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Alumni To Be Honored For 'Distinguished' Lives

Sept. 11, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Five Sam Houston State University graduates who have brought pride to the university through their lives of good citizenship and their contributions to criminal justice, the military, education, and business will be honored at the Distinguished Alumni Gala on Oct. 19 as part of homecoming activities.

The honorees include Distinguished Alumni Michael Devine, John McManners, Bertie Simmons, Anton Vincent, and Siddharth Keswani, the outstanding young alumnus.

The gala will begin at 6 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom with a cocktail reception followed at 7 p.m. with a dinner and program. Tickets are $100 each and reservations are requested by Oct. 15.

For more information, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 936.294.1841 or go online to alumni.shsu.edu.


Michael Devine

Michael DevineA special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, Michael Devine has a career straight out of the television program named for the federal law enforcement agency that is charged with investigating felony cases in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Devine earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in criminal justice from SHSU in 1984 and 1988, respectively, and his bachelor’s degree from Westfield State College in 1982.

Commissioned in 1984, Devine currently holds the rank of captain and serves as the deputy chief staff officer for inspections for the information dominance corps southwest region in San Diego. He has served as a member of the United States Navy Reserve and has concurrently served as a special agent with NCIS since 1989.

Devine’s career has been like an ongoing episode of NCIS, with his first 10 years spent investigating murders, rapes, child abuse and narcotic cases in the criminal investigation division. For the past 14 years, he has been assigned to the foreign counterintelligence division, where his primary duties include investigation of espionage and illegal sales of restricted technology. The NCIS has three main divisions: criminal investigation, foreign counter intelligence and fraud.

One of his most well known cases was that of “Bedroom Basher,” a home-invading serial rapist and murderer who confessed to killing seven women and an unborn child in Orange County, Calif. This investigation, worked jointly with the Tustin and Costa Mesa police departments, resulted in the suspect receiving the death penalty.

For his work, Devine has been nominated three times as NCIS “Special Agent of the Year.” He also has received accolades for a recent joint investigation involving the sale of equipment to test nuclear weapons to China.

Devine’s other military awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (3), the Navy Commendation Medal (2), the Navy Achievement Medal, the National Defense Medal (2), The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (2), the Overseas Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Navy Rifle expert Marksmanship Medal, and the Navy Pistol Expert Marksmanship Medal.

Devine has taught new agent classes for the FBI in Los Angeles and served as adjunct faculty at Chapman University in Orange County. An Eagle Scout himself, Devine serves as co-scoutmaster for Troop 507 in La Canada, Calif., and is on the board of directors for the La Canada Spartan Boosters, a group that sponsors extracurricular activities for La Canada High School.

He currently resides in Glendale, Calif., with his wife, Linda, and his children, Austin and Rachel.

John McManners

Col. John McMannersA 1962 SHSU graduate, Col. John McManners has led a distinguished career in the military.

Born in Weldon, Texas, McManners spent his formative years in Huntsville, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in history from SHSU in 1962. He also is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College, the United States Army War College, the United States Air War College, and earned his master’s degree from Webster University.

At SHSU, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in field artillery through the ROTC and spent his initial tour as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

McManners retired in 1992 after a 30-year military career, which carried him to many parts of the world including Europe, Vietnam, Bosnia and Laos, where he worked with the famed Hmong Mountain Tribe in guerrilla warfare against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese. He was personally decorated by the King of Laos as a “Knight of a Million Elephants” in 1969.

Among the many other military recognitions he received are Legion of Merit (2); Bronze Star; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (3); Air Medal (2), Army Commendations Medal (2); National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; and Vietnam Campaign Medal.

After retirement from the military, he worked for a law firm in San Antonio and Austin specializing in social security disability.

Since returning to Huntsville in 2005, McManners has been an active university and community leader, with such organizations and committees as the SHSU Alumni Association, the Lowman Student Center Advisory Board, Friends of the Museum Board, and Military Memorial Committee; the Rotary Club and The Huntsville Item Reader’s Advisory Board; and the East Texas Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America. He currently serves on the advisory board of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and on the City of Huntsville, Texas, Veterans Affairs Advisory Board.

McManners and his wife, Geanie, reside at Elkins Lake. They have two daughters, Shannon McManners Hurst, who lives in Arlington, Va., with her husband Tres, and Kathleen McManners Seleny, who lives in The Woodlands with her husband Alex; two grandsons, Noah Daniel and John Alexander Seleny; and one granddaughter, Annelise Marie Seleny.

Bertie Simmons

Bertie SimmonsDuring her 52 years in education Bertie Simmons has earned a reputation as a visionary, a creative problem solver, and a successful change agent.

The 1977 SHSU Master of Educational Administration graduate also holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State University and a doctorate from Texas Southern University.

Through her 36 years as an educational administrator, Simmons has led schools all around Houston, including serving as Houston ISD regional superintendent and assistant superintendent for school operations.

As principal of Furr High School in Houston ISD, where she currently works, Simmons dedicates herself to providing quality educational opportunities to underrepresented youth.

Since taking the lead at the school in 2000, Simmons has turned FHS and its student body from hopelessness, violence, and fear to belief, opportunities, and academic achievement, according to those with whom she has worked.

