The honorees will be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments and significant contributions toward furthering the excellence of Texas Tech University.
The Texas Tech Alumni Association (TTAA) will honor three graduates as the 2016 Distinguished Alumni of Texas Tech University at a reception and dinner at 6 p.m. Friday (Feb. 26) at the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
The honorees are Mark Lanier, Class of 1984; Laura Nieto, Class of 1995; and Jaston Williams, Class of 1971.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed to alumni by the TTAA and the university. The award recognizes and honors alumni who have made significant contributions to further the excellence of Texas Tech through outstanding accomplishments, careers and/or through extraordinary measures of service. The evening includes a reception, dinner and a program featuring video biographies highlighting the life of each honoree.
Nominations are accepted from members and friends of the Alumni Association and Texas Tech faculty and staff. Attendance at Texas Tech is a requirement to be eligible for nomination, although receiving a degree is not necessary. Distinguished Alumni are selected by a committee composed of alumni and university officials.
Lanier graduated in 1984 with a juris doctorate from the Texas Tech School of Law. He is the founder of The Lanier Law Firm, with offices in New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Palo Alto, California. An attorney, author, teacher, pastor and expert storyteller, Lanier has earned international recognition as one of the country's top trial lawyers based on courtroom battles involving some of the world's largest companies. Described as one of the decade's most influential lawyers by The National Law Journal in 2010, Lanier continues to support his alma mater, serving on the Law School's Foundation Board. In 2006, he and his wife, Becky, donated $6 million to the school for the creation of the Mark and Becky Lanier Professional Development Center.
Nieto graduated from Texas Tech in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Media and Communication. She serves as senior manager of community affairs and grassroots at Southwest Airlines. Nieto has a passion for and expertise in community outreach to diverse audiences and has formed a powerful team that develops strategic relationships with key constituencies and national leaders with various segment audiences. She is a member of the company's Diversity Council, a fellow of the National Hispana Leadership Institute's Executive Leadership Program and was recently named to the Top 25 Latino Leaders list.
Williams is a Texas Tech alumnus from the College of Visual and Performing Arts. A playwright, performer, writer, teacher and West Texas native, Williams is best known for his performances in the “Greater Tuna” series. Williams continues to use his talent to entertain with hilarious yet insightful portraits of his characters. His work with the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research at Texas Tech led to the creation of the BurkTech players, a performance group composed of Burkhart students and Texas Tech students who work collaboratively to present public performances.