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October 13, 2009

Media Contact: Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
News and Information
The University of Texas at Tyler

UT Tyler Alumni Association Names 2009 Distinguished Alumni

The University of Texas at Tyler Alumni Association has recognized four graduates as the 2009 distinguished alumni.

Michael Lujan, Brett Sheldon and The Honorable James T. Worthen are recipients of the Professional Achievement and Attainment Award. Donna Cummings is recipient of the Young Alumni Award.

The four outstanding alumni will be featured at a luncheon Friday, Oct. 16 at the UT Tyler Ornelas Activity Center. Honorees are chosen based on outstanding contributions to their chosen profession since graduation from UT Tyler.

The Distinguished Alumni Award Luncheon is one of the many activities planned for UT Tyler’s 2009 Homecoming.

For tickets, contact the UT Tyler Office of Alumni Affairs, 903.565.5779.

Lujan earned a master of education degree in school administration from UT Tyler in 2001.

With his wife, Lisa, Michael Lujan launched Mentoring Minds out of his garage seven years ago. The business has grown so much that Hispanic Business Magazine recently placed it 424th on its 2008 list of Top 500 Hispanic businesses, with annual revenues of $8.59 million.

In 2002 Lujan, then assistant principal at Douglas Elementary School, created a school-subject flip chart of state standards by grade. He and Lisa used credit cards to pay for printing the first 1,000 charts for kindergarten through fifth grade. The Lujans made $6,000 selling the charts at a principals’ conference in Austin. Interest quickly skyrocketed and Lujan resigned from his principal’s job in 2003 and Lisa left her job as a banker. He now has three warehouses with 53 full-time people, including eight former educators.

Mentoring Minds has the largest digital printing operation between Dallas and Shreveport. The company sells 700 different products, and the customers no longer are teachers and school districts. Many of the products help students prepare for state standardized tests. Mentoring Minds creates products for specific Texas use as well as more general materials for use in schools nationwide.

Sheldon earned a bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree from UT Tyler in 1989. He has been in real estate for 20 years and has expertise in all facets of the industry including site selection, development, construction, and leasing.

His company, Dallas-based Salvo Real Estate Solutions, develops all four hard corners at premier retail intersections. Projects generally include drug, convenience/gas, bank, restaurant and grocery segments, home improvement, super-centers, general merchandise, apparel, electronics and crafts retailers. Since 1992 company experience includes projects for Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Circuit City, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Marshalls, Petsmart, Eckerd, Walgreens and more. Sheldon developed Broadway Crossing and Circuit City in Tyler.

Before founding Salvo, he directed the western-division leasing operations of Pan Pacific Development Co. During the 1980s, he worked with Southwest Cornerstone Development Co. to develop and lease more than one million square feet of retail space and half a million square feet of office space.

A graduate of M.I.T.’s Birthing of Giants program, Sheldon holds real estate brokerage licenses in Texas and Nevada.

Worthen earned a bachelor of science degree in political science and a master of science degree in political science, both from UT Tyler, in 1978 and 1999 respectively.

Worthen practiced law in Tyler from 1980 to 1998, first with the law firm of Sammons and Parker, and then with Bain, Files, Worthen and Jarrett, P.C. He served the State of Texas as a Justice on the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler from 1999 to 2002. He became its Chief Justice in 2003. He served as chairman of the Council of Chief Justices in 2005 and 2006. Besides being a member of the State Bar of Texas, he is a member of the Bars for the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

He has served on the Bar Journal Committee for the State Bar of Texas since 1985. Chief Worthen is author of “The Organizational and Structural Development of Intermediate Appellate Courts in Texas, 1892 –2003” published in South Texas Law Review in fall 2004. He received his J.D. from South Texas College of Law in 1980 and his L.L.M. from the University of Virginia in 2004.

Cummings earned a bachelor of applied arts and sciences from UT Tyler in 2003. She is a local professional photographer who started her business in 2003 after going back to school at UT Tyler.

Her studio specializes in portraits, weddings, families and high school seniors. She received an unprecedented score of 100 for her wedding entry print, “Daddy's Girl,” at the East Texas Pro Forum 2006 Annual Print Competition.

The print won “Best Wedding Image” and took the “Judge’s Choice” ribbon as well. “Daddy’s Girl” has gone on to win “Best Wedding Image” at PPA’s Regional five state conference in 2007 and also won the prestigious Kodak Award for Photographic Excellence in the wedding category at the SWPPA convention. Cummings, who serves on the board of the Pro Forum, received an “Excellent” merit score of 81 on her unclassified print entry, “Dream World,” which was taken in Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, during a destination wedding shoot. She also won a distinguished ribbon and a merit score of 86 on her wedding album entry, “One Fine Day.”

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 90 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.


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