Though much may divide them, UT and A&M alumni united this week to kick off their advocacy efforts at the Texas State Capitol.
Nearly 200 graduates from The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University gathered in Austin on Tuesday to commemorate Orange & Maroon Legislative Day, a biennial celebration of the joint mission of Texas’ top public research universities. Alumni from both universities visited all 181 legislative offices on Tuesday, visiting in-person with legislators and their aides to discuss a focused advocacy agenda that includes repairing last session’s deep cuts to higher education, promoting research, and investing in major new building projects at both universities.
The event was organized by the Texas Exes and the Association of Former Students. UT President Bill Powers briefed volunteers at a luncheon before their legislative meetings. Powers also led a delegation of alumni that included Texas Exes President John Beckworth and his A&M counterpart, David Heath. The delegation met with statewide officials, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus.
“This is setting the stage for a lot of work that we’ll do at the legislature,” Powers told the Daily Texan.
“This is setting the stage for a lot of work that we’ll do at the legislature,” Powers told the Daily Texan. “It helps to have not just me talking about it, or the A&M leadership talking about it, but the broad support of our alumni across the state.”
“We have a long history of rivalry in athletics, but this is all about how we’re alike,” Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin told the Bryan-College Station Eagle. “And we’re more alike than we are different.” Due to a last minute medical concern, Loftin was not able to attend.
Resolutions were introduced and passed by both chambers of the Legislature commemorating the day. Sen. Judith Zaffirni (D-Laredo), BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member, introduced the Senate version, inviting Senators with connections to the universities to weigh in—and even bestowing the “tacky award” to Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) for wearing maroon pants and an orange tie.
At a reception Tuesady evening honoring legislators, higher education officials, and volunteers, Sen. Zaffirini told the Daily Texan it was the “most successful” day in the history of the event. Zaffirini introduced guests and luminaries at the reception, including Texas A&M System chancellor John Sharp, who praised the hard work of volunteers and staff.
Texas Exes volunteer advocate Suzanne Gschwind, BA ’88, was impressed by how friendly and receptive she found the Capitol on her first Orange and Maroon Day trip.
“It was fun,” she said. “I’ll do it again.”
Listen to our podcast about Orange & Maroon Legislative Day here.
Above: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chairman Fred Heldenfels IV (l) and state Senator Kirk Watson of Austin (r). Photo courtesy Matt Valentine.
Learn more about Texas Exes advocacy efforts here.