In Their Own Words: The 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Awards

Oscar acceptance speeches are sometimes amusing, occasionally tearful, and usually rote as each recipient thanks her producer, manicurist, and second cousins. If you want to hear an acceptance speech that truly inspires, come to The University of Texas’ annual Distinguished Alumnus Awards, presented by the Texas Exes.

As they received their awards on Oct. 19, the six 2012 winners each had heartfelt, evocative, and yes, laugh-out-loud funny things to say. Right down the line, they were uniformly inspiring—not just in their advice for success, but most of all in their reflections on how higher education enriches life.

Admiral William McRaven, BJ ’77
Commander, United States Special Operations Command

“The University, and in particular the Naval ROTC unit, taught me leadership. I learned the value of hard work and discipline. I was inspired by the courage, commitment, and sacrifice of my military instructors, who had served in Korea and Vietnam. Their sense of duty to this great nation left an indelible mark on me.”

Mrs. Laura Bush, MLS ’73
Former First Lady of the United States

“If you looked out over the audience that was seated on the beer-soaked concrete floor of the Armadillo World Headquarters, grooving to a young musician named Bruce Springsteen, you would have to look hard to find a future Republican first lady of the United States—but there I was.”

Mr. Charles Matthews, BA ’67, Life Member
Former Vice President and General Counsel of ExxonMobil Corporation

“We are so proud of what the University has done today to achieve its great ranking and rating. And as I think about that song we all like to sing, ‘The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You,’ I think it’s only partially correct. It is the eyes of the nation, and yes, the eyes of the world, that are now upon you and this great University. We need to keep it that way, and we will work to do so.”

 Dr. Hector de Jesus Ruiz, BS ’68, MS ’70, Life Member
Partner and Managing Director of Bull Ventures, LLC and ANSI Capital

“As students, we were not isolated from difficulties the world was facing—from the poverty around the world, the wars and the challenges we had with civil rights, and other issues. But civil discourse was respected, and education, fairness, and justice were shared values by the community at The University of Texas, and the poverty [and bigotry] I had experienced in my youth did not matter here.”

Mrs. Melinda Hill Perrin, BS ’69, Life Member
Civic Leader and Former Chair of the Hermann Hospital Board of Trustees

“The Texas Exes are the guardians and stewards of the mission of The University of Texas. Every current alum, every current student, our grandchildren’s generation who may be privileged to attend UT, will also receive this responsibility.”

Mr. Julius Glickman, BA ’62, LLB ’66, Life Member
Philanthropist and Attorney

“We often forget how valuable something is until we lose it. We have one of the greatest public institutions in the world here. Yet UT and public education are in danger from those with unproven theories and facile sound bites. They would tell us what to think, instead of how to think. They say education costs too much. They have a short memory. Education is the greatest economic engine we have, and it’s lack of education that can bankrupt us.”

 Photos by Michael O’Brien.


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