Michael M. Watkins came to Keystone as a 6th grader in the fall of 1972, and graduated from the school in 1979.
At Keystone, Watkins was very involved in campus activities and clubs. He was a National Merit Finalist, the treasurer of his class, was a member of the National Honor Society, a part of the Future Scientists of America, the French Club, and chairman of the Student Council.
After graduating, Watkins headed to the University of Texas where he earned a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering. He has published in both engineering and science, contributed more than 100 conference presentations, and serves or served on the boards of numerous international scientific and engineering societies. In addition, he has taught estimation, filtering theory and system engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and at Caltech.
Watkins, an engineer and scientist, was on staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for 22 years leading some of NASA’s most high-profile missions, including the Mars Curiosity Rover’s operations, the Cassini, Mars Odyssey and Deep Impact probes. He also led the science development for the GRAIL moon-mapping satellites. He last served as manager of the Science Division and chief scientist for the Engineering and Science Directorate at JPL.
In 2015-16 he spent a year at the University of Texas at Austin, where he held the Clare Cockrell Williams Chair in Engineering and was director of the university’s Center for Space Research. Watkins is a pioneer in the development and use of gravity data in science applications. As director of CSR, Watkins has led research teams that study space geodesy, the Earth and its environment and exploration of the solar system. The center develops and uses remote sensing data that is important for understanding the climate, weather forecasting, agriculture, improving models of the Earth’s gravity field and environmental assessments.
On July 1, 2016, Watkins returned to JPL as Director of JPL. In this role he also serves as a vice president of the California Institute of Technology, which staffs and manages JPL for NASA.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented to an Alumnus whose life’s journey embodies the spirit of Keystone’s mission. By encouraging academic excellence and responsible leadership in both his continued dedication to the fields of engineering and science and his advancement in leadership positions, Michael M. Watkins has provided an example of meeting this mission for both his peers and Keystone students of today.
2014-2015 Distinguished Alumna
Carolyn Brown Langenkamp came to Keystone as a freshman in the fall of 1964, and graduated from the school in 1967.
At Keystone, she felt that it was okay to be smart and “kind of nerdy.” Carolyn was a cheerleader and participated in “On the Spot,” a local televised scholastic quiz show. She was the president of the National Honor Society, a part of the Future Scientists of America, the Latin National Honor Society, the Junior Classical League, and more. While she and her friends found time to walk to the pharmacy for chats and sodas, she excelled in math. Reflecting on her experience, she notes that “Math was my thing and I adored my math teachers. They were smart and they pushed us to cover difficult material.”
After graduating as Valedictorian, the National Merit Scholar headed to Rice University on a full scholarship as a Mathematics Major. It was there that she had an experience with discrimination that would point her towards a career as a civil rights trial lawyer. A math professor urged all the women in the math program to drop out because he did not want to waste his time on students who would most likely become elementary education majors. Ms. Langenkamp decided to transfer to Simmons College, where she majored in sociology and philosophy. She received a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of California at Riverside, and her Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University of California at Davis.
During the 60’s, she was a student activist promoting Civil Rights, peace, and the feminist movement. Ms. Langenkamp became a civil rights trial lawyer, focusing on employment discrimination on behalf of women and minorities. Over the last 35 years, Ms. Langenkamp has brought to court early sexual harassment cases on behalf of women seeking protection. She has also worked on early gay rights cases and tried to establish same sex couples’ rights, a precursor to today’s marriage equality cases. “I feel like my whole career, I have been privileged to represent people who ordinarily would not be heard, but wanted to speak up, be heard, be respected, and experience the protections that are guaranteed in our Constitution,” Carolyn states.
In her law practice, Ms. Langenkamp practices labor and employment law on behalf of unions and employees, conducts neutral workplace investigations, acts as an expert witness in employment and legal malpractice matters, and serves as a discovery referee in federal and state court matters. Ms. Langenkamp is also a California Teachers Association Group Legal Services Attorney. Carolyn said “My time at Keystone prepared me to believe in myself, to trust my intelligence, help me set goals, and to know that I had a place at the table, that I counted, and that I mattered.”
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented to an Alumnus whose life’s journey embodies the spirit of Keystone’s mission. By encouraging academic excellence and community involvement in both her continued dedication to the practice of law and her efforts to represent those without a voice in order to better the community, Carolyn Brown Langenkamp has provided an example of meeting this mission for both her peers and Keystone’s students of today.
Dr. Carmen Tafolla, 2013-14 Distinguished Alumnus
2013 - 2014 Distinguished Alumnus
Carmen Tafolla came to Keystone as a ninth grader in the fall of 1965, and graduated from the school in 1969.
