Meet the UA's Best of the Best: The 15 Alumni of the Year

The 2017 awardees, to be honored on Homecoming weekend by their respective colleges, have made a difference in places as near as Tucson and as far as outer space.

By:
University Communications,
UAAA President Melinda Burke at the 2016 ceremony. Jacob Chinn photo

An architect known for her advocacy for women, a performer on the "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show, a pioneering ophthalmologist and the principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission are part of a group of distinguished University of Arizona alumni to be honored with Alumni of the Year awards during Homecoming week at the UA.

The UA Alumni Association recognizes accomplished alumni and friends for their achievements and contributions to the University. This year's 15 award recipients — including architect Diane Reicher Jacobs, actress Sue Scott, ophthalmologist Dr. Sean J. McCafferty and planetary scientist Dante Lauretta — represent a plethora of accomplishments at all levels and disciplines from across the country.

The awards ceremony will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, in the South Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center. Other events for Homecoming week are listed at the end of this story.

2017 UA Alumni of the Year

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Robert T. "Tom" Jones

Jones is a dedicated leader in the fields of education, agriculture and business, and a tireless advocate for CALS, the University and land-grant education. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural education from the UA. For 18 years, he was a teacher and educational administrator. For much of the 1980s, he was a councilman and mayor of Marana.

In 1990, Jones became CEO of the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association. He has been called "the face of rural electrification throughout the state of Arizona" and is credited with expanding safety and education programs as well as with engaging with state and federal legislators and regulatory agencies on policies affecting Southwestern co-ops. Since 2001, he has been a member and leader of CALS' Ag100 Council.

 

College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture: Diane Reicher Jacobs

Jacobs is an advocate for women in architecture and a role model committed to the communities in which she works. She was born in New York City, grew up in Puerto Rico, came to the UA to earn a bachelor's in architecture and trained in Boston, where she earned her license to practice. She is the founder and principal at Holly Street Studio Architects in Phoenix. Holly Street's portfolio includes community centers, higher-education environments, places of healing, and venues for arts and culture. It recently earned honors as 2017 AIA Arizona Architecture Firm of the Year.

Jacobs founded the AIA Arizona Women Principals Group and chaired the AIA National Women's Leadership Summit in 2013. She also served with AIA's National Committee on Equity in Architecture, the Urban Land Institute Design Assistance Team and the Rio Salado Architecture Foundation.

 

College of Education: Richard A. Carranza

Carranza is an accomplished and highly regarded educator who is committed to improving the lives of all students. After earning a bachelor's in secondary education from the UA in 1991, he began his teaching career at Tucson's Pueblo High School, his alma mater. He became vice principal and later principal at Pueblo before moving to Las Vegas, where he served as a high school principal and then as region superintendent for Clark County Schools. After five years in Las Vegas, he became deputy superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, where he took over as superintendent in 2012.

Today, Carranza is superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, one of the largest public school systems in the country. He has led the development of a Children's Outcomes Framework to mobilize city, county and community resources. Approved by voters, the framework generates approximately $150 million each year to fund services for children, youth and families.

 

Eller College of Management: Bruce D. Beach

Beach is a successful accounting executive and dedicated philanthropist committed to improving the Eller College and the Tucson community. He earned a bachelor's in accounting and an MBA at the Eller College of Management. After a successful career in public accounting spanning more than 40 years, he is chairman of the board and former CEO of BeachFleischman PC, one of the largest locally owned accounting and business advisory firms in Arizona.

Beach served on the Sarver Heart Center advisory board and is the current vice chairman of Carondelet Health Network. He also co-founded the Tucson Festival of Books, now the fourth-largest literary event in the country and a significant fundraiser for literacy efforts in southern Arizona.

 

College of Engineering: Alan L. Boeckmann

Boeckmann is an impactful business leader responsible for promoting international standards for business and engineering ethics with lifelong dedication to the University. He earned a bachelor's in electrical engineering in 1973 and joined joined Fluor, an engineering and construction company that specializes in large, complex international projects. In more than three decades with Fluor, he rose to chairman and CEO. When he retired in 2012, Fluor's revenue was more than $27 billion.

Boeckmann was a pioneer in the use of 3-D graphics for plant design, a technology that has transformed capital construction. In 2004, he founded the Anti-Corruption Task Force of the World Economic Forum, to combat bribery and corruption in global commerce. This collaborative effort involved more than 70 large multinational companies.

 

College of Fine Arts: Sue Scott

Scott, of Minneapolis, is a professional stage actor and commercial voice talent who has had an impressive, unique career for decades on public radio. For 24 years, she has performed a multitude of comedic character roles alongside celebrated guest performers on Garrison Keillor's live national radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion."

also has performed the critically acclaimed one-woman show "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe."

When "A Prairie Home Companion" came to Tucson, Scott conducted a master class for theater, film and television students at the UA.

 

Honors College: David R.P. Martinez

Martinez has dedicated his life to public service through work in diplomacy, international development and peace building. A career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, he has dedicated himself to advancing diplomacy and ending violent conflict. 

As a UA undergraduate, he co-launched the Eller College Make a Difference Day, which now serves the Tucson community with more than 1,400 volunteers.  After graduating in 2004 with a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and Business Management with Honors, David joined the Peace Corps, launching his public service journey. He currently teaches and leads the redesign of negotiation programs at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, combining his global conflict experience with negotiation training skills honed at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he earned a master's in public policy as a Harvard Public Service Fellow.

