA “Train Like an Astronaut” Program during summer 2013. She continues to be in contact with this agency and has volunteered to assist with beta testing in the field.

Dr. Hilgenbrinck has provided numerous workshops to physical educators to enhance their understanding of APE and an inclusive environment. She has presented at local, state national and international professional conferences on a variety of adapted physical activity topics, and has published in various professional journals about physical activity and physical education.

Dr. Anne Utech

Anne Utech earned her master of science and Ph.D. in nutrition in 2005 and 2012, respectively.

As deputy national director of nutrition and food services for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Utech oversees the nutrition policy for the VA, providing nutrition care in 152 VA medical centers, encompassing 1,600 clinical staff and more than 6,400 food service staff. She has provided oversight for the VA’s national research committee, which participates in more than 15 protocols, including a Cooperative Study Proposal on healthy eating behaviors that has shown preliminary improvement in patients’ clinical outcomes.

She previously served as the health promotion disease prevention manager for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in the Texas Medical Center, which serves more than 122,000 veterans in the Houston area. While at MEDVAMC, Dr. Utech’s weight management and smoking cessation endeavors were nationally recognized by the VA in Preventive Medicine with multiple Bright Spot Awards.

Dr. Utech’s research and service efforts have been recognized by several honors and awards, including the 2011 Recognized Young Dietician of the Year Award and the 2010 Outstanding Nutrition Education Award, both from the Houston Area Dietetic Association.

Candace Henslee

Candace Henslee will graduate in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in history and government and a 4.0 grade point average. She served as the TWU Student Regent for the 2014-2015 academic year, and has served as co-chair of the Student Service Fee Allocation Committee, the student representative to the TWU Inauguration committee and president of the Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society. She is a member of the Honors Scholar Program and the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society. She also was selected to the TWU Leadership Institute, where she was co-chair of the Heart Walk Committee. Ms. Henslee not only studied abroad at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England, but also has managed and coordinated the Study Abroad program for the TWU Office of International Education.

Dava Hernandez

Dava Hernandez will graduate in August 2015 with a master of arts degree in dance and a graduate certificate in women’s studies. She is a first-generation college student, and currently carries a 4.0 GPA. Ms. Hernandez has received several national academic awards, including being selected to present at the national Mujeres Activas En Letras Y Cambio Social (Women Active in Letters and Social Change) conference in 2014. She attended the 2014 national Join Conference of Dance History Scholars & The Congress on Research in Dance, and has shared her passion for promoting community participation in dance and music in presentations to high school and college classes in north Texas. In addition to her thesis work, Ms. Hernandez is developing a solo dance project based on her research in contemporary Mexican American/Chicana dance.

Jairus Reddy

Jairus Reddy will graduate in May 2015 with a doctoral degree in molecular biology and a 4.0 GPA. A TWU Chancellor’s Research Scholar, Mr. Reddy has received numerous awards for his research in neurobiological science. This groundbreaking research crosses the fields of psychology and biology. While an undergraduate, Mr. Reddy developed a psychological instrument to test for correlation between knowledge of schizophrenia and attitudes of the public toward schizophrenics. This instrument now is being used in four other studies in six countries. Mr. Reddy also has an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) policy writing and often volunteers with youth organizations such as Girls Inc. to inspire an interest in science fields.

Media Contact:

Karen Garcia
Senior Writer

page updated 5/9/2016 4:57 PM