Alumni Association Award Honorees 2019
These alumni were recognized for their accomplishments during Homecoming & Family Weekend alongside Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Michael Lucksinger ’74
Nominated by John Barajas hs '62, 66
The 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award belongs to Michael Lucksinger, an alumnus from the Class of 1974 whose personal and academic revelations at St. Edward’s University prepared him for a lifetime of achievement and service to others.
When asked about receiving this award, Michael recalled the most transformative experiences he had as a student. For example, he says the Holy Cross characteristics of community, diversity, and respect broadened his perspective immeasurably. “St. Edward’s was my first true exposure to people with different cultural backgrounds,” he says. “From that came the value of connecting with people personally, and not just superficially.”
Michael recalls a humbling memory – but important lesson – from his exposure to people from all walks of life. He says, “I grew up in a predominantly white, middle class community. Our Catholic parish was very small, and when I was growing up in the 1950's and 1960's, segregation of cultures and races was the societal norm.” That norm changed completely when he arrived at St. Edward’s and joined the Men’s Baseball team.
“One of the players had a Hispanic surname,” Michael recalls. “I assumed he was Catholic, and I also assumed that he spoke Spanish. But neither was true. My teammate was very understanding and not offended by my assumptions, but that day, I learned a very valuable lesson about seeking to truly know others. I will never forget that lesson.”
Michael says that participating in Athletics was a valuable experience. “From success at the youth level, athletes often advance – and encounter athletes who are better, stronger, or more talented,” he says. “To meet that challenge, you have to engender within yourself a deeper personal resolve. Learning to create that resolve within yourself can benefit you in many ways in other parts of your life.”
The resolve and resilience he learned guided Michael toward his academic and career goals: to become an honors student and to be accepted at a major law school.
While earning his Accounting degree with magna cum laude distinction at St. Edward’s University, he was recognized by the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants for excellence in accounting. He then realized his goal of acceptance at a major law school. Michael earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and has since gone on to become a licensed Texas attorney, licensed Certified Public Accountant, licensed escrow officer, and an approved attorney for major title insurance underwriters.
The title insurance agency he founded with partner Wade Hutto in 1979 has grown from one office with two employees to more than forty employees in five offices. Michael also operates his private law practice, which he started in 1996.
He has more than thirty years of experience working as a business, estate planning and real estate attorney in central Texas, but Michael says his proudest accomplishment is guiding his three sons to become strong, caring men. He is father to Daniel, Jon and Ross.
Michael’s desire to help shape future generations is informed by a strong Catholic faith. “There is a power and need for spirituality in all we do as humans,” he says. Michael experienced that power through the university’s faith-based education and its personal approach to students. He says his freshman year Economics Professor, James Koch, demonstrated this power in a meaningful and lasting way.
Michael says, “I was acing all my courses, but Economics just wasn’t clicking for me. I was failing the course and the final exam loomed over me. I went to Professor Koch with my dilemma. I didn’t know what to expect from the meeting, but I thought I might be dressed down for not being smart enough to handle the material, or for not studying hard enough.”
But Professor Koch’s warm understanding transformed Michael’s challenge into a new opportunity. He says that Koch told him, “Forget about taking the final exam. Go to the registrar’s office and drop the course. That way, you’ll get an ‘incomplete’ instead of a bad grade. Then, next year: come back and sign up. By then I think you’ll be okay.”
Re-taking the course during his sophomore year, Michael says that it all clicked and he aced both semesters. For today’s students, Michael advises, “Don’t get discouraged if some part of your studies doesn’t click with you at first. That’s why you are at St. Edward’s – to figure it all out and, most importantly, to engage wholeheartedly with your professors and with any problems you may be experiencing in your journey.”
Michael shares his advice and experiences as a mentor for pre-law students at the university. He also serves on the Gift Planning Advisory Council, which helps donors to plan philanthropic gifts that realize their goals while also advancing the Holy Cross mission on the Hilltop.
Michael himself has given generously to support future generations. He’s established The Michael Lucksinger Endowed Scholarship and regularly donates to priorities such as the Main Building Project, the university’s most critical annual needs, Hilltopper Athletics, the Hilltopper Harvey Emergency Fund, and more.