 

College of Humanities: Dante Lauretta

Lauretta is an accomplished space exploration researcher and professor who currently serves as principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. He earned bachelor's degrees at the UA in Oriental studies, mathematics and physics. After earning a doctorate in earth and planetary sciences from Washington University in St. Louis, he returned to the UA to join the faculty of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, where he is a professor of planetary science.

Lauretta is an expert in the analysis of extraterrestrial materials such as lunar samples, meteorites and comet particles. On Sept. 8, 2016, he earned a spot in history for himself and the UA when the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully launched on a seven-year journey to rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu and return a sample of its material — possibly providing clues to the origins of the universe. 

 

James E. Rogers College of Law: Steven R. Lainoff

Lainoff is a distinguished leader with business acumen, financial expertise and leadership skills that provide service to the legal profession, the country, his clients and the College of Law.

Lainoff first worked as an associate with an international tax firm in New York, then coordinated the international elements of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 for the U.S. Treasury Department. An internationally recognized leader in corporate tax, debt capitalization and internal restructuring, he served as partner-in-charge of the Washington, D.C., office of the global tax firm KMPG until his retirement last year. In 2008 and 2010, he was named "Best of the Best" tax advisers by Legal Media Group's Expert Guides.

 

College of Medicine – Tucson: Dr. Kathryn L. Reed 

Reed is a maternal-fetal research pioneer who has gained global recognition for her work. She graduated from the College of Medicine in 1977 and completed both her residency and fellowship at the UA. Today, she leads the college's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Reed has made great contributions to medicine through her research, teaching, clinical care, mentoring and administrative work. An early fascination with imaging technology drew her into obstetrical ultrasound, leading to worldwide recognition for her pioneering work in fetal cardiac physiology and monitoring as well as Doppler ultrasound. She was recognized by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology with its National Faculty Award in 2012.

 

College of Nursing: Joyce A. Verran

Verran is a nationally and internationally recognized nursing expert dedicated to preparing the next generation of nursing systems researchers. She is a three-time alumna of the College of Nursing, having received baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. She also served as a faculty member of the college for 29 years and remains a research consultant to current faculty.

Verran is known nationally and internationally for her systems research expertise. She was a pioneer in advancing the understanding of contemporary systems research design and measurement, and she is sought out by scholars and health care leaders for her knowledge of instrumentation and analysis.

She was a pathfinder in studying care delivery in the ambulatory care setting at a time when health care leaders were beginning to recognize the need to bolster care outside of the hospital setting. 

 

College of Optical Sciences: Dr. Sean J. McCafferty

McCafferty is an extraordinary optical and mechanical engineer, eye surgeon and businessman with a relentless desire to improve ophthalmic treatment worldwide. In the Tucson community, he is known for his successful ophthalmology practice. But people worldwide who suffer from serious eye diseases could benefit from his innovations in optics, mechanics and medicine.

McCafferty earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in 1991 and completed medical school in 1996. In 2009, fascinated with optics technologies, he applied to the graduate program at the College of Optical Sciences, and after six years of balancing his practice, studies, research, and a growing family, he had not only earned a master's degree but also founded three companies developing innovative products in ophthalmology and optics. Today, Intuor Technologies is developing products related to the detection of serious eye diseases, improving the lives of those with cataracts by developing accommodating intraocular lenses, and addressing industry and consumer needs through the development of a variable zoom, micro camera lens system. 

 

College of Pharmacy: R. Ken Coit

Coit is a highly successful private real-estate investment banker whose high ethical standards, reinforced by the College of Pharmacy, play a continual role in his success. He earned a bachelor's in pharmacy from the UA in 1967. After practicing for three years, he moved to real-estate investing and is now the founder and head of Coit Financial, which manages more than 8,000 apartment units along the West Coast.

In 2016, Coit was the first to step up to the Skaggs Pharmaceutical Center Challenge, a campaign to transform the college's facility into a hub for innovative research and education. In addition to making a gift himself, he is taking a leadership role in the campaign.

 

College of Science: Carolina Barillas-Mury

Barillas-Mury, a native Guatemalan, is an internationally recognized researcher making significant strides in parasite biology and working to improve health on a global scale.

In 2003, she joined the National Institutes of Health to lead the Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section of the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research. In 2015, her role expanded when she was made the director of the Malaria Research Program. Her continued work has revolutionized scientists' understanding of the immune system of the mosquito to understand how it affects malaria transmission — bringing the world closer to developing a vaccine. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014.

 

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences: The Harelson family

The Harelsons are active philanthropists who are passionate about students and who have greatly impacted the University for generations. Hugh Harelson earned a degree in journalism in 1952 and had a long and successful career as publisher of Arizona Highways. Hugh and his wife, Jan, and their sons, Matt and Scott, also earned UA degrees. Matt's oldest daughter, Sara, is a UA senior majoring in journalism.

When Hugh died in 1998, the family endowed the Hugh Harelson Reporting Lab to help journalism students acquire state-of-the-art technical skills and also the critical thinking skills needed to resolve issues raised by technology. Jan was a leader in the campaign to have the journalism unit elevated from a department to a school in 2008, and she initiated the annual Hugh and Jan Harelson Award for Teaching Excellence, which is maintained through support from Matt and Scott.