Dental Hygiene Alumni of the Year Award

The Alumni of the Year Award recognizes a UT Health Science Center Dental Hygiene Alumni who has made a difference in the lives of patients or the community through effective patient/community management, education, patient care service, use of technology or any other innovative means. The recipient is honored during the luncheon at the Annual Alumni Day Program.

Award criteria:

  • Worked in the profession for 5 years
  • Professional Contributions
  • Nominee must be present to receive the award


If you are a licensed dental hygienist and would like to continue your education towards a baccalaureate degree, please investigate our Bachelor of Science Completion Program.

Alumni of the Year - 2011

Edia Diaz

Edia Diaz
Edia Diaz (left) pictured with Taline Infante, Interim Chair, Department of Dental Hygiene

Edia Diaz grew up in Roma, Texas, in a family of seven children with not much access to dental care. She prayed for a career where she could help people that were in need. Going to school while raising two young children was quite a challenge for her; however, she did not let that stop her. Her desire to give back was much greater. Edia was always concerned about doing well academically while in dental hygiene school so she held study groups at school, restaurants, or her home. There she mentored and tutored several students in various subjects. Often times, while traveling with the Christian Medical and Dental Association (a UT Health Science Centerstudent/professional association) on mission trips to Mexico, she would persuade her classmates to join her in serving the Mexican community. This service was of mutual benefit to the students because it allowed them to gain confidence in their dental hygiene skills and to experience the reward of serving others. While in school she was the recipient of the Irene Woodall award as well as the Outstanding Community Service award.

There was a time during this busy schedule while Edia was in dental hygiene school that her husband was deployed away from home for several months. Edia continued with her school responsibilities while caring for two young children and maintaining a household alone. She remains very active in her community as well as in San Antonio. She is currently a volunteer at Hill Country Mission for Health in Boerne, where she screens indigent patients in need of dental care. She is also involved in the Roy Mass Youth Alternatives/Meadowlands - a foster care facility, and at the Hill Country Family Services in Boerne. The Haven for Hope/Christian Dental Clinic in San Antonio is another of Edia's favorite outreach facilities. She has been faithfully serving there since graduating in 2001. She continues to travel along the Texas/Mexico border with the Christian Medical and Dental Association as a volunteer, working with others that have a desire to serve indigent communities by providing medical and dental care. She does all this, including working at a full time job, running a household, and helping her two children through college. Edia is also very active in her church and civic duties. As you can see, Edia Diaz is a remarkable woman and is very deserving of the 2011 Department of Dental Hygiene Outstanding Alumni Award. Congratulations, Edia!

LaDonia Carr Franke

LaDonia Carr Franke
LaDonia Franke (left) pictured with Taline Infante, Interim Chair, Department of Dental Hygiene

Upon acceptance to the dental hygiene program at the UT Health Science Center, LaDonia’s work for her profession began. Being a single mother, she was stretched to the limit for time to study and to care for her young son. Because of LaDonia’s strong will and determination, she was able to juggle schedules, go without sleep, make the grades, and have time for her young son. After graduating in 2000 with a certificate in dental hygiene, LaDonia began her career practicing in private dental offices. She shared her love and passion for her new profession with co-workers and patients.

As LaDonia gained experience in her profession, she wanted to increase her knowledge and expertise. In 2002, she returned to the Health Science Center to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene. It was then that she found a new niche in life and began teaching in the Department of Dental Hygiene. LaDonia has unbelievable rapport with the students, faculty, and peers. She has a wonderful way of relating to the students when teaching in the clinic. She always has a unique way of communicating and conveying the message being taught so that it is understood by the students. She continues to further her education by pursuing a master’s degree from Texas A & M University.

LaDonia also promotes the profession of dental hygiene through membership in the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA). She has attended the national conference and has been a faithful member throughout her career. In addition, she is the faculty advisor for the student organization of the ADHA at the UT Health Science Center. She has done an amazing job with the students, emphasizing the importance of being a member and involved in one’s professional organization. She is a remarkable role model for the students and stays very involved by helping them organize activities and promote their profession.

