Ahead of the Game: Honoring the 2017 Outstanding Young Texas Exes

This past October at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, before kickoff for what turned into a close and hard-fought victory for the Longhorns against Kansas State, a group of Texas Exes was already toasting to success. Over cocktails and gameday appetizers, about 75 Longhorns celebrated the achievements of four alumni who, as President Greg Fenves put it, “are changing the world a few short years after leaving UT.”

Now in its 37th year, the Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award recognizes Texas Exes who have made significant achievements in their careers and service to the university. To be eligible, a nominee must be 39 years old or younger on Jan. 1 of the year in which the award is presented. This year the honorees included a journalist, a surgeon, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, and a former chief of staff to the governor.

As diverse as this group’s experiences and careers now are, all four honorees also share one key thing: UT was a springboard for their success.

2017 Outstanding Young Texas Ex Amy Chozick, BA ’01, now a national political reporter for The New York Times and the author of an upcoming memoir from HarperCollins, found her footing as a reporter for the Daily Texan. “South By Southwest was such a small festival then,” she says. “People rolled out the red carpet for the Texan.” The Texan is where she discovered the thrill of a newsdesk, too. “I love this,” she remembers thinking. “The deadlines, the grittiness of print, and the camaraderie of putting out a paper.”

For Oscar Longoria, BS ’03, JD ’07, Life Member, Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives for House District 35, UT was where he learned to think outside of the box. “UT has this ‘it’ factor—nowhere else has it.” he says. “You deal with so many folks, so many different cultures. It prepares you for the real world.” Longoria was clearly prepared—he was recently appointed vice-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for the 85th Legislature.

Daniel Hodge, JD ’04, is also putting his Texas law degree to good use in public service, most recently as chief of staff to Gov. Greg Abbott, BBA ’81, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, a role he served in from January 2015 until this past October. Prior to that appointment, Hodge served as first assistant attorney general at the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Despite his impressive accomplishments, Hodge says winning OYTEX was an unexpected honor. “Never when I was going through law school, or applying and hoping to be a Longhorn did I imagine that anything like this would happen,” he says.

Dr. Sarang Desai, BA ’99, Life Member, shared a similar sentiment about being honored as an OYTEX winner. A former All-American powerlifter at UT, Desai is now an orthopedic surgeon and partner at OrthoTexas. “It’s humbling,” Desai says, “thinking of all the people that graduate and you selected me for this award. I’ve always felt that achievement comes from struggling. That’s when you find out the most about yourself. I’ve felt like I’ve taken that to heart through my life. This award is a great thing personally for me, but more so, like a lot of things in my life, it sets an example for my kids.”

From left, Dr. Sarang Desai, Oscar Longoria, Daniel Hodge, Amy Chozick. Photo by Matt Wright-Steel.

 
 
 

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