In the latest victory for sports fans frustrated by the Longhorn Network’s limited coverage, the channel announced this week that it will be picked up by DISH Network—putting it in front of some 12 million total viewers.
A partnership between the university, ESPN, and Disney, the network has broadcast burnt-orange content (including, we must shamelessly mention, the Alcalde show) since 2011. The process has come with significant growing pains as the network struggled for space on cable providers, with a major breakthrough coming last August when it was picked up by Time Warner.
“We are excited to have DISH join the growing list of LHN providers,” athletics director Steve Patterson said in a release. “As we have said from day one, this is a long-term commitment and we are very proud of our partnership with ESPN.”
The DISH deal doesn’t take effect until this summer, but when it does, it will more than double the network’s reach to roughly 12 million subscribers, said ESPN spokeswoman Gracie Blackburn.
With reporting by Rose Cahalan
For the past quarter-century, the Austin Technology Incubator—a startup hub based out of UT’s IC² Institute—has been quietly chugging along at the Pickle Research Campus in North Austin, helping new companies get off to a good start by providing office space, connections to investors, and other forms of support. Now the university has run the numbers to see how the incubator is affecting Austin, and the results are heartening.
According to a report released this week by UT’s Bureau of Business Research, the Austin Technology Incubator has created 6,520 new jobs and generated $880 million in economic benefits for Travis County in the last decade. The report, which relied on company surveys and economic modeling software, also estimated that more than $20 million in local tax revenue has come out of the incubator.
“The impact has been darn high,” says senior research scientist Jim Jarrett, who led the report. “ATI is a tremendous investment for local governments in terms of what they’re getting back.”
Of the 53 companies that have graduated from the tech incubator in the last 10 years, 39 are still in business, according to the report. Jarrett adds that the report may even underestimate the incubator’s benefits: “Of those 14 [defunct] companies, we weren’t able to measure their impact from the years when they were in business,” he says.
Among the incubator’s success stories: Molecular Imprints, a lithography company soon to be acquired by photo giant Canon; Spredfast, a social media marketing company that recently raised $32.5 million; Ideal Power, a clean-energy venture that went public last year; and many more.
Read the report in full here.
Photo by Marsha Miller courtesy The University of Texas at Austin.
The legendary magician and escape artist, who lived from 1874-1926, captivated the world with his death-defying capers, from wriggling out of a straitjacket underwater to breaking out of a coffin six feet underground.
He was also a scrapbooker. Houdini and his fellow magicians pasted photos of themselves and their peers, descriptions of favorite tricks (like “The Vanishing Horse”), newspaper stories, advertisements, and other miscellanea into books for safekeeping. In 1958, the Ransom Center acquired 10 of Houdini’s scrapbooks, some of which were created by other magicians before they came into Houdini’s possession. And last November, the center put them online for all to see. Visitors can flip through the scrapbooks in high resolution—we could practically smell the musty scent of yellowed pages.
The scrapbooks shed new light on the golden era of magic, when Houdini’s stunts drew audiences numbering in the thousands. As Not Even Past’s Charley Binkow writes:
This collection gives us a comprehensive understanding of what these magicians thought valuable; everything they saw as important or nostalgic or innovative they preserved in these books. We can track their love of magic across a century and see the dynamic ways in which the field changed, in many instances by the collectors themselves. Almost every page of this collection bleeds an infectious love for the world of the supernatural and is well worth exploring.
Explore the scrapbooks here (and make sure to click on “Page flip view” to seem them in all their glory).
Page from “Magician’s Doings,” a scrapbook created by magician Harry August Jansen, then acquired by Houdini. (Harry Houdini Papers and Magic Collection, Harry Ransom Center).
The McCombs School of Business knows a thing or two about investments, and so do its benefactors, who have made major investments in the school’s newest building. The University announced a new $5 million commitment today from Bob and Marcie Zlotnik, founders of Houston energy company StarTex Power. The gift will benefit the construction of Robert B. Rowling Hall, the next home of UT’s graduate business program.
