Congratulations to the 2021 Texas A&M University-San Antonio alumni award winners, who were celebrated during the University’s annual Alumni Awards Ceremony on October 16.
Editor’s note: This year’s winners (from left to right in the accompanying photo with President Cynthia Teniente-Matson, far right) include: Sa L. Huynh, LeWayne Ballard, and Nathan R. Mara (attending remotely).
Each year Texas A&M University-San Antonio honors three alumni for their distinction in different areas. The Recent Graduate Award is given to an alumnus/a who has earned an undergraduate degree in the past three years and is doing exciting things in the world. The Spirit of the Jaguar Award is given to an alumnus/a providing excellent service and volunteerism to the University and/or community. And, the Distinguished Alumni Award is given to an alumnus/a with a stellar professional career.
For 2021, the University celebrates the following alumni.
Sa L. Huynh ’18 (Recent Graduate) grew up in Irving, Texas, but has made San Antonio her home since earning a B.A.A.S from Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Currently pursuing a master’s in Technology and Innovation Management at Northcentral University, Sa works as a technical writer at the cybersecurity and software development firm Def-Logix, Inc. To balance that tech-heavy thinking, Sa finds creative outlets through her “Culture Shocks” blog (theresaly520.wordpress.com) exploring nature, health, food, travel, and other topics. The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Sa has never taken for granted the opportunity to pursue an education—something her parents were not able to do. While at A&M-San Antonio, Sa immersed herself in student activities, including the Justice Society and the Environmental Club. Her volunteer interests include helping the Rotary Club of Alamo Ranch with recycling projects, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, serving as a reading buddy through San Antonio Youth Literacy, and getting kids excited about computing at Youth Code Jam.
LeWayne Ballard ’13, ’14 (Spirit of the Jaguar) is a two-time graduate of Texas A&M University-San Antonio, earning a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Computer Information Systems and his MBA. Now Chief Technology Officer for Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, LeWayne oversees all IT operations, including security and compliance. A firm believer in lifelong learning, LeWayne is currently working on his Ph.D. in Education at University of The Incarnate Word. LeWayne volunteers his time with Meals on Wheels, Adopt a Family, and Blood Donations and also believes in sharing his personal resources, including a generous donation to the A&M-San Antonio General’s Food Pantry. LeWayne is continuously mentoring students by providing them paid internships at his workplace—a program he launched to give high school and college students experience with project management, programming, database administration, and system engineering. Over the past five years his company has provided internships to approximately 50 students.
Nathan R. Mara ’17 (Distinguished Alumni) began his career in 2005 by volunteering at the City of Decatur Fire Department in Decatur, Texas. Today Nathan serves as Fire Chief for the city in which he grew up. In those intervening years, Nathan became a certified paramedic and firefighter, earning a promotion to Fire Captain and multiple honors as Firefighter of the Year and Fire Officer of the Year. Nathan transferred to Texas A&M University-San Antonio with associate’s degrees in Emergency Medical Services, Fire Protection and Safety Technology, and Fire Service Administration from Weatherford College. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from A&M-San Antonio with a B.A.A.S. in Fire and Emergency Services Administration, Nathan was promoted to Deputy Fire Chief in Charge of Operations and to Fire Chief in March 2020. A father of three-year-old twin girls, Nathan still makes time to serve as an adjunct instructor for Tarrant County College, teaching everything from basic fire safety to firefighter development.