Big-Wheel Bobcats

The TXST Distinguished Alumni Gala spotlights former Bobcats who are making an impact on the world

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Texas State University recognized some of its most prestigious alumni during this year’s Homecoming festivities on the San Marcos Campus. The honorees include Distinguished Alumni who’ve shaped their industries over decades and Young Alumni Rising Stars who’ve already made an impact early in their careers.

Each year during Homecoming, the Texas State Alumni Association hosts the Distinguished Alumni Gala to honor the achievements of accomplished Bobcat professionals.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni honorees are Larry M. Mark (’83), Barbara J. Smith (’01), and Elizabeth Andriette (Hastings) Terrell (’97). This year’s Distinguished Alumni Rising Stars honorees are Ali Ijaz (’12; MBA ’14) and Anna Uzele (’18).

The 2023 Denise M. Trauth Outstanding Leadership Award honors Kaitlin Hopkins, founder of TXST’s musical theatre program. 

Read on for more about these impressive Bobcat alums.


2023 Distinguished Alumni Honorees

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Larry M. Mark

Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting, Highest Honors (’83)   
The Coca-Cola Company - Global Vice President, Finance Operations (retired)

It’s easy to draw a line from Bobcat alum Larry Mark’s bachelor’s degree in accounting to his recent role as a top finance executive for The Coca-Cola Company. Graduating with honors from Southwest Texas State, he passed his Certified Public Accountant exam shortly after graduation. 

Those educational building blocks set the stage for Mark to make a name for himself as an expert in international accounting and business during his eight-year stint with Price Waterhouse, now PwC. That led to his recruitment by Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, where Mark recently served as global vice president - finance operations. 

Mark’s 32-year career with the company included separate turns as chief financial officer for Europe and North America and as corporate controller overseeing Coca-Cola’s annual reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission and company shareholders. In his most recent role, he was responsible for providing business, financial, and analytical support for the beverage company’s senior leadership team. 

“Throughout his journey, he has continuously helped us in achieving and exceeding our growth objectives,” said James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chairman and CEO. “He is a true professional, great leader, works well with his peers, leads by example, and is a role model for others.” 

Although he lives in Atlanta, Mark never loses sight of San Marcos. He’s an enthusiastic supporter of Bobcat students and faculty, volunteering his time to speak at the McCoy College of Business.

“He is particularly adept at coaching students interested in working for multinational corporations, management and leadership best practice, and the consumer goods industry,” said Melissa Linden, director of development at Texas State. 

Mark’s active support of his alma mater also extends to providing financial support as a donor, contributing to the McCoy College of Business. He has attended alumni events and recently met with President Kelly Damphousse about how he can be optimally helpful to the university.

Mark is also active in his Atlanta community. He’s on the boards of the Woodruff Arts Center and the Center for Puppetry Arts, and he also supports the work of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, which is dedicated to preventing and curing pediatric diseases.

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Barbara J. Smith 

M. A., Political Science (’01) 
The Carter Center, Vice President for Peace Programs

Barbara J. Smith has circled the globe representing the U.S. Agency for International Development on policy matters in Brussels, Paris, and Nairobi. Now, as the vice president for peace programs at The Carter Center, Smith calls on her international experiences as she fights for human rights around the world. 

Smith oversees more than 70 staff members and the development and implementation of some 30 program initiatives for the not-for-profit Carter Center, which former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, founded in 1982.

Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander first worked with Smith in 2011 at the U.S. Agency for International Development. They collaborated in 2012 to coordinate what Alexander called “life-saving and transformational aid” to the Middle East in response to the Arab Spring, a series of anti-government protests and uprisings that spread throughout the region. 

“Her style of leadership, interpersonal skills, background, and experiences — rooted from her studies at Texas State — gave her credibility among many audiences, including congressional staff, think tank scholars, international delegations from other countries with interest in the work, and our own U.S. government agencies,” said Alexander, reflecting on their shared experiences. 

