Distinguished UArizona graduates to be honored at Alumni of the Year awards ceremony

a wildcat statue on campus

Chris Richards/University Communications

The University of Arizona will celebrate the accomplishments of its Alumni of the Year award recipients at noon on Feb. 22 at the DoubleTree by Hilton – Reid Park, 445 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson.

The honorees were nominated by their home colleges and formally approved by the Alumni Advisory Council, a volunteer board of 19 members who advise on alumni engagement and outreach efforts.

This year's award recipients include a renowned neuroscientist; a lawyer who has advocated for people injured in mass shootings; business owners, entrepreneurs and advocates in the fields of architecture, technology, medicine, pharmacy, optics and education; an internationally known artist working in public spaces; medical professionals who have dedicated their lives to health services and education; and a passionate advocate for health equity for underserved populations.

"The awards ceremony recognizes alumni who have made significant impact through their careers," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation, which administers the awards. "I am inspired by the accomplishments of this group of professionals, and I look forward to celebrating this milestone with their friends and family."

The Alumni of the Year awards were established as a tradition in 1943. Find past honorees on the alumni engagement website.

2024 Award Winners

College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture: August Benzien, Class of 1996, the iconic DuFFs Gambler skate shoe, and he is now the Nike Sportswear senior creative director for men's footwear design. Gina Benzien, Class of 1999, founder of Benzien Design, has earned acclaim for her work in residential design – notably the "Fairy Garden" in Escondido, California. The couple share a commitment to giving back through the Benzien Family Travel Scholarship, which supports the next generation of designers.

James E. Rogers College of Law: Kevin R. Boyle, Class of 1997, is a lawyer who specializes in resolving large, high-profile cases across the country, including wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury and serious fraud. Among his notable cases, he served as co-lead counsel representing survivors and the family members of victims of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, helping secure an $800 million settlement.

College of Science: Roberta Diaz Brinton, Class of 1979, Class of 1981 and Class of 1984, is a Regents Professor of neurology, psychology, neuroscience, and pharmacology and toxicology and one of the university's most distinguished research leaders. Her research on Alzheimer's disease has led to critical insights into the causes of the disease as well as cutting-edge therapeutics to treat it. She is also director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science and holds appointments in the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, the Neuroscience Graduate Interdisciplinary Program, the BIO5 Institute and Clinical Translational Sciences.

Eller College of Management: Ronald Butler, Class of 1991, a first-generation college graduate from the small Arizona mining town of San Manuel, is the managing partner of Ernst & Young's Phoenix office, a role he has held for 15 years, as well as the lead for services related to the mining sector. In 2004, Butler started the Business Career Awareness Program at Eller to introduce minority high school students to accounting and the business world.

College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences: Karen R. Conde Kenney, Class of 1979, is the founder of Conde Group Inc., a leading woman-owned technical recruitment firm, which she began in 2003 after a 25-year career in the corporate world. Conde Group builds world-class technical teams for clients such as Facebook, Toyota, Airbnb and PayPal, and it quickly earned recognition for its fast growth.

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences: Carol Dorsey, Class of 1975, became involved in regional politics after earning a bachelor's in political science. Dorsey has worked at the Pima Association of Governments and served on the city of Tucson land use planning committee. In the 1980s, Dorsey moved to Mississippi, where she partnered with the University of Mississippi, her local public school district and a Dallas private school to identify and provide remediation for public school students with dyslexia and other learning differences.

College of Engineering and the College of Medicine – Tucson: Zoe Draelos, Class of 1979 and Class of 1983, founded Dermatology Consulting Services to perform research around dermatological care and procedures. Since then, she has been the principal investigator on over 750 studies and the primary investigator for over 300, working with pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies from Aveda to Colgate to Pfizer while publishing 574 papers. In partnership with UArizona Women in Science and Engineering and Women in Medical Sciences, Draelos has presented often to young women about careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

College of Medicine – Phoenix: Christopher Goettl, Class of 2012, is a board-certified interventional radiologist who performs a variety of cutting-edge, minimally invasive image-guided procedures, with a special interest in treating liver cancer and complex vascular diseases. Since 2018, he has worked as an interventional radiologist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix and as a clinical assistant professor at the College of Medicine – Phoenix. He also works as a physician consultant, teaching physicians around the country about specialized procedures.

