Trinity Awards Nine Outstanding Alumni
The annual award ceremony returned for 2021 Alumni Weekend
Thursday, December 16, 2021
Eight alumni in formal attire, standing in a line and smiling with the alumni reward they have received.

Following a year of online events, the 2021 Alumni Award Ceremony took place in-person during Alumni Weekend. Trinity University bestowed its highest awards upon notable alumni for their professional and personal achievements. Meet the winners of this year’s alumni awards.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The highest award presented by the Trinity University Alumni Association. Recipients have distinguished themselves through personal and/or professional achievement. 

Aisha Sultan is a nationally syndicated columnist and award-winning filmmaker and features writer. Her work has run in more than 100 publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and The Atlantic. She has won several national honors, including the Asian American Journalists Association’s “Excellence in Written Journalism” award for her coverage of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. The Society of Features Journalism recognized her commentary as among the best in the country.

Sultan’s work explores social change with an emphasis on education, families, and inequality. As a news reporter, her investigations uncovered financial scandals, brought light to the unjust detention of a Senegalese religious leader, and gave a voice to underrepresented communities. She was awarded the Knight Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the impact of technology on family life. She has also written and produced award-winning narrative and short films, hosted a podcast, and spoken at a number of conferences and universities. 

Sultan is currently a staff writer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and an adjunct professor of college writing at Washington University. She is also the proud parent of a current Trinity student. 

 
 
Outstanding Young Alumni Award 

Honors young alumni whose achievements in their chosen field and/or in service to the community set a standard of excellence worthy of recognition by the University and the Alumni Association.

Portrait of alumni reward recipient, Bene Eaton, smiling and wearing a blue top.

As the head of marketing at Nike in New York City, Bené Eaton leads a team of more than 45 world-class marketers. She is a steward of industry-leading campaigns and oversees key external relationships across sponsorships, partnerships, leagues, and athletes. She is part of Nike’s North America Marketing Executive Leadership Team and mentors 10 direct reports. 

Formerly, Eaton served as Ralph Lauren’s vice president of global brand marketing. There, she was responsible for developing and leading brand strategy, creating 360-degree integrated campaigns, and ensuring consistency and synergy across all regions and marketing channels. She also served as the senior lead of brand management at Under Armour in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Eaton grew up in San Antonio. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity, where she majored in communication and speech communication and minored in business and communication management. She also holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Houston. Eaton currently resides in New York City with her husband, Dr. Kevin Eaton ’09, their one-and-a-half-year-old son, Wilder, and their dog, Huxley. 

 
 
Spirit of Trinity Award 

Presented to a loyal alumnus/a who embodies what it means to be a Trinitonian. The award recognizes exceptional service to the community or University. Recipients make significant contributions to volunteer or professional organizations, demonstrate the attributes of Trinity’s liberal arts education, and exhibit creativity, purposefulness, and a commitment to improving the quality of their community. 

Philip A. (Phil) Wetz graduated from Trinity  University in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and went on to earn his MBA from Tulane University in 1975. In the same year he started a nearly 34-year career with ExxonMobil, where he initially worked in the finance and marketing functions, but went on to spend the majority of his career in the company’s public affairs (PA) function. In his last two assignments, he was the global PA manager for the company’s chemical business and then the production function.

Following his retirement in 2009, Wetz has derived great joy from engaging in a wide range of volunteer activities including: serving as a hospital lay chaplain for 11 years; participating as a chaperone on 20 church youth mission trips; teaching 4th/5th grade Sunday School; serving on his church’s Session; becoming a Stephen Minister and a Stephen Leader. Wetz has also served on various Regional Alumni Club leadership boards and currently serves as a highly engaged member of Trinity University’s Board of Visitors.

Wetz and his wife, Linda, were married in the Marguerite B. Parker Chapel during Wetz’s graduation weekend by Rev. Raymond Judd ’56. They have been blessed with two daughters and a two-year-old grandson.

 
 
Fraternity and Sorority Life Alumni Advisor of the Year 

Honors outstanding service to a Trinity University fraternity or sorority by an alumnus/a who has served in an advisory capacity. Award criteria are simple: significant interaction and support of the undergraduate members of a fraternity or sorority organization.