She gained many of the skills and attitudes that she credits for preparing her for the vibrant creative and intellectual life she leads today. As a student, she was elected to the Student Council, and was a member of the Spanish Club, and the Russian Club. When asked about the elements of her experience at Keystone that most impacted her life, Carmen recounts, “it was the courage of Coach Eargle to depart from the textbook (in science class) and to say it wasn’t correct. He showed an intellectual freedom that set the tone for creative exploration.”
Dr. Tafolla was one of the recipients of Keystone’s largesse (a scholarship program). Upon graduating Keystone, she was awarded scholarships from Texas Lutheran University and Austin College, where she earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees. In 1973, Dr. Tafolla became the first Chicana faculty member to direct Chicano Studies at Texas Luthern University. She was also the head writer for a bilingual television show for children. In 1982, Dr. Tafolla received her Ph.D. in Bilingual and Foreign Language Education from the University of Texas.
Dr. Tafolla’s literary career emerged from her scholarly work. Her efforts have taken her into all forms of writing. Her first book was published in 1976. She has authored over twenty books, including five books of poetry, works of fiction, books for children, and recently, her grandfather’s memoir. Her pieces have also appeared in more than 200 journals, anthologies, textbooks, magazines, and newspapers. The variations in her efforts reflect one of the pieces of advice she offers for others who aspire to write professionally, “be wary of the genre, because you are going to cross them or create new ones.” An additional tenet by which she works, stemming back to her time with Coach Eargle, is that “creativity comes from freedom, and creativity requires space.”
In 2012, Dr. Carmen Tafolla was honored as the first ever Poet Laureate of San Antonio. When asked about her appointment as San Antonio’s first Poet Laureate, Dr. Tafolla states, “to be the first is a real honor. It allows me to set the bar high for what it means. A poet laureate is of the community. It is about honoring the city, not the poet.” To this end, Tafolla has always been an advocate for promoting, celebrating, and connecting diverse cultures. In fact, in recognition of her efforts to bridge cultures, in 1999 Dr. Tafolla was awarded the Art of Peace Award for contributing to peace, justice and human understanding.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented to an Alumnus whose life’s journey embodies the spirit of Keystone’s mission. By encouraging academic excellence and community involvement in both her continued dedication to the written word and her efforts to use writing to better the communities she inhabits, Dr. Carmen Tafolla has provided an example of meeting this mission for both her peers and Keystone’s students of today.
Dr. Gary Cox, 2012-2013 Distinguished Alumnus
2012-2013 Distinguished Alumnus
Gary W. Cox came to Keystone School as a sophomore in the fall of 1965, and graduated from the school in 1968.
As a student at Keystone, Gary was an active participant and leader in many activities. His classmates elected him class president as a junior, and as a senior he served as Chairman of the Student Council. He was a member of National Honor Society, Future Scientists of America, Mu Alpha Theta, Spanish Club, and The Lettermen’s Club. Perhaps most fitting, Gary was named “Mr. Keystone” his senior year.
Dr. Cox was also part of the early stages of the now iconic science fair program, becoming the second student to represent Keystone at the International Science and Engineering Fair, for his project entitled:
A Comparative Study of Muscle Control to Dental Caries
This project revealed an early affinity for Gary’s eventual field of study and employment, for following his years at Keystone, Dr. Cox attended Trinity University, and then Baylor College of Dentistry, where he received his Doctorate of Dental Surgery.
In his professional life, Dr. Cox served with the U.S. Army for 23 years, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He operated a private practice upon his retirement, and was known for his graciousness and willingness to serve his patients, often coming in on weekends and holidays to see patients who relied upon him.
In addition to serving the community through his work, Dr. Cox has devoted his time, energy, and personal resources to many causes in the San Antonio area. Among these, he is been President of the Medina Lake Betterment Association, and a member of the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. And, importantly, Dr. Cox has served four terms on the Board of Trustees of Keystone, and, in his capacity as the President of the Alumni Council, has been the alumni representative to that body since 2007.
As President of the Alumni Council, Dr. Cox has continually worked to re-connect alumni with their school, and to promote all things Keystone in both the alumni and the San Antonio communities. He has served the Board unflaggingly, bringing his gentle disposition and passion for the institution he loves to both Board meetings and events on campus. In 2012, Dr. Cox presided over the first meeting of the newly formed alumni council. Thanks to his perseverance and dedication, this committee rose from a concept and became a reality, and the School and the collective alumni body will undoubtedly be the better for its existence.
Given Dr. Cox’s unparalleled commitment to Keystone, it is fitting that he is the first alumnus to be honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. By providing sustained leadership to the alumni program and through his involvement in myriad community initiatives, and by always striving to grow personally while exhibiting the highest ethical code, Dr. Gary Cox has embodied the mission of Keystone School.