With her experience in conflict resolution, governance, and diplomacy, Smith is often involved in pressing international issues. For instance, she’s currently helping lead a team to further the peace process in Mali, a country that has seen its government overthrown three times since 2012. 

Smith also stays connected to her Texas State roots. The political science grad has met with TXST President Kelly Damphousse, attends alumni events as often as she can, and mentors students to help them succeed. She doesn’t miss an opportunity to share about The Carter Center’s robust internship program with students seeking a career in international development. 

Alexander says Smith’s job at The Carter Center requires her to work with donors and interested countries as well as weigh in on some of the hardest challenges in international relations. 

“She focuses on some of the most difficult and intractable problems facing our world, in places like the West Bank/Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Alexander said. “She engages with the senior-most government officials and civil society organizations in these countries to discuss how The Carter Center can assist. Barbara has done remarkable work on behalf of the most vulnerable populations. Texas State University should be proud of her work and her status as an alum.”

Elizabeth Andriette (Hastings) Terrell headshot

Elizabeth Andriette (Hastings) Terrell

Bachelor of Business Administration (’97)   
United Parcel Service 
Vice President of Sales & Solutions, Americas & Head of US International District 

Elizabeth Terrell started her career at United Parcel Service in the mid-1990s while attending Texas State University. One bachelor’s degree and multiple promotions later, she is now a top senior executive for the largest logistics and supply chain management company in the United States. 

Responsible for overseeing a multibillion-dollar business plan in her role as vice president of sales and solutions in the Americas, Terrell leads a team of senior leaders and more than 800 sales professionals. Her team is focused on multiple campaigns, including executing revenue objectives and expanding the company’s global footprint by growing a greater market presence.   

Faced with the logistical challenges posed by the pandemic, Terrell played a pivotal role in the Fortune 100 company’s navigation of the uncertain business terrain. From 2019-2022, Terrell more than tripled revenues in key markets while implementing 600-plus supply chain solutions and lowering costs by nearly $17 million. 

"Elizabeth did a great job with several of our important enterprise accounts during the chaotic COVID-19,” an excerpt from her 2020 performance review reads. “Her leadership was strong, allowing us to manage our sales side appropriately as we gained control of our operations and service." 

For all the demands of leading global strategic initiatives and managing international teams, Terrell remains active and supportive of her fellow Bobcats, including as chair of the McCoy College Center for Professional Sales Advisory Board.   

“Ms. Terrell has dramatically impacted the success of our students,” said Dr. Sanjay Ramchander, dean of TXST’s McCoy College of Business, noting her “instrumental” role in arranging internships at the company.   

“She has even made it possible for students to participate in the center’s very first international internships where students gain life-changing experience working for UPS in Spain,” Ramchander said.   

Terrell’s support of Texas State doesn’t stop with empowering Bobcats with opportunities to develop skills in a business setting. She and her husband, Hank, after years of supporting the Vicki West Excellence in Sales Scholarship, are establishing their own family scholarship endowment to support students in the field of sales. 

West noted that Terrell is also involved in the community of her adopted home of Atlanta, where UPS is headquartered. Terrell serves as a trustee & VP for the University System of Georgia Foundation.   

“Of course, what we are most proud of is her involvement with Texas State,” West said. “For 15 years, she has helped develop our Center for Professional Sales and continues to be a hands-on driving force to help us reach new heights on an international scale. She mentors young students who want to become future leaders in the community, emphasizing the need to give back your time to help others.” 


2023 Young Alumni Rising Star Honorees

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Ali Ijaz

Master of Business Administration (’14)
Dual bachelor’s degree, Marketing & Finance (’12)
Microsoft, Principal PM Manager, Hyper-personalized CX (Director Level)

In less than a decade since earning his MBA, Ali Ijaz can already lay claim to a wealth of experience and achievements at the tech giants of 3M, Amazon, and now Microsoft. 

