2015 Distinguished Alumnus Awards

In the 57-year history of the Distinguished Alumnus Awards, a vast range of people have been recognized for their achievements. The 2015 roster was no different, as six accomplished Longhorns were honored at the LBJ Library. Their successes are as varied as they are awe-inspiring, with a lifesaving cancer researcher standing next to a renegade filmmaker.

Considered the university’s highest honor, the award was also presented to a civic leader, an energy attorney, an astronaut, and a business executive. Whether it’s helping to save lives or to enrich them, each recipient has affected many. At a ceremony last November, the awardees, clad in their burnt-orange jackets, gushed about the university’s undeniable impact on their lives. —Alex Vickery


Robert Rodriguez

BS ’08, Life Member

Filmmaker and Founder of El Rey Network

“I still see myself as a student because those were the best, most informative years of my life. Being a student is what I carry with me always, and I learned that from UT.”


Stephanie Wilson

MS ’92

NASA Astronaut

“I have to tell you that the view from space is spectacular. The colors are so vivid. The deserts are a deep red, and the oceans are a deep blue-green. The transitions from day to night are fabulous. The sun rises over the Earth and gradually lights the space station from a pale yellow to gold to a bright white. Each sunset brilliantly displays the colors of the rainbow: from crimson to burnt orange to white to blue.”


James Allison

BS ’69, PhD ’73, Life Member

Chairman, Dept. of Immunology and Executive Director, Immunotherapy Platform, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

“A scientist should be wrong most of the time