The young professional community of Austin packed into the JW Marriott Saturday evening for the 18th annual Austin Under 40 Awards. The gala honored the city’s emerging talent in an awards ceremony featuring over 70 hard-working nominees. During the evening, 15 winners were recognized for not only their career achievements but also for their significant contributions to the community.
The prestigious title of Austinite of the Year was bestowed to lawyer Austin Kaplan. Kaplan is the founder and managing attorney at Kaplan Law Firm, which focuses on employment and civil rights issues. He represents clients on a wide-range of matters including breach of employment contract, discrimination, wage and hour violations, marriage equality, and much more. Kaplan is also president-elect of the Austin Young Lawyers Association and serves on the board of directors for the Central Texas Anti-Defamation League.
During the evening, when he also received the legal category award, Kaplan told a heartbreaking yet inspirational story about a same-sex couple who were denied a marriage license in Granbury. He informed the audience that the couple — his clients — won their case, which granted them their marriage license and sued the Hood County clerk for breaking the federal law. Kaplan was close to tears as he wrapped up his acceptance speech, displaying to those in attendance how passionate and dedicated he is to his line of work.
The 2016 Austin Under 40 winners are as follows:
- Arts, Media, and Entertainment: Ghislaine “Qi Dada” Jean, Riders Against the Storm
- Community Service and Nonprofit: Dr. Teresa Granillo, Con Mi Madre
- Culinary Arts and Hospitality: Josh Hare, Hops & Grain
- Engineering, Architecture, and Design: Stephen Delgado, Texas Engineering Solutions
- Entrepreneurship and Startup: Chelle Neff, Urban Betty Salon
- Financial and Insurance Services: Blake Absher, BB&T
- Government and Public Affairs: Holly Deshields, McGuireWoods Consulting
- Legal: Austin Kaplan, Kaplan Law Firm
- Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations: Joy Schoffler, Leverage PR
- Medicine, Healthcare, and Life Sciences: Sujit Iyer, Dell Children’s Medical Center
- Real Estate: Patrick Ley, Equitable Commercial Realty
- Sports, Wellness, and Fitness: Ashley Spence Clauer, Wanderlust Yoga
- Technology and Science: Amir Husain, SparkCognition
- Youth and Education: Michelle Wallis, Austin ISD
- Mentor of the Year: Mitchell Jacobson, UT Austin
The annual celebration benefits the Young Men's Business League Sunshine Camps, which send thousands of low-income, high-potential children to summer camp with a focus on STEM, life skills, and outdoor education, as well as the Young Women’s Alliance Foundation, which provides academic scholarships to young women in Central Texas.
You can see the full list of nominees here.