Karla Hagen Phillips is a graduate of the Class of 1992 and a proud member of Gamma Chi Delta. She is a sales professional with extensive corporate training experience and currently serves as the associate director of athletic and affinity group giving and engagement at Trinity. Phillips credits her early career success as a direct result of the leadership skills she gained as a student leader within Greek Life. Phillips served as an alumna adviser for Gamma Chi Delta from 2011-14.

Working with student leaders brought her great fulfillment and eventually led to Phillips returning to Trinity as a staff member in 2018. Phillips lives in San Antonio with her husband Lorne, her son Luke, and her daughter Grace.

 
Tower 5 Award

Recognizes young alumni who serve as an example of how to successfully transition from students to alumni. Recipients have found success in their profession and maintain a positive and engaged relationship with the University and alumni community.

John Burnam is the co-founder and principal of Burnam | Gray, a nonprofit and social impact consulting firm based in San Antonio. In 2020, Burnam | Gray was officially certified as San Antonio’s first B-Corporation. Burnam’s work focuses on programs and outcomes evaluation, operational assessment and management, brand and identity development, strategic communications and marketing, governance, public policy and political campaigns.

Burnam has a bachelor’s degree from Trinity and a master’s degree from Vanderbilt, and he is currently pursuing a master's degree in international development from the University of Edinburgh. Burnam was recognized by the San Antonio Business Journal's "40 under 40" in 2016, was a member of the 2014 class of Leadership SAISD, and is currently serving as a democratic precinct chair. Burnam and his wife Niki are passionate advocates of the foster and adoption community and officially adopted two of their three daughters in 2019. They currently live in Mahncke Park, San Antonio with their two seven-year-olds named Molly and Sophia, five-year-old named McKayla, and cats named Aristotle and Archimedes.

Sarah Causer is an international education specialist committed to helping institutions internationalize their campuses. As a dual citizen of the U.S. and England, Causer has always been passionate about travel and education. She currently works on the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship at the Institute of International Education. Causer completed her bachelor’s degree in international economics with minors in art and German at Trinity. She went on to receive a master’s degree in international education from George Washington University.

Her international experience includes studying abroad at Cambridge University, completing an archaeological training in York, and participating in faculty-led courses in Vietnam, Cuba, and Germany as a TA. In her free time, Causer works as a manager at Bernhardt Winery and assists American Councils in reviewing international high school applications. Causer is committed to giving back to Trinity through serving on the Trinity University Alumni Association Board and volunteering with the admissions office. Causer is thrilled to be back in the Houston area with family, friends, and her 6-month-old puppy, Gambit. She enjoys rooting for the Astros and cheering on England’s Three Lions and Liverpool FC. 

As director of communications for the San Antonio Parks Foundation, Libby Day works to integrate environmental resilience with dynamic, accessible programming and entertainment, uniting communities in their outdoor spaces. In 2011, Day co-founded SATX Music, a media and  event-management company committed to supporting San Antonio’s music scene. She completed the Trinity University Alumni Leadership Academy in 2018, and currently serves as a board member for the AM Project and as secretary for the San Antonio Trinity University Alumni Club. She graduated from Trinity in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and environmental studies. An energetic doer who prioritizes integrity and community investment, Day is committed to building innovative experiences that strengthen San Antonio and the Trinity community.

Ender Ergun currently serves as the manager of enterprise applications for Information Technology Services at Trinity University. As such, he resides in the nebulous, exciting intersection of technology and higher education. His love of both worlds was heavily influenced by his coursework at Trinity, with distinct memories of communication professor Althea Delwiche’s "Hackers in Popular Culture" and art professor Ritson’s "Material Matters" courses. He received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity and went on to earn a master’s degree from Boston University in 2016.

Mitchell Hagney grew up in New Hampshire and was recruited to Trinity to compete on the debate team, which qualified for the national championship during his first year on campus. Transitioning from a focus on debate to a concentration on agriculture, Hagney helped start Trinity's community garden and studied abroad in Costa Rica. After graduating, Hagney started LocalSprout, a hydroponic farming company, which later created a Food Hub for caterers, manufacturers, and food trucks to share space with ranchers and farmers.

Hagney joined a nonprofit, the Food Policy Council of San Antonio, and was later elected as its president. Under his tenure, the organization has made meaningful progress reducing food insecurity through initiatives such as the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, Big Fresh Market Box, and a soon-to-come food forest in a flood plain on the Southside of the city.

Matilda Krell '23 helps tell Trinity's story as a writing intern for Trinity University Strategic Communications and Marketing.

You might be interested in