Plenty bleed burnt orange, but few can say that blood has run in their family for nearly 130 years. Flash forward, and these fifth-generation students now walk the same Forty Acres their great-great grandparents did.
Whether it’s due to sports, academics, or prestige, UT has become part of the glue that holds the Puetts, the Kelleys, the Cleggs, and the Thompsons together, a tradition unbroken by ever-more-selective admissions requirements or tempting scholarships from OU and A&M. So will the tradition continue on to a sixth generation in these clans? “Either my sister or I will have to send our kids to UT,” says Kevin Clegg, a current senior. “There has to be a sixth generation!”
The Puett Family
An honorary fifth-generation family, the Puetts have a claim to fame that the other families don’t: their first Longhorn, Thomas Moore Harwood, was on the first Board of Regents that formed the University of Texas in 1883, starting a long line of orangebloods and—in true UT fashion—football players. Harwood’s son, Nelson Puett Sr., played quarterback in 1911 and 1912, and was later inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame. His son, Nelson Puett Jr., BBA ’49, Life Member, followed in his footsteps, scoring a winning touchdown in a match against A&M in 1938. A picture of him diving into the end zone can be seen at the AT&T Conference Center today.
While Nelson Harwood Puett, Life Member, the third of the Nelson Puetts, nixed UT in favor of a football scholarship at a smaller school, his wife, Caroline, Life Member, attended and helped raise their daughter, Callie, as a little Longhorn. Callie, now an applied learning and development senior, also carries on the football tradition—except instead of suiting up in pads, she prefers a cheerleading uniform.
“UT meant a lot to my grandfather, and it was special for me to say that I continued that lineage,” Callie, a four-year UT cheerleader, says.
When she first moved to the Forty Acres, Callie’s father gave her a puzzle to solve: find the cornerstone with Thomas Moore Harwood’s name etched into it on the UT campus. After extensive research, she finally discovered it on a wall of the Main Building and experienced what she calls “a very powerful moment.”
The Puetts are proud to be part of the Longhorn family—and not just their own. While on a fishing boat in the Grand Caymans this summer, the family discovered a UT flag flying in front of a house.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been to a place where someone wasn’t wearing Longhorn burnt orange,” Nelson Harwood Puett says. “It’s great being part of such a world phenomenon.”
The Kelley Family
Five generations may be impressive, but what if three of those Longhorns graduated with a 4.0? That is the case with the Kelley family. When William Gilbreth Barber III, LLB ’54, followed his father and grandfather’s lead to UT, he started an academic tradition of excellence that his daughter, Mary Beth Kelley, BA ’81, and his granddaughter, Kathryn Kelley, BA ’09, worked hard to live up to—and ultimately achieved.
That’s not to say the Kelleys are all work and no play. Paden, currently an English junior, landed a spot on the Texas football team, much to his family’s delight.
“We cried the whole game the first time he ran out in a UT jersey,” says his mom, Mary Beth.
A longtime Longhorn fanatic, Paden jumped at the chance to play in burnt orange when Mack Brown made the offer. Soon after, he quickly took his father, Scott Kelley, BA ’83, up on an entirely different offer.
“When Paden was 8, he asked my dad, ‘If I end up playing football for the Longhorns, can we get matching tattoos?’” Kathryn says. “My dad said, ‘Sure, of course,’ not thinking that Paden would remember 10 years later.”
But he did, and Scott, Paden, and Kathryn have the ink to prove it. Each has a tattoo of Bevo, but with their own personal touches. Kathryn added her brother’s number, 70, in his own handwriting to her Longhorn ink.
Texas football has long been the connective thread between the surviving generations. From a roadtrip to the 2005 Rose Bowl to the 14 season tickets the family currently holds, it’s no wonder Paden couldn’t imagine playing for anyone else. Growing up, every gift at Christmas was Longhorn memorabilia, and creating a Longhorn inspired tree—they once creatively used lights to make it look like the Tower—a yearly tradition.
But Kathryn, an English and UTeach graduate, almost missed the chance to continue the family legacy. A self-proclaimed rebel, she grew up uninterested by The University of Texas and hoping to go out of state.
“My parents told me, you can go to college anywhere,” she says. “But the money’s going to UT.”
And now she’s glad she did. With the help of a UT professor, Kathryn landed a teaching job in the Austin area—surrounded by her close-knit Longhorn-loving family.