The Catholic, Holy Cross values that Michael seeks to share with future generations are also part of his family’s history. His uncle, Ravelle, is a university alumnus from the Class of 1928; his father, Thomas, graduated from the now-closed St. Edward’s High School in 1933; and his brother, Thomas S., also earned his high school education at St. Edward’s, graduating in 1959.
The Alumni Association is proud to present its Distinguished Alumni Award to Michael Lucksinger in recognition of his accomplishments and service to others.
Alumni Achievement Award
Kyle Ballarta, MBA ’11
Nominated by faculty within The Bill Munday School of Business
Kyle Ballarta MBA ’11 turned a life-changing injury into an opportunity to explore new paths toward his greatest purpose. While studying music at Walt Disney’s California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Kyle was hospitalized for two months after suffering an injury to his lungs.
“I was slowly witnessing my life’s passion of playing music slip through my fingers. This challenge made me do some soul searching: Why did I have this passion to play music? What was the deeper calling that I was drawn to?”
Kyle’s contemplations led him to a new calling: entrepreneurship. He completed his music studies and came to St. Edward’s for a graduate education in business.
“St. Edward’s equipped me with knowledge and vocabulary in Business that empowered me to reconcile my passions, creative curiosities, and my penchant to create. The University met me where I was on my journey (a musician with no business experience), allowed me to listen to my heart, and gave me intellectual nurturing that would prepare me for a world of infinite possibilities.”
Kyle has since explored those possibilities – both professional and personal – and turned them into realities through his deep commitment to humankind.
He says, “I have been fascinated with this meditation: ‘[A] cure without care makes us into rulers, controllers, manipulators, and prevents a real community from taking shape. Cure without care makes us preoccupied with quick changes, impatient and unwilling to share each other’s burden.’”
Kyle says, “My professional accomplishments are by-products of this constant pursuit to love with my heart’s fullness, to use my talents and gifts as stewardship, and to create a cure with care. It is my constant pursuit to be guided by this compass.”
Following this compass, Kyle has participated in the creation and innovation of products and systems that help improve the world. He was part of the founding team of LifeProof, the consumer electronics company that grew from three to three hundred employees in just three years. Kyle also founded Falkon Ventures, for which he is the CEO. In this role, Kyle supports tech innovations that help solve global challenges.
He co-founded a drone management system called Citadel, which works with NASA, the Department of Defense, and other groups; and as co-designer of a cooperative currency RMT, Kyle envisioned a globally scalable renewable energy market which is sponsored by the Nobel Sustainability Trust.
Kyle describes all of these accomplishments with remarkable humility, saying, “The Holy Cross mission reminds me every day that our work and the things we create can be our stewardship to the world. It can be a powerful tool to contribute to our neighbors and our world. It’s a way to share love, kindness, and light where it is most needed.”
Kyle’s contributions to the world also include volunteer and service positions. He participates in the Founding Patron Council for Humanity 2.0 in collaboration with the Vatican and works weekly in the food pantry at St. Vincent De Paul. He also recognizes a special calling to come back to St. Edward’s.
“The university created an experience and environment that contributed to my life. It is my hope that all the things I learn and discover throughout my lifetime will be shared with others. I hope that those discoveries may be built upon, re-molded, and evolved by others, so that my contributions may play a small but significant role in a cascade of exploration and discovery that will live beyond my short time on this earth - St. Edward’s and its students is a good place to start.”
Kyle is investing his own knowledge and experience in the minds and hearts of today’s Hilltoppers. He serves on the Advisory Board for The Bill Munday School of Business and has worked as Adjunct Faculty in Innovation and Disruption Management for the School’s MBA program.
Along with the discoveries that Kyle has made in his educational, professional, and volunteer pursuits, he says family and friends have sparked immense personal growth and enlightenment. “Marrying my wife, Veronica, and expecting our baby boy, Sebastian, has been such a wonderful learning experience,” says Kyle. “It’s taught me the love that I’m capable of. Marrying my soulmate and having a baby together teaches you to love in ways you never knew existed before.”