Bob, BBA ’75, MBA ’80, and Marcie, BBA ’83, Life Members, are contributors to what administrators hope will be a $58 million total by March. The new building is named after former regent Robert B. Rowling, BBA ’76, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, who kicked off the campaign with a $25 million donation last year. Once construction is finished in 2017, the ballroom connecting the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center and Rowling Hall will be named in the Zlotnik family’s honor. Two of the Zlotnik’s sons, Kevin and Mitchell, are current McCombs students.
The construction of Rowling Hall may spell the end for Players, a burger joint and longtime campus hangout that reached a 10-year deal with the University in 2012 that gave UT the power to terminate the restaurant’s lease with six months’ notice. UT would have to pay $100,000 for each year remaining on the contract.
The existing McCombs School buildings will be renovated with the help of a major donation from Jim Mulva, BBA ’68, MBA ’69, Life Member, and and his wife Miriam Mulva, and will be collectively renamed James J. and Miriam B. Mulva Hall.
Photo via the McCombs School on Twitter.
Just as we were steeling ourselves to endure the annual onslaught of pink hearts, saccharine clichés, and Hallmark marketing known as Valentine’s Day, a little something different landed in our inbox.
It’s called “Less Than One,” and it’s a short film and web quiz created by Arturo Perez Jr., BS ’06, with fellow Radio-Television-Film grads Drew Daniels, BA, BS ’08; Joel Sadler, BA ’10; James Tristan Moore, ’08; and Hillary Andujar, BS ’09.
The understated, wistful five-minute film follows a melancholy young couple as they debate the concept of soulmates and calculate the odds of finding theirs. After watching the film, viewers answer a series of questions—from what city you live in to how much physical attractiveness matters to you—before the site produces a value for “the number of people perfect for you” near your city. (Ours, for the record, hovered around a respectable 1.41.)
Perez says the project was inspired by a 2009 This American Life podcast in which a few Harvard physicists try to mathematically calculate the odds of finding a compatible partner. Rights to that specific story have since been optioned by Disney, according to Perez.
“The podcast started my girlfriend and me talking about whether soulmates exist or not,” he says. “She thinks they don’t exist, and I think they do. It’s one of those topics everyone has an opinion about. Is there ‘the one’ out there for each of us or not?”
Soon the question was starting dozens of argument among Perez and his filmmaker friends, who collectively scraped together $5,000 to shoot the short film in San Francisco. Perez’s girlfriend, Samantha Jayne, plays the unnamed woman.
“We didn’t make this film to sell anything or to say that there’s one right answer to the question,” Perez says. “We just wanted to get people thinking. If you believe in soulmates, maybe the statistical side of it will change your perspective a little bit. Or if you’re on the other side and you don’t believe in ‘the one,’ maybe the film will make you rethink your position.”
Perez is now at work on a feature-length film loosely based on the first online dating website.
Watch the movie below, and then take the quiz:
Last week, we brought you the news that Benjamin McPhaul, BA ’11, was raising money to help Ishmael “Junior” Mohammed Jr., the former cashier who earned a loyal campus following for his sense of humor and speed at the cash register of Wendy’s in the Union. McPhaul started a Gofundme.com crowdfunding page after running into Junior near campus and learning that he is homeless.
Over the weekend, Longhorns posted hundreds of comments on the fundraising page wishing Junior well. “Even when it was a hard day at UT, coming across this man really made my day,” wrote one. “One of the best people I met during my college career,” said another.
But by this week, all that positive energy had given way to a more cautious optimism as the complexity of the situation set in. McPhaul, who said he has met with Junior several times since Friday, sounded weary when we reached him yesterday. (Through McPhaul, Junior declined a request to be interviewed for this story.)
“Junior is scared for his life right now,” McPhaul said. “All the publicity has been a double-edged sword, because the donations could be a really good thing, but they could also potentially be a really bad thing. Other people in the homeless community are angry with Junior and he isn’t safe on the streets.”
McPhaul also said he doesn’t know whether Junior is ready to accept help. The Daily Texan reported this week that Junior “referenced alcohol multiple times” and said, “I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do.”