Stationed at Microsoft’s headquarters near Seattle, Ijaz leads a technical product management team in the United States and India charged with driving business results and launching industry-leading products and offers that improve the cloud experience of Microsoft’s largest customers and brand-impacting global events, including last year’s FIFA World Cup. 

"His experiences have taken him from San Marcos to Redmond, Washington, and have impacted over 1 billion people globally through the wide variety of unique and complex products he has brought to market,” said Dr. Sanjay Ramchander, dean of TXST’s McCoy College of Business. 

Ijaz’s leadership and entrepreneurial skills were evident during his time in San Marcos. He served as president of the Texas State contingent of more than 200 students that won the US National Competition (out of 500+ universities) and represented team USA at the Enactus World Cup in Beijing, an international competition for students to create projects showcasing their entrepreneur skills in service of social good. 

In 2014, the team presented four projects, including Mobile Loaves and Fishes, designed to help homeless people earn a living, and a Budget Infographics project that provided mayors, city councils, and citizens a simple way to view their city budgets.

While Ijaz has been a three-time recipient of the Enactus MVP award for his projects at TXST, Ramchander said Ijaz is most proud of the impact that work has had on the community. All told, those efforts helped more than 1,200 people in Central Texas gain employment; assisted dozens of homeless veterans improve their livelihood; grew sales for more than 50 local small businesses; trained refugees on critical skills and helped them earn employment; and taught senior citizens how to use technology.

Looking ahead, Ijaz is developing a startup that Ramchander notes could result in a “potentially revolutionary concept” being brought to market in late 2023 after beta testing. He recruited five Texas State grads to accelerate the launch of the platform and plot for an aggressive expansion next year.   

"Ali Ijaz is an excellent ambassador for Texas State, and his meteoric rise in his profession is an inspiration for our students," Ramchander said.

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Anna Leah Uzele 

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Musical Theatre (’18) 
Singer, Actress, Dancer 
Co-star in Broadway production of ‘New York, New York’ 

It didn’t take long for Anna Uzele to graduate from the stages of San Marcos to the bright lights of New York City. In fact, she landed a role in the Tony-nominated Broadway production of Once on This Island within 10 days of graduating with her bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre in 2018. 

Building off that experience and subsequent roles in musicals and television, the multitalented Bobcat starred on Broadway in New York, New York. She played the lead female Francine Evans in the show, which in May was nominated for nine Tony awards, including Best New Musical. 

Based on the 1977 Martin Scorsese movie of the same name, the show featured the songs of Cabaret and Chicago creators Kander and Ebb, with additional lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the famed creator of Hamilton. 

“She is now on the A-list of musical theatre actresses, sought out by some of the biggest names in the Broadway world,” said John Fleming, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. 

If you can’t make it to New York anytime soon, you can still see Uzele in Apple TV+'s “Dear Edward” starring Connie Britton and Taylor Schilling and in her recurring role in Showtime’s “City on a Hill” starring Kevin Bacon. 

A permanent fixture on the Dean’s List while at TXST, Uzele graduated magna cum laude as a member of the Honors College, all the while navigating four to five hours of nightly rehearsals for at least eight weeks at a time. She won lead roles in multiple TXST musical theatre productions, including a standout performance offering a sign of bigger things to come.   

“It was her turn as leading lady Sarah in Ragtime that confirmed for me that Anna was destined to be a powerhouse performer,” said Sarah Maines, chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance. 

Uzele remains active in the Bobcat community. She serves on Texas State’s Musical Theatre Alumni Advisory Board, a position in which she mentors students entering the industry. She volunteers annually for Texas State’s NEXUS summer musical theatre camp — participating via Zoom — and she also participates annually in a virtual Q&A session with musical theatre students. 

Uzele is no stranger to supporting her adopted New York community. She’s involved in fundraising for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and has performed at a fundraiser for the group with Nathan Lane, Fran Drescher, and other stage luminaries. 

Reflecting on his New York visit to see Uzele perform, Fleming marveled at her capacity to shine even when she wasn’t on stage. “Despite her rapid success, she has remained a humble person with a generous spirit," he said. 


