First Person: The 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Awards

In November, six luminaries received UT’s highest honor for alumni: the Distinguished Alumnus Award. After donning the customary burnt-orange blazer, the recipients gave heartfelt speeches thanking their supporters and sharing stories from their time on the Forty Acres.

These weren’t your typical fawning acceptance speeches. There was both humor and gravitas—and lots of thundering applause, especially when each recipient made a point of thanking UT president Bill Powers. In a year when regents and University leaders were frequently at odds, that gesture made a statement. But most of all, the awardees spoke of how the University changed their lives in ways both large and small.


James J. Truchard
President, CEO, and Co-founder of National Instruments
BS ’64, MA, ’67, PhD ’74, Life Member

“For me, it started when I came off the farm in 1960, where we lived without electricity, and moved into a little dorm on 20th and University one block from the Littlefield Fountain … I would learn many lessons in the next few years, but the first one I learned was that you have to put the shower curtain inside the tub when you took a shower.”


Charles D. Fraser Jr.
Surgeon-in-Chief, Texas Children’s Hospital
BA ’80, Life Member

“When I pulled out of Austin in 1980 in my U-Haul van headed to Galveston, I certainly would not have considered myself a Distinguished Alumnus. I did leave here with my own eyes open to the scope of life’s opportunities, and with clarity that it was up to me to make something out of it.”

 Linda Addison

Linda L. Addison
Global Head of Dispute Resolution and Litigation, Norton Rose Fulbright
BA ’73, JD ’76, Life Member

“President Powers has made UT a recognized best value in education, while fending off those who seek to degrade this world-class, tier-one university into a second-tier, discounted training center, tailored to the job market of the moment. How different would the course of history be if the Board of Regents said to Copernicus, ‘Don’t worry about whether the planets revolve around the Earth or the sun. You are more valuable if you teach large survey classes that speed students to degrees to get them jobs.’”


Robert B. Rowling
Chief Executive Officer, TRT Holdings, Inc.
BBA ’76, Life Member

“In my opinion, the circus that is currently playing out with some of our leaders over this institution is detrimental to the kind of constructive change that will make us a better institution. Personal attacks and vendettas serve no purpose for us.”


Wallace B. Jefferson
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas (Ret.)
JD ’88

“The greatest compliment I think I can give to this University for the leaders it has nourished throughout the years, including my fellow recipients of this high honor, is this: To the University, I am proud of you.”


Janiece Longoria
Chairman, Port of Houston Authority; Partner, Ogden Gibson Broocks Longoria & Hall
BA ’76, JD ’79, Life Member

“There is no question that what happens at The University of Texas changes the world. There is no question that [UT] transformed the life of a girl from the Rio Grande Valley who looked out her window and dreamed of being a Longhorn.”

Photos by Michael O’Brien.


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