“We keep setting up meetings for him with social workers and other professionals, but then he doesn’t show up,” McPhaul said. “We got him a cell phone and he lost it. At this point I’m not even sure he wants help, but we aren’t giving up yet. As a last resort, I would refund everybody’s money, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that.”
LBJ School of Public Affairs professor Pat Wong, who studies social welfare, poverty, and housing, says the challenges Junior may be facing are not uncommon.
“There are approximately 2,000 or so homeless people in Austin,” Wong said. “I think many people don’t know there are three homeless populations—homeless families, transient young adults, and the chronic homeless, and each has very different needs and circumstances … I think that $30,000 is a significant amount that could make a dramatic difference if Junior is willing.”
Benjamin McPhaul, left, and Ishmael “Junior” Mohammed Jr. Photo courtesy Benjamin McPhaul.
Update 2/12: Read our follow-up story on the Junior phenomenon here.
For 14 years, Ishmael Mohammed Jr.—more commonly known as “Junior” or simply “the Wendy’s Guy“—was a beloved campus icon. Now he’s reportedly fallen on hard times, and one Texas Ex wants to help him get back on his feet.
Junior worked the cash register at the Wendy’s in the Union from 1998-2012. His incredible speed—he broke the world record for most fast-food transactions (246) in 30 minutes—astounded all who met him.
And Junior’s inimitable sense of humor could bring a smile to the face of even the shyest student. Among his signature phrases: “Touchdown, baby,” “Let’s kick ass!” and “Junior puts the fast in fast food.” He was even the subject of a documentary by Stephen Stephanian, BA ’07.
In 2012, Junior announced he was leaving Austin to move back to his hometown of New York. That was the last we’d heard of him until Thursday night, when Benjamin McPhaul, BA ’11, says he spotted Junior on the West Mall.
McPhaul says he and his fiancée had just left a Cactus Cafe show when a man asked them if they could spare a few dollars. “It took me a moment, and then I knew it was Junior,” McPhaul says. “He told me his mom had died and that he was homeless.” McPhaul wasn’t carrying any cash, but he says he offered to buy Junior a meal, which he declined. Then they went their separate ways.
McPhaul wanted to do more to help. So this morning he set up a page on Gofundme.com and spread the word on social media. In five hours, he’s received more than $3,500 in donations. He hasn’t gotten back in touch with Junior yet, and he’s not sure how or when he will. But McPhaul says when he does, he’ll keep us updated.
“I want to make sure the money goes to help him better his life,” McPhaul says. “He’s a great guy and it just makes sense to help him. He made going to Wendy’s really fun.”
An employee who answered the phone at Wendy’s in the Union this morning said only that she had not heard from Junior.
Over the years, misplaced rings have turned up everywhere from the Caribbean Sea to the green hills of New Zealand—and still managed to make it home.
The latest ring reunion happened last weekend. Ashlyn Beard, BA ’01, was lucky enough to get her class ring back after an honest soul spotted it at the Ron Carter auto dealership in Alvin, Texas.
In June, Beard and her 5-year-old daughter visited the dealership to trade in their car for a new truck. During the deal, the car salesman accidentally cut Beard’s daughter’s foot while opening the car door. As any mother would, Beard immediately dropped everything and rushed her daughter to the ER for stitches. The ring was lost in the chaos.
Seven months later, Sergio Gallardo, a former mechanic at the dealership, found the ring on the ground between two cars. He showed it to his friend Marissa Gonzalez, who called the Texas Exes for help. Receptionist and class ring wizard Pat Spradlin—who has reunited dozens of lost rings with their owners during her 16 years at the Alumni Center—then worked her magic to figure out whose it was.
“We usually look at the year, degree, and initials on the ring. Sometimes it’s so worn that it’s nearly impossible to make out the details,” Spradlin says.
Luckily for Beard, the engraving on her ring was still legible. Beard says she was thrilled to get an email from Spradlin letting her know the ring had been found.
“I was so relieved and curious as to where in the world I had left it,” she says.
