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UT Tyler Office of Marketing and Communications

UT Tyler to Hold 40th Anniversary Alumni Gala March 30

March 22, 2012

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.565.5769 or 903.539.7196 (cell)

The University of Texas at Tyler Alumni Association will recognize four graduates and a former Patriots coach during the 40th Anniversary Alumni Gala at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 30 at the UT Tyler Ornelas Activity Center, Derrith Bondurant, director of alumni relations, announced.

The 2011 – 12 honorees are Valari Dobson Staab, distinguished alumna; Michel Christopher ‘Chris’ Chambless, distinguished alumnus; Karen McKeown, Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient; and U.S. Navy Lt. Teri Curington, RN, Outstanding Service Alumni Award recipient.  

The university also will induct Fred Kniffen, who served UT Tyler as tennis coach from 1985 through 1997, during the inaugural launch of the UT Tyler Athletics Hall of Fame. Kniffen received numerous awards for his coaching, including six national championships and membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Tennis Hall of Fame and Texas Tennis Hall of Fame.

Gala guest speaker Jim ‘The Rookie’ Morris, whose climb to the big leagues was portrayed in the Disney film The Rookie starring Dennis Quaid, also will present “Dream Makers and Dream Breakers.” The Watson W. Wise Foundation, a long-time supporter of UT Tyler Alumni Relations, sponsored this appearance.

For more information, call 903.566.7316 or email

Staab earned a bachelor of business administration from UT Tyler in 1982. She was recently named the president of NBC Universal Owned Television Stations in New York City. Staab began her career at Tyler-based KLTV. 

Chambless earned a bachelor of arts from UT Tyler in 1993. He is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Ambit Energy, a Texas-based, multi-million dollar electric energy provider company.

Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves in their professional achievements, contributions to society and support of the university.

McKeown earned a bachelor of science from UT Tyler in 2000. Also earning a master’s degree from Yale University, she has been appointed as administrator for the public health division for the state of Wisconsin.

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award goes to alumni ages 35 and younger who have distinguished themselves in their professional achievements, contributions to society and support of UT Tyler.

Curington earned bachelor of science and master of science degrees from UT Tyler in 2003 and 2009, respectively. She received the Navy Commendation for service in Afghanistan as an ICU/trauma nurse and has recently returned to East Texas Medical Center – Gilmer as director of emergency services. 

The Alumni Outstanding Service Award recognizes the valuable contributions individuals make to others by demonstrated ‘above and beyond’ commitment and supreme example that inspires others to engage in aid to others.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of almost 7,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.