2023 Denise M. Trauth Outstanding Leadership Award Honoree

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Kaitlin Hopkins

Founder of the TXST musical theatre program 

The Texas State Alumni Association has named Kaitlin Hopkins, an award-winning actress, director, producer, educator, and 2023 Tony Award nominee for Excellence in Theatre Education, as this year’s recipient of the Denise M. Trauth Outstanding Leadership Award. 

The award, which is named after its inaugural recipient and Texas State’s ninth president, recognizes those who carry Trauth’s legacy forward through integrity, compassion, resilience, and innovation. 

Hopkins arrived on campus in 2009, bringing a wealth of theatrical experience over a 30-year career including a combined 16 Broadway and off-Broadway shows and over 50 film and television roles including “The Nanny Diaries,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and three years on NBC’s “Another World.”

Hopkins created the university’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre program, designing the 123-hour degree plan, curriculum, and infrastructure. Under her leadership, TXST has become nationally recognized for its musical theatre program, which is now a destination for top talent from across the country. In 2016 Hopkins received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from Texas State University and was recognized by Broadway Dreams Foundation as an innovative voice in education, and one of the six top women educators in the performing arts.   

In her first year she recruited 230 applicants for 14 spots. Applications for this highly competitive program now average more than 800 per year for 12 spots. 

“Bobcats can be found on Broadway, on national and international tours, in film and television, and across the globe,” said Michael Burrell, a 2017 musical theatre graduate.

“In my four years, K-Hop, as we, her children, call her, molded me into the person I am today,” said Burrell, who recently booked a recurring role in “The Gilded Age” on HBO. “She and her incredible group of musical theatre educators created my foundation as an artist.”

The TXST musical theatre program’s prominence and strength are on display annually at its New York City industry showcase, which takes place just weeks after graduation.

Every year graduating seniors are signed by the top talent agencies. Students receive multiple agent and manager offers, resulting in calls by theatre and television casting offices for auditions and offers for professional contracts.

Hopkins’ preparation and empowerment of her theatre students extend well beyond the stage and screen, said Dr. John Fleming, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

“While Kaitlin has an impeccable record of preparing students for the industry, she also prepares them for life,” said Fleming, referring to Hopkins’ role as co-founder of Living Mental Wellness, an evidence-based educational program for performing artists and athletes designed to enhance mental wellness through an integrated life skills model. Her innovative holistic approach to performing artists' education has garnered international attention including a TEDx Talk in 2016.

“Hopkins would not send her students out into the world without the tools they need to take care of themselves,” Burrell added. 

“As artists, we put ourselves through mental acrobatics,” Burrell said. “Our mental health is constantly in a state of war. She made Texas State the first musical theatre program to install a mental health curriculum. Many schools have followed her lead and installed her curriculum to help their students.”

Colleagues and alumni praise Hopkins for her efforts to engage the needs of her students and support equity, diversity, and inclusion.

"Over the past four years, she has created endowments to serve Black, Latinx, International, and first-generation college students," said TXST Distinguished Alumnus Jerry Fields, a business executive who co-chaired a capital campaign for the program.

Her recruiting efforts to support more opportunities for students of color in the musical theatre program resulted in a 47% increase of the BIPOC student population in her program during a 12-year period.

Hopkins’ dedication to the growth of her students doesn’t end with their graduation. She continues to mentor her musical theatre alumni, including Burrell and Anna Uzele, who recently starred in the Apple TV+ series “Dear Edward” and Broadway musical New York, New York. “Kaitlin continues to connect with her Bobcat alumni,” Burrell said. “She has created online groups for us to keep in touch and updates us on everything within the program.”

“I am still one of her kids,” he added. “Alumni and students talk about all the amazing things that make Texas State University what it is. The campus, the river, the Square, I love it all. But the people make Texas State. It’s Kaitlin Hopkins that made it for me.”