Letter from the CEO: One of Our Own

The meaningful life of JJ Baskin

Letter from the CEO: One of Our OwnJust a few weeks before I became the executive director of the Texas Exes in July 2011, word got out that I was assuming the role, and a particularly interested then-council member asked me to coffee right away, ostensibly so that we could get to know each other.

What a fateful day that turned out to be, for not long after meeting JJ Baskin, MPAff ’94, Life Member, he came to symbolize to me what the Texas Exes is all about.

As a consummate online networker, JJ had reached me through Facebook pointing out all of our common connections. Then in person, he quickly revealed himself as one of the greatest community networkers of our time as he welcomed me with a big smile, a quick wit, and a ceaseless willingness to serve.

Our friendship started off with a bang and it was always a two-way street. He had frequent and broad-reaching ideas about what the Texas Exes should be and do, and they came with a lot of explanation, research, and thoughtfulness. He was a near-constant source of ideas, and in turn he put in thousands of hours of service to the Exes with tangible results. JJ served on the Texas Exes Council and as chair of the Texas Exes public affairs committee. He went way beyond the typical service in that role to literally write the book for the advocacy program that we are implementing today. He intended for our program to be the one that every similar organization would strive to become, and he led our volunteers by example by standing up for our great university as a fully committed UT Advocate.

Some ideas of his I knew were impossible to achieve, and at first I struggled with how to make them happen. But over time I came to realize that there was something more important going on than the details of each and every one of them. It wasn’t about producing the Texas Exes K-Cup per se, or the Texas Exes leadership academy for public service exactly as described, or the Texas Exes family retreat, or so many other ideas. With JJ, it was all about themes: ideals, aspiration, intentionality, inclusion, connection, and social good above all else. As long as we held to those themes, the good would follow.

So it was with JJ, and that has been my experience with the Association. What is at the core of the Texas Exes but to welcome all with an opportunity to serve each other and our university, with big ideas, pure ideals, and purpose? In 2011, JJ received our highest volunteer service honor, the Jack Harbin Top Hand award, for embodying what is so great about the Exes. He was proud of that, and we are very proud of him.

On March 26, 2015, JJ left this world after an astonishingly difficult battle with cancer. He was fearless in the fight he waged, and all throughout it—in fact because of it—he continued to bring people together. I doubt I will ever see someone so brave again as long as I live.

In life, JJ loved the Texas Exes as much as he loved his coveted University of Texas. Now JJ is the soul of this organization, and every single person who benefits from a great education at UT has some JJ spirit to go along with it.

I miss you JJ Baskin, and am forever grateful for the meaning you bring to the Texas Exes. Hook ’em Horns!

 

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