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UNT honors alumni at luncheon
Joshua Knopp / Staff Writer
UNT honored distinguished alumni in the annual Alumni Awards dinner last Friday, including a veteran in Internet securities and a late rock-and-roll icon.
Distinguished Alumni Award recipients
Roy Orbison, who attended UNT in the 1950s and later died in 1988, received the university’s most prestigious award for achieving prominence in his profession.
His son, Alex, who was on-hand to accept the Distinguished Alumni Award on his father’s behalf, related the story of Orbison’s first big hit, “Ooby Dooby.” After overhearing the song in a UNT fraternity house, Orbison and his band made their own version, and it became a national hit. He was also known for his song, “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
“It was a pivotal moment in his career,” Alex Orbison said. “And in rock-and-roll.”
Roy Orbison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, a year before his death. Rock-and-roll icon Elvis Presley even called Orbison “the greatest singer in the world.”
Alex Orbison said his family was honored to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from what is now known as a top music school.
“This is a huge honor for me and our family,” he said. “UNT is acknowledged as the premier music program. It means a lot from the fact that my dad was here and it means a lot that the school has achieved that status.”
The other Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Samuel Golden, was a part of the football team that shared the Missouri Valley Conference championship in 1973. He was also a charter member of Kappa Alpha Psi.
Golden now serves as co-CEO of Alvarez & Marsal, a professional services firm based in Houston.
Outstanding Alumni Service Award Winner Michael Friedman earned his master’s degree from Harvard, where he attended after graduating with a bachelor’s in psychology from UNT. He earned these degrees despite being told in high school that he may not go to college and that he should “forget” his dream of going to Harvard.
“How do you say thank you to a university that gave you a chance?” Friedman said. “This award is the biggest honor of my adult life. It means the world to me.”
Earnest Kuehne was given the Ulys Knight Spirit Award largely for his contributions to UNT basketball, helping to raise $3 million for their new jumbotron and contributing $1 million of his own money.
Kuehne said that though he gave $1 million to basketball, he also donated to other activities. Kuehne sits on multiple UNT boards, including the Board of Regents, which he was appointed to in January.
Kuehne said he wanted to make sure students had the best experience they could have in college.
“It became important to me because I was blessed to be able to give back to the university,” he said. “I’ve said many time, my family is my foundation, but the university is my cornerstone.”
The family of C. Dean Davis shared the Generations of Excellence Award for almost 40 family members attending the university since 1910. Osro Luke Davis said by the time he attended in 1946, UNT had become the norm for his family.
“It was just the place to come,” he said. “I always thought my experience here gave me the background to work anywhere.”
The two Distinguished Young Alumni Award winners have already risen to prominence in their fields. Chris Drake, founder of the Internet security service FireHost, has seen his business grow rapidly over the past few years. He was listed as one of the “Dallas Business Journal’s” 40 businessmen under the age of 40.
Eli Young Band also got its start at UNT. Since forming, they have recorded four albums and their most recent album, “Life at Best,” peaked at No. 6 in the U.S. The band was performing in Chicago the night of the dinner and will accept their award at a later date.