bg-speaking-engagementsNext Friday (March 22), the University of Texas at Tyler Alumni Association will recognize five graduates at its Alumni Gala. Among those being honored will be PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña, who earned a master of science in clinical exercise physiology from UT Tyler in 1998. Joining Peña among those honored as distinguished alumni will be Dr. Kenneth Hall, S. Glynn Roberts and The Honorable Bryan Hughes. Deborah Tinsley will be honored as the Distinguished Service Award recipient.

Peña, a Texas native whose faith-and-fitness brand (www.prayfit.com) has spawned two DVDs, a book, hundreds of media placements and the endorsement of several prominent celebrities and athletes since 2008, was humbled by the news.

"I've read their letter a few times. It said, 'Thank you for your talent, your accomplishments and for bringing attention and value to your alma mater through your life.' Through your life. Not throughout my life, but through it — within it, inside it. Reading it the first time was rough, but re-typing it was even tougher; talk about humbling and undeserved. In that moment, I wished I had been a better student.

It’s easy to think of Heaven on days like this. We’ve accepted an invitation we don’t deserve, to celebrate a reward we didn’t earn. You know, if we’re allowed to reminisce about earth as we sit at Heaven’s table, I know for certain that I’ll wish I had been a better Christian, a stronger witness, and a closer follower. What could I have done with my life, my words, my thoughts, and my health for the Lord? Oh, but grace. Thankfully like the old hymn says, we’ll 'turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face. And the things on earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.'

Long story short, I can't wait to see faculty and friends that meant so much back then and still mean so much to me today."

Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves in their professional achievements, contributions to society and support of the university. An ‘Alumni and Friends’ Reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 22 at the UT Tyler Ornelas Activity Center. The dinner and program will follow. For more information or to attend, call 903.566.7316 or email alumni@uttyler.edu.