Additionally, LaDonia was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in October, 2009. She has been a true advocate for prevention and healthy living styles. She is an inspiration to all of us - students, faculty, and patients in the dental hygiene clinic. LaDonia has educated the faculty and students about the disease and has enabled them to treat patients more effectively with knowledge she provided. She has also been recognized by the American Diabetes Association for her fund raising efforts. LaDonia Carr Franke is an exemplary role model and has promoted the dental hygiene profession throughout her career. A well-deserved congratulations to LaDonia for receiving the 2011 Department of Dental Hygiene Outstanding Alumni Award!

Alumnus of the Year - 2009

Lilla Valles with Dr. Juanita Wallace

Lilia Valles, Dental Hygiene Class of 2001, received the award for Alumni of the Year for her work with dental patients with mild to severe mental disabilities. While in the DH program, Lilia was a single parent and cared for her fiancé after an automobile accident left him in a vegetative state. Lilia is shown with Nita Wallace, Dean for Faculty and Staff Development
Lilia Valles, Dental Hygiene Class of 2001, received the award for Alumni of the Year for her work with dental patients with mild to severe mental disabilities.  While in the DH program, Lilia was a single parent and cared for her fiancé after an automobile accident left him in a vegetative state.  Lilia is shown with Nita Wallace, Dean for Faculty and Staff Development and Dental Hygiene Department Chair.

Lilia was nominated by her fellow graduates.  In their nomination letter they shared several aspects of why they believed Lilia was a deserving recipient.  “Upon high school graduation, Lilia knew her heart was in dental health.  She was brought up in a home where reaching the community of El Paso was fundamental.  As a child, she remembers sharing her home with several special needs adults.   Her mother instilled in her heart that they were very blessed in many ways and that giving back to the community was very rewarding, especially lending a hand to those that were disabled. 

While Lilia was in hygiene school as a single parent, she not only raised her young daughter, tutored students in need, but also diligently cared for her fiancée whom due to an automobile accident was left in a vegetative state.  She assisted daily with his nursing care, rehabilitation therapy, as well as dental hygiene.  When he needed dental procedures, she took him to Dr. Shandley’s office where he was treated under general anesthesia for his comfort. 

Lilia worked for Dr. Shandley for over seven years as his hygienist.  His specialty is treating dental patients with mild to severe disabilities.  While working in this practice Lilia used the superb education and techniques she received in dental hygiene school.  She researched the literature constantly for new equipment, medications, and tools for her patients’ comfort and effective treatment.  She remembers being bitten on numerous occasions by children and adults with Down-Syndrome and many other mental disabilities.  However, her passion for this population never discouraged her to continue loving them and enjoying her career.”

Alumnus of the Year - 2008

Rose Gutierrez with Dr. Juanita Wallace

Rose Gutierrez (left), a 1987 UT Health Science Center graduate, receives the Alumnus of the Year Award in Dental Hygiene from Nita Wallace, Ph.D., R.D.H., associate professor and chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene. Rose Gutierrez, a 1987 graduate, adjunct clinical professor and longtime leader in the dental hygiene profession, was honored as the Alumnus of the Year. She is frequently praised by her students for her teaching techniques and has held many local and statewide leadership positions, including serving as president of the Texas Dental Hygienists' Association.

In his nomination letter, Chris Johnson, M.S., R.D.H., clinical assistant professor, noted: “Rose has demonstrated an excellence in clinical teaching that is of a seasoned professional. She currently works with the UT Health Science Center dental hygiene students who rotate through Rhoades Dental Clinic at Fort Sam Houston. Her teaching style not only communicates knowledge to students, but also develops in them the desire and skills necessary to continue lifelong learning. Rose is an excellent teacher as evidenced by the many laudatory comments she consistently receives on evaluations from senior dental hygiene students.”

