Celebrating Islander Alumni Honorees

An extraordinary group of Islander alumni are being recognized and awarded following their continued acts of philanthropy, professionalism, and Islander pride.

Alumni Ed Cantu '81, Joey Carson '89, and Kristina Leal Jewasko '16, were selected as the 2021 Alumni Award Honorees. It’s a recognition traditionally bestowed during the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Alumni Honors Banquet where the titles of Outstanding, Distinguished, and Young Alumni are presented to the recipients with friends, family, and colleagues in attendance. As a result of an unprecedented winter storm, the banquet was canceled, though this year’s honorees will be recognized alongside a new class of distinguished alumni at the 2022 Alumni Honors Banquet.

Distinguished Alumnus—Ed Cantu '81

Distinguished Alumnus Ed Cantu '81 poses with Sierra Priest '18 at a commencement ceremony.

Honored with the Distinguished Alumnus award, Ed Cantu earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and has owned Ed Cantu Insurance Agency and Financial Services, a top-performing, award-winning company, for 36 years. Fellow Islander alumnus and colleague Pat O’Boyle '86 says it is Cantu’s passion for the Island University that truly stands out.

“From the days he walked these halls as a student, to the great business leader he’s become, this university has molded him into the person he is today,” O’Boyle said.

Known as “Mr. Islander,” Cantu has worked continuously through leadership roles in multiple agencies and organizations to give back to the university, including roles as immediate past president of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi National Alumni Association, immediate past-chairman of the Leadership Corpus Christi Alumni Association, and chair-elect of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Athletic Fund, along with numerous local boards and committees. He is also a best-selling author.

“Ed is shakas up in every aspect of his life,” O’Boyle said. “He’s active at this university because he knows it will
benefit future generations. He’s brought so many people to the Island. He’s mentored so many students, and even provided jobs for them post-graduation.”

Cantu has created numerous opportunities for students through internships, scholarships, and mentorship as part of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Islander Mentorship Program.

Outstanding Alumnus—Joey Carson '89

Outstanding Alumnus Joey Carson '89. Carson (second from right) and his team at ELEVATOR Studio present at a live event.

Honored with the Outstanding Alumnus award, Joey Carson earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and has spent the last 25 years as a leader and innovator in the media and entertainment industry. He is the current CEO and president of ELEVATOR Studio. Carson’s colleague Dan Fleyshman says it’s his creativity and tenacity that has made him a role model.

“I believe Joey embodies the Islander spirit,” Fleyshman said. “He has played a vital role in the success of ELEVATOR Studio and has enabled us to harness our entrepreneurial vision and bring us to the next level as a major force in digital marketing.”

As a pioneer in reality television, Carson’s television credits include multiple productions for networks, including MTV, HBO, A&E, FOX, ABC, NBC, Oxygen and the multi–Emmy-Award-winning documentary “Autism: The Musical.” Carson also sits as a board member for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and serves as a member of the Hollywood Radio & Television Society, the Youth Mentoring Collection, and the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islander Mentorship Program.

“Joey has continuously supported our employees as a mentor and educator—much like he does for students at
TAMU-CC today through the mentorship program,” Fleyshman said. “His selfless service and mentorship are evidence of his loyalty and respect of the profession.”

Carson currently donates to multiple organizations within his local community, including Model Citizen—an organization that provides backpacks to the homeless in Los Angeles. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he expressed excitement and interest at the chance to host an Islander Alumni Dinner Series, along with interest in helping with podcasts, panel discussions, and classroom presentations within the College of Business.

Young Alumna—Kristina Leal Jewasko '16

Young Alumna Kristina Leal Jewasko '16 distributes Thanksgiving meals to people in the community.

Honored with the Young Alumna award, Kristina Leal Jewasko earned a master’s degree in public administration before setting her sights on helping those in need as a Corporate Giving Manager for H-E-B. Former professor and mentor Toby Futrell says it was Jewasko’s articulate and compassionate character that defined her as a true “steel magnolia.”

“Kristina is so kind and supportive in nature, but she’s also intellectually curious which makes her a great problem solver,” Futrell said. “Real leaders have empathy, they care about the work, they care about the people, and she’s got all of that in spades.”

Named as one of the Young Business Professionals of Corpus Christi Under 40, Jewasko served on the Women’s and Men’s Health Services Board of Directors, the Toastmasters Aqua Vitae Chapter Executive Board, the Incarnate Ward Academy Alumni Advisory Council, and the Junior League of Corpus Christi Christmas Tree Forest Committee.

Jewasko works with multiple statewide nonprofits such as March of Dimes, Feeding Texas, and the United Way of Texas. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Jewasko aided front-line healthcare workers by providing meals to COVID floors, emergency rooms, and hospitals across the state. She also helped pilot a new coupon program for nonprofits, sponsored by H-E-B, to distribute fresh foods to those in need. As an H-E-B employee, she planned and
executed Thanksgiving box distributions and helped Hurricane Laura victims in August 2020.

“Kristina is proud. She’s proud of her university and proud of her hometown and she carries that with her wherever she goes,” Futrell said.

Jewasko is a regular attendee at Islander Alumni events and has served on the National Alumni Association Board of Directors, donating to scholarships and other university programming. In fall 2019, she also assisted alumni relations staff in revamping the Islander Alumni Houston Chapter.