The Clegg Family
“Some men drink, some men chase women. Mel just loves the Longhorns.” That’s how Charles “Mel” Melville Miller’s wife described his obsession with anything UT-related. The son-in-law of Frank Lee Berry, who attended UT in the 1890s, Mel became the main Longhorn glue in a long line of Cleggs when he attended in the 1920s and later went to work for the University.
“He was a Longhorn fanatic,” his daughter, Beth Lynn Clegg, says. “He never got into the extreme, like orange underwear. But there were definitely orange slacks.”
Mel created a porch UT shrine that remains vivid in the minds of his daughter and his grandson, Patrick Clegg, BBA ’84, MBA ’86, Life Member. Everything was orange and white—including the picnic tables, the picket fence, and the burnt-orange Pontiac station wagon in the driveway.
It’s no wonder that Mel’s children and grandchildren fell in love with the University. Patrick applied exclusively to UT, thinking that his father’s fanaticism was just part of life. After graduating, Patrick invested in season tickets to the football games, but nowhere near the 100 tickets Mel purchased each year for friends and family.
Patrick’s two siblings, Leslie Clegg Rodgers, BA ’75, and Theodore Nelson, BA ’77, attended UT too, and Patrick sent his children to the Forty Acres to become the fifth generation in the Longhorn line. Patrick and his wife, Beth Ann, BBA ’85, Life Member, have two children at UT so far. Kevin, a senior mechanical engineering and Plan II Honors major, chose to follow his UT lineage to Austin, despite receiving full rides to A&M and OU.
Kevin admits that while he loves being on the Forty Acres, it allows little space.
“I see my family almost too much in the fall,” he laughs.
While his parents enjoy visiting both Kevin and his sister Laura, a nursing sophomore, in Austin, Patrick acknowledges his kids’ experiences at UT have been vastly different from his own—in a good way.
“UT feels a bit more open and friendly these days,” Patrick says. “My kids know people far beyond a narrow group of friends. I didn’t really have that.”
The Thompson Family
The Joe C. Thompson Conference Center on campus establishes the Thompsons as dedicated Longhorns. After his father, John Philp, attended and played for the first UT football team in the 1890s, Joe C. Thompson, BA ’22, BBA ’22, Life Member, sought to make an impact, joining the Board of Regents in 1960 and becoming the very first Life Member of the entire Texas Exes organization.
Joe’s son, John Philp Thompson, BBA ’48, Life Member, made his own mark at the University, serving as the football manager for the Longhorns and, much later on, becoming a Distinguished Alumnus. John Philp Thompson Jr., Life Member, remembers when he applied to UT back in 1979.
“It wasn’t hard to get into at that time,” he says. “Applications were only one to two pages. Nothing like the application process today.”
Now John and his wife Diane, BS ’84, Life Member, have three children attending UT. Twins John and Caroline are seniors, both involved in the Greek system—John following in his father’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Texas Cowboys footsteps, and Caroline joining her mother’s sorority, Pi Beta Phi. Though not usually competitive, the twins felt a bit of uneasiness between them while waiting for their UT acceptance letters.
“She got her acceptance letter a month and half before I did,” John says. “It was definitely a bit nerve-wracking waiting for mine.”
Younger sister Lauren, a sophomore, learned to love the University long before she started visiting her older siblings at college.
“UT has made me who I am today; the traditions and connections that my parents had from going here were passed down to my brothers, sister, and me,” she says. “I would love for my children to someday attend UT and have the same experiences and opportunities that I do.”
Crawford Thompson, a sophomore in high school, already has his eyes on the University, wearing a Longhorn shirt to class near-daily. With three siblings in Austin, Crawford and his parents often grab a bite at Dirty Martin’s, the family’s Austin haunt, and catch a football game.
“We love seeing the next generation of Longhorns and reconnecting with our generation,” Diane says. “So many of our UT friends have children who are now friends with our children—the generations have become one!”
Lin Quan Chun:
look at all these salty parents....
I still have to shake my head at what's happened at my alma mater. Wasn't eliti...
Sharron Sue Radney Lichtenberger:
There is a lot more to this story that isn't told....
The University of Texas system was founded like other land-grant institutions ac...
Mark L. Jackson:
This is nothing but window dressing....