Looking to the future, Kyle embraces the infinite possibilities that come with uncertainty. “My life has been faced with uncertainty a number of times. From the time I was in the hospital not knowing if I would be able to breathe again, to the time when I thought my life as a musician had ended, to the uncertainties of building a venture. What I have learned is that it is in the uncertainties that new beginnings and real discovery can occur. It is in challenges that we are forced to look at the world differently, to search our souls to new depths.”
Kyle’s commitment to the Holy Cross mission and his tremendous accomplishments make him the ideal Alumni Achievement Award recipient.
Alumni Service Award
Alicia Warriner ’03
Nominated by Susan Loughran, Professor Emerita, School of Arts and Humanities
Alicia Warriner ’03 says that her biggest strength as a leader and mentor is her readiness to change. “If we only do what makes us comfortable, we miss opportunities to thrive,” she continues. “Change is inevitable. I adapt to whatever circumstances I am faced with and always remember to enjoy life.”
She also urges others to embrace themselves for who they are, particularly those who feel that they may not fit in. “My best advice is to be yourself. I used to feel that I needed to hide my outgoing, bubbly, theatrical personality, but I learned early on that those qualities make me who I am! I am unique, accepted and loved.” Alicia credits her time at St. Edward’s for instilling in her a commitment to building a community of mutual respect, a concept that to her means “helping others see that they matter.”
Alicia graduated in 2003 with a degree in Theatre Arts. When recalling her most formative experiences on the hilltop, Alicia is quick to talk about the terrorist attacks on September 11th. “I immediately drove to campus. Classes were cancelled, but none of us cared. We all wanted to be together, and all of our professors wanted to stay with us as well. At the time, I was in rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet, which we all showed up to even though those were canceled as well. We watched news coverage together, prayed and gave each other hope for the future. To me, this shows how inclusive St. Edward’s is — our education produces students who understand problems and collaborate on solutions.”
Alicia’s dedication to fostering a vibrant, inclusive community is clear through her service to St. Edward’s. Since her first time volunteering in 2008, she has played an active role in increasing alumni engagement and giving. “When I first started, it was very difficult to get alumni to attend events regularly. Despite getting help from Alumni and Parent Programs staff, I really had to be creative given my limited resources and living so far away from the Hilltop in New York City.” But Alicia still managed to help the NYC chapter thrive, and continued to serve as a chapter volunteer when she moved back to Austin. “We now have the largest number of alumni donors in years,” she says. “I’m so proud to see Hilltoppers making a difference in the community and in the world. It brings me tears of joy.”
In addition to her involvement with Chapters and serving as the Alumni Association Board President, Alicia has also volunteered as an Admission volunteer, Online Ambassador, and Career Network Adviser — often referring employers to the Career and Professional Development Department to hire students and alumni. She has attended countless alumni events all over the country, and shows support for her fellow Hilltoppers by participating in as many of their creative and entrepreneurial endeavors as she can. “My work in the alumni community helps me make lifelong friendships, and that’s what inspires me to give St. Edward's my time, talent and treasure.”
Susan Loughran, Professor Emerita, School of Arts and Humanities, says that she nominated Alicia for the 2019 Alumni Service Award because of her significant and far-reaching contributions to the community. “One morning I walked over to Ragsdale and found Alicia giving out donuts and coffee to students, exuberantly wishing them a great day, and putting in a little plug for the Alumni Association,” remembers Professor Loughran. “Another time, I volunteered to represent the Alumni Association at a graduation event. When I got there, there was Alicia — smiling, congratulating students on their graduation, and encouraging them to remain engaged as alumni.”
In her professional life, Alicia is a Project Manager for High Performance Teams (HPT) Development, an Austin-based, incubator-like company that provides business consulting and angel investment to startup companies in the Talent Management, Training & Development and Performances Optimizations space. There, in addition to her other responsibilities, she also publishes resources for The HumanCurrent podcast and manages their Pinterest account. In her spare time, Alicia volunteers as a freelance choreographer, and is currently working with St. Stephen’s High School and The Christian YouthTheatre to design their production dance routines.