After exchanging emails and contact information, the two finders arranged a meeting with Beard last weekend. Although Gallardo refused payment, Beard and her daughter, who is a Girl Scout, rewarded him with a large supply of Girl Scout cookies.
On Facebook, Beard posted, “I’m so grateful there are still honest people out there.”
Photo courtesy Ashlyn Rackley Beard.
UT premed student Munfarid Zaidi has received his golden ticket to Hollywood—and while being cradled in the arms of American Idol judge Harry Connick Jr., no less.
On the premiere of the hit TV show’s 13th season last month, the third-year biology major impressed the judges with his soulful rendition of Adele’s “Crazy For You.” Zaidi then sang “No One” by Alicia Keys as he rested his head on Connick’s shoulder.
“That was completely unexpected. I just expected to walk in there, sing, maybe make it through, maybe not,” Zaidi says.
Unlike some American Idol hopefuls who have always dreamed of a singing career, Zaidi was initially hesitant about auditioning for the show. His parents urged him to try out, he says. “They knew music was a big part of my life, so they told me to go be productive and at least try and open this other door,” he says.
Growing up in a musical household where both his parents played instruments, Zaidi was a member of his school choir throughout middle and high school. His singing style hints at an underlying jazz influence, which he notes was heavily influenced by his time living in New Orleans as a child. There, he became a big fan of Connick’s music, though Zaidi cites Ella Fitzgerald as his biggest musical inspiration.
When Zaidi isn’t busy being a premed student and a contestant on American Idol, he enjoys spending time with his parents and siblings, as well as listening to whatever current obsession is playing on his iPod; this week, it’s the Frozen soundtrack.
Watch Munfarid Zaidi’s audition here and catch him on American Idol’s Hollywood Week, which starts today and runs through Feb. 13.
Top, UT premed student Munfarid Zaidi impressed the judges during his audition for American Idol.
Photo courtesy of American Idol.
While a student at UT, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., BBA ’03, JD ’06, Life Member, studied abroad in Monterrey, Mexico. Like most international students, he enjoyed his time there, but according to his mother, state Senator Judith Zaffirini, the Mexican university did little to make foreign students feel welcome. When Carlos returned, an idea was born.
That idea—to make international students feel welcome at UT—was put into action for the 13th time Tuesday, as more than 130 students from Spain and Mexico crowded into the lieutenant governor’s reception room in the Texas State Capitol. Circulating around the richly appointed room, the students sipped drinks, snacked on seemingly endless hors d’oeuvres (“You can eat healthy, or not,” Zaffirini noted), and most importantly got up close and personal with UT leaders, state policymakers, and Texas Exes.
The bilingual event brought together groups with historical ties—Spain and Mexico being two of the six flags over Texas—and united them with Longhorn pride.
Senator Zaffirini, BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna, opened the reception by welcoming the students to the capitol and to Texas, and she encouraged them to get face-to-face with the Texas Exes in attendance, like Joe Long, BA ’51, LLB ’58, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, as well as university leaders like UT-Austin president Bill Powers and UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. Two international students, one each from Spain and Mexico, received honorary proclamations from the Texas Senate and spoke to their experience at UT and their gratitude to UT, the Senate, and Spanish-owned BBVA Compass Bank, which sponsored the event.
“I cannot imagine being in a more diverse, empowering, or welcoming environment,” said finance graduate student Alba Vicente, who hails from Spain. “The experience has been nothing but positive.”
Powers encouraged students not only to take in all the University has to offer, but also to enjoy their time in the Lone Star State. “Focus on your studies,” he urged, “but get out and see Texas.”
Zaffirini, the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Texas Senate, and Cigarroa, the first Hispanic leader of the UT System, both greeted the group in Spanish. To round out the event, Zaffirini closed with a story. Suitably, it was about a motivated mother, in this case Mother Mouse, who had just led her children on the perilous journey across IH-35. Finally on the other side, they were stopped by an imposing cat. Mother Mouse reared back, opened her tiny snout, and barked like a dog.
“See?” she asked. “It pays to be bilingual.”
Photo courtesy the Office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini.
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