“It was described as a throwaway school,” Simmons said. “Almost the entire school was involved in riots, with a total of 14 identified gangs.”

Though threatened and harassed by teachers to leave, she accepted the challenge at Furr and took 32 of her gang members and nine members of the student council to Ground Zero in New York City, a trip she said resulted in the students learning to make peace with one another and giving the school a chance to move forward.

“We have shown respect to the students, and I get to know them in order to find out what needs they have,” she said. “I meet their parents, and we all work together as a team.”

For her efforts, Simmons was recognized earlier this year with the SHSU College of Education’s “Distinguished Educator of the Year Award” as a “Friend of Education.” She previously has been recognized as the Texas State H-E-B Secondary Principal of the Year; with the American Association for Retired People’s “Ethel Percy Andrus Legacy Award;” with the KHOU’s “Schools Now Apple Award;” and is a past recipient of the “Young Audiences of Houston Fredell Lack Award for Integrating the Arts in Education;” among many others.

She is also active within the Houston community and has presented a number of professional presentations, including serving as a discussion leader for SHSU’s Elliott T. Bowers Honors College fundraising event “Let’s Talk!” this year.

Anton Vincent

Anton VincentAnton Vincent has found the recipe for success as a “powerplayer” for the General Mills Corporation, where he currently is president of the frozen foods division.

The Jackson, Miss., native and 1987 graduate was recruited to SHSU as a full-scholarship athlete for the Bearkat basketball team, a team that won the 1986 Gulf Star Conference championship, finished the year ranked No. 2 in the country, and was one of the top seeds in the NCAA Division II national basketball tournament. While at SHSU, Vincent was active in academic and student life, leading the Eta Mu chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., as its president.

Following his graduation from SHSU, Vincent moved to Dallas, where he worked for Fidelity Investments and MCI Telecommunications, which led to a move to its world headquarters in Washington, D.C. He left MCI to pursue his Master of Business Administration degree in marketing from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and eventually was recruited by the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies, choosing to begin his career at General Mills.

During his early General Mills career, Vincent quickly progressed through a variety of marketing leadership assignments but left the company in 1998 to lead an investment group on an entrepreneurial venture. Upon his return to General Mills in 2000, Vincent entered into the mergers and acquisition group that executed the $10 billion acquisition of The Pillsbury Company. He was named corporate vice president in 2006.

Since that time, he has served as vice president of marketing for the snacks division and the baking products division, becoming that division’s president in 2010. Earlier this year, Vincent was appointed president of the newly formed frozen foods division, where he is responsible for more than $2 billion in retail sales and the profitable growth of iconic brand franchises such as Green Giant, Pillsbury and Totino’s.

An active member of the General Mills community, Vincent was a founding member of the renowned Black Champions Network, the company’s largest employee affinity group. In 2009 Vincent received the company’s highest distinction, the Champions Award, for business impact, and in 2011 he received the Vanguard Award for his volunteer work.

Among his most notable accolades include the 2006 Diversity MBA Magazine ‘Top 50 Under 50,” 2008 Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s “Minority Corporate Executive of the Year,” 2011 Black Enterprise “Top 100 in Marketing and Advertising,” and also in 2011 was awarded the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Centennial Award for Business Leadership at its 100 Year Celebration. Earlier this year, Vincent was enshrined in the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Academy of Alumni Fellows.

Outside of his executive duties, Vincent dedicates much of his time to board work, philanthropic efforts, and educational initiatives.

Vincent and his wife, Lindy, are the proud parents of three young children and reside in Minnetonka, a suburb of Minneapolis.

Siddharth “Sid” Keswani, Outstanding Young Alumnus

Siddharth KeswaniSid Keswani has been recognized not only for his rapid climb within the Target Corporation but for his dedication to his community.

Keswani earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SHSU in 1994 and later returned to college to obtain his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Though he joined the Target Corporation just a year after earning his undergraduate degree, he rose through the ranks and held several leadership positions, including district team leader and group vice president, before becoming a senior vice president for the Target Corporation, all within six years.

As the senior vice president of Target stores, Keswani is responsible for the financial performance of more than 450 stores located in the southeastern United States.

A dedicated and active community leader and volunteer, his experience with Target and his work with the communities in Target’s southern region, has led to an understanding of the importance of being a good neighbor and developing long-lasting relationships with those in the community, according to his nomination form.

Because of that work, Keswani has taken active roles in both the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, as a board member and volunteer engagement chair, as well as with the Good Samaritan Inn of Collin County, as a volunteer.

“He is passionate about building better tomorrows for future generations,” his nominator said.

In addition, in an effort to encourage students to pursue their dreams of a college degree and a successful career, he has participated in summits and symposiums at both Texas A&M University and the University of North Texas, speaking to students on various retail- and consumer-related topics.

“An exemplary and well-rounded gentleman, Sid has played a major role in encouraging the success of future generations with his involvement in The United Way and the Good Samaritan Inn,” his nominator said. “His accomplishments reflect his dedication and his commitment to SHSU, to which he contributes his success. Sid is truly an asset to Sam Houston State University.”

Keswani lives in Allen with his wife, Leila.



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