Texas Exes France Chapter Cheers on the Horns Halfway Around the World

At 7:34 p.m. in Paris on Oct. 6 it was a near-certainty that almost everyone in the city was oblivious to the tense Red River Showdown playing out nearly 5,000 miles away in Dallas. But along the river Seine, just a five-minute walk away from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, around 40 Longhorns were packed inside The Great Canadian Pub for the Texas Exes France Chapter’s game watch—their eyes glued to the screen as Cameron Dicker prepared for the 4th-down field goal in the final minutes of the game.

As the game-winning kick soared between the goal post, the bar erupted into “Texas Fight.”

“The whole place was vibrating,” says chapter president Anna Marie Mattson, BA ’75. “That game was the highlight of our year and, watching it together, it felt like hope came back.”

Thirteen years after she and her husband first moved to Paris, Mattson founded the The Texas Exes France Chapter in 2003. After meeting up with other American university expats in the city, Mattson saw how their alumni groups helped them find a community far away from home.

She already knew of several Longhorns in Paris and knew that others often passed through during their travels, so she got advice from chapters from universities like Princeton and Stanford and started up the group. When she started planning events, she knew that game watches would be a must for Longhorns halfway around the world from their team.

Years ago, The Great Canadian Pub became their go-to location, with the manager even reserving a screen for them when France was competing for a rugby championship. These events typically include alumni living in or traveling through Paris, but this year they were joined by a group of UT architecture students studying abroad for the fall semester.

Architecture senior Collin Stack said after his roommate told him about the event a few hours before kick-off, they all made plans to head down to the pub. As a lifelong Longhorn fan, it was hard not being able to watch the games in person, especially as the team started to rack up wins. But as they stepped into The Great Canadian Pub, Stack says they were welcomed by Longhorns from across the world.

“I felt right at home with a bucket of Budweisers, plate of chicken wings and my fellow Longhorns,” Stack says. “I can remember all of the big moments of the game, but nothing was bigger than when Cameron Dicker stepped up with a game-winning 40-yard field goal.”

While it’s the game watches that bring everyone together, the group also attends cultural events around the city and participates in service projects. For the second year in a row, the chapter will be writing letters to injured soldiers at the American Military Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, not far from the French border. “We’ve just been doing this project since last year, but I’m hoping it becomes as much of a tradition as our game watches,” Mattson says.

The project is personal for Mattson, whose father and uncles all served. As she got to work planning the Texas Exes Chapter, she also began working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

This year, that meant she participated in the Centennial Ceremony at the Suresnes American Cemetery marking the WWI Armistice by acting as a flag bearer for the 80th Division to honor two of her uncles who served in France during the war.

“It was an honor and a privilege to be there,” Mattson says. “For me, I thought about my uncles who were fortunate enough to come back, but many of their buddies didn’t.”

The ceremony also allowed her to honor the service of fellow Longhorn Lt. Albert MacDonnell, BS ’1912. MacDonnell served in the 91st Division of the Army and was one of the 116,000 American casualties of WWI. Prior to the service, Mattson, acting as a representative of the American University Clubs of France, coordinated to place a donated wreath on MacDonnell’s grave.

“As I learned more about Lt. MacDonnell and his service, I was so moved,” Mattson says. “He died a month after the war from his battle wounds, so to know that he suffered and didn’t make it is tragic. But to be able to honor him is something I’ll never forget.”

 
 
 

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