College of Fine Arts: Barbara Grygutis, Class of 1968 and Class of 1971, Grygutis has been commissioned to create over 75 large-scale works throughout North America and internationally during her celebrated career as a public artist. Her work can be found in sculpture gardens, public plazas, gateways, memorials and monuments. She also has exhibited sculptures at venues such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Bronx Museum and the White House. The public spaces created by Grygutis enhance the built environment, encourage civic interaction and reveal unspoken relationships between nature and humanity.

College of Education: Jonathan Katz, Class of 1981, is owner of Jonathan's Educational Resources, a Tucson store he opened in 1987 after realizing that there was a need for more interesting and better-quality materials for teachers. For 36 years, Katz's store has been the go-to source for Tucson's teachers, schools and families to find innovative materials to enhance classrooms and create learning spaces at home. Katz has always championed giving back to the educational community, offering professional development, parent engagement and curriculum support workshops.

R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy: John Musil, Class of 1994, founded Avella Specialty Pharmacy in Scottsdale in 1994 to supply specialty drugs that treat rare health conditions. Avella became one of the fastest-growing companies in the country, filling 50,000 specialty prescriptions each month by the time it was purchased by a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group in 2018. In 2021, Musil was inducted into the Arizona Pharmacy Association Hall of Fame.

College of Nursing: Linda ''Mac'' Perlich, Class of 1975 and Class of 1980, began her career at Pima County Hospital and then, while studying for her master's, became the first nurse at Amphitheater High School, where she set up educational programs and ran various clinics. She later joined the faculty of the College of Nursing, teaching first medical/surgical nursing and then community health nursing. Perlich is the co-founder of Act One, which takes students from Title I schools to arts performances, and coordinates the Culture Pass Program in public libraries across Arizona.

Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health: Mary Roary, Class of 2008, is a public health epidemiologist, Roary serves as the chief equity officer in the Office of Behavioral Health Equity, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. She works with a variety of organizations to expand access to mental health services in minority communities and to promote a healthy mindset around receiving mental health support. Roary also manages the National Network to Eliminate Disparities program that provides mental health and substance use services for community-based organizations.

James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences: Kent B. Rochford, Class of 1988 and Class of 1990, serves as the chief executive officer for SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, where he drives the society's mission to advance emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, and career and professional growth. In 2019, under Rochford's leadership, the society funded the SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences at the Wyant College of Optical Sciences as part of its commitment to supporting its stakeholder education community.

College of Humanities: Ross E. Schwartzberg, Class of 1985 and Class of 1990, is a diagnostic radiology specialist, an expert in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, and a generous supporter and friend of the College of Humanities. His patient-oriented approach and unwavering commitment to advancing medical practices have earned him widespread respect within the medical community. Schwartzberg and his wife, Jacqueline Chang, created the Fred & Barbara Borga Endowed Fund for Religious Studies at the College of Humanities to foster understanding of religious traditions and their impact on health and medicine.

W.A. Franke Honors College: Mindy Zeitzer, Class of 2001, an assistant professor of nursing and director of the traditional bachelor's in nursing at Linfield University, has been a nurse for 23 years, working clinically with patients and their families, primarily in cardiothoracic and surgical-trauma critical care. Mark Zeitzer, Class of 1998 and Class of 2002, is a practicing emergency physician and the chief medical officer of ZoomCare, an urgent, primary, emergency and specialty care clinic with over 50 locations in Oregon and Washington. The couple's volunteer efforts center on the Jewish community in Portland, Oregon. 

Read more about the award winners on the alumni engagement website.

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