Gutierrez noted that student and professional success can be taken to a higher level through service and mentorship. In her acceptance speech, she challenged alumni, faculty members, students and guests to accept the challenge. “Some people feel uncomfortable taking on a leadership role,” Gutierrez said. “ I think that sometimes we need that ‘push’ or ‘nudge’ from someone because we think that we do not have the time or skills.”
Mentors, she said, can encourage people to realize their full potential. She thanked Jan Smith, an active leader in the Texas Dental Hygienists' Association, for being her mentor for 20 years. “Someone once told me that it takes only 30 seconds to make a wrong decision in life. I would like to change that to say that it only takes 30 minutes to make an impact in someone’s life by mentoring them to become a leader, not just for the profession of dental hygiene, but a leader in life to wherever your road leads you.”
Nita Wallace, Ph.D., R.D.H., associate professor and chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene, said, “Rose has done a great job providing a good clinical education for our students. She also has set a terrific example for our students to become leaders and mentors in the profession, as she has done for more than 20 years in the local and state organizations of the Dental Hygiene Society. We are pleased to be able to honor Rose and to encourage our alumni to stay connected to the Health Science Center as clinical educators, mentors, community leaders and oral health care providers.”

Alumnus of the Year - 2007

Morris Stanley McManigal Jr.
with Dr. Juanita Wallace (l) and Dr. Marilyn Harrington (r)

Morris Stanley McManigal Jr.For his unselfish dedication and service to his profession, Morris Stanley McManigal Jr. of San Antonio recently was named Distinguished Alumnus of 2007 by the department of dental hygiene at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Young dental hygienists would do well to emulate Mr. McManigal. Originally a crash rescue specialist in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. McManigal entered dental care as a hygienist assistant in the Air Force in 1972. He enjoyed cleaning teeth so much that even when he was promoted to the position of first master sergeant with supervisory authority over a hospital, he continued to wear whites to keep working with patients.

He retired from the Air Force in 1992 after 26 years, and immediately became involved in professional and community service, including a term as president of the San Antonio District Dental Hygiene Society. He has served in many state-level appointments.

Mr. McManigal received a certificate from the Health Science Center’s dental hygiene program in 2001. “Stan was a first sergeant in the Air Force, and believe me, he was when he was here, too,” said Juanita Wallace, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of dental hygiene. “He was a student who questioned things, a very thoughtful learner and a very humble individual. He tutored people who would not be hygienists today were it not for him.” Mr. McManigal was honored during the department’s 12th annual alumni continuing education course.

Alumnus of the Year - 2006

Laura Stinson, RDH, B.S. (r) with Dr. Juanita Wallace

Laura Stinson with Dr. Juanita WallaceAfter graduation with her certificate degree in 1978 from UT Health Science Center, Laura enrolled at UTHSC Dallas where she completed her B.S. degree. During this time she worked private practice and taught as a clinical instructor at Tarrant County Junior College. She entered the corporate arena in 1993 with Warner Lambert. In 1997, she began a distinguished career with Hu-Friedy (top sales associate 2001 and 2005).

Despite the travel demands of her job and the personal demands of being a mother and wife, Laura has remained active in her professional association. She is a member of ADHA, ADEA, TDHA and her local component, Greater Forth Worth Dental Hygiene Society. Within these organizations, Laura served as a delegate for TDHA, an alternate delegate for ADHA and an officer for GFWDHA.

In addition, she has volunteered her time to many local efforts including the Arlington Dental Health Advisory committee, Girl Scouts of America and Numerous Health Fairs. Laura’s career is an excellent example of multiple opportunities offered to the dental hygiene professional. She has worked in private practice, education and the corporate arena. She combines her professional skills to excel in her current sales position, provide CE courses to her colleagues and service her community with regards to oral health. Laura is a n excellent role model for our profession. She has explored various dental hygiene roles and excelled in each endeavor.