‘The EXies’ Honors Longhorn Superstars

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If the Distinguished Alumnus Awards are UT’s Oscars, then the EXies are the People’s Choice Awards. Last Friday, more than 350 people joined the Texas Exes to honor UT’s brightest students, faculty, and alumni at a brand-new ceremony in the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.

Emceed by Texas Exes President John Beckworth and Executive Director & CEO Leslie Cedar, the new event merged what were previously smaller, separate awards ceremonies into a night of all-out appreciation. Honorees included the Alcalde‘s Texas 10 professors, who were selected by alumni as among the best and most inspirational teachers at UT. (Read their stories here.)

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made a surprise appearance at the ceremony, where he took to the podium to speak passionately about The University of Texas. “You never have to worry about my support for UT-Austin,” he assured the crowd.

Student awards presented at the event included the Edward S. Guleke Student Excellence Award, which honors commitment to both the classroom and the community. This year’s very deserving recipient, Katherine Layton, lost a parent and a home before her 20th birthday. Layton reacted by starting her own nonprofit, Gifts from US, and shaving her head to raise money for cancer research.

“It’s really humbling because so many people were nominated for this award,” Layton says. “I’m still kind of amazed. I’m very grateful for it, and I’m glad my mom, sister, and two close friends could be at the ceremony to support me.”

The President’s Leadership Awards were given to outstanding young student leaders on the Forty Acres, including one of our very own Forty Acres Scholars, Armiya Humphrey. These awards are given to one sophomore, two juniors, and three seniors each year.

The night also showcased some truly amazing and accomplished Texas Exes who haven’t even reached their 40th birthdays. The annual Outstanding Young Texas Ex awards recognize UT grads who have distinguished themselves personally and professionally before turning 40. This year’s crop of winners included Stuart Bernstein, BA ’99, MBA ’05, Life Member; Madhu Chugh,  BA ’98, BJ ’98; John B. Connally IV, JD ’97, Life Member; and Andrew Phong Vo, BBA ’95, Life Member.

“The University of Texas has opened so many doors for me and given me the opportunity to realize anything is possible,” Vo says. “Receiving this award is definitely one of the top moments in my life. I’m honored to be recognized by an institution I have so much love for.”

The evening was topped off with the presentation of the Top Hand Award, the Texas Exes’ highest honor for volunteer service. The 2013 recipient, Jack Harbin, BBA ’39, Life Member, is a Distinguished Alumnus, a past-president of the Texas Exes, and a longtime Texas Exes council member.

In 1999, Harbin gave the largest individual contribution in Alumni Center history for building renovations and improvements. The Alumni Center bears his name—and now so does the Top Hand Award. At the EXies, Cedar announced that the award was being renamed in Harbin’s honor, and will from now on be known as the “Jack Harbin Top Hand Award for Outstanding Service.”

Cedar also announced the beginning of a new campaign to raise an additional $100 million for the Forty Acres Scholars Program, the premier full-ride, merit-based scholarship for UT. Tom Dunning, BBA ’65, Life Member—who recently signed on as chair of fundraising for FASP—will spearhead the effort.

“I thought the event was just great,” says Dallas Chapter board member and attendee Jeff Duchin, BBA ’98, Life Member. “I hope it’s a new tradition they continue for years to come.”

Photos by Matt Valentine.


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