A terrorism fighter, diversity researcher, champion diver, and noted mentor are some of the fastest-rising stars to have emerged from The University of Texas.
Lee Bagan, Rich Reddick, Laura Wilkinson, and Ben De Leon have been named the latest Outstanding Young Texas Exes.
Here are some of the most impressive stats on each of these under-40 wunderkinds:
• Lee Bagan, BA ’05, MA ’07, is a Middle East and Central Asia specialist with the Naval Special Warfare Command, where he advises on tribes, history, cultures, religions, geopolitical dynamics, and insurgent groups. The 27-year-old’s military colleagues consider him their “no-bull resident academic,” affectionately calling him “Professor.”
Despite a reading disability, Bagan learned to speak Arabic, Persian, Tajiki, and Hebrew at UT. And starting with a cardboard sign and a cup on the Drag, he raised $26,000 for an endowment to benefit students who suspect they might have learning disabilities, allowing them to get the diagnostic testing they need.
• Ben De Leon, BA ’01, BS ’01, JD ’04, Life Member, is VP and managing partner of the law firm of De Leon & Washburn, P.C. There, the 33-year-old both performs general civil practice and litigation and undertakes much pro bono legal work.
Outside his work as an attorney, De Leon has mentored a Pflugerville boy, Anthony Saldana, since 2006—and he encourages others, especially Hispanic men, to mentor too. Out of 250,000 mentors nationwide, De Leon was chosen the “2009 National Big Brother of the Year” by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. He and Anthony were honored at the White House.
• Richard Reddick, BA ’95, Life Member, coordinates the M.Ed. program in College and University Student Personnel Administration within the College of Education. The 36-year-old assistant professor brings “an energy and liveliness to campus like no other,” friends and colleagues say.
After graduating from Plan II with countless awards and honors, Reddick taught inner-city students through Teach for America. He went on to earn a doctorate from Harvard. He researches on diversity in higher education, the sociocultural adaptation of African-American families, and more.
• Laura Wilkinson, BS ’01, is a platform diver who started the 2000 Olympics in Sydney in eighth place and with a broken foot—yet went on to win gold. She became the first American woman to win gold in 10-meter diving since 1964.
After Wilkinson also took home the World Championship in 2005 and the World Cup in 2004, she became the first woman in history to win all three coveted world titles in platform diving. And yes, the 34-year-old has even graced the front of a Wheaties box.
The 2012 Outstanding Young Texas Exes will be honored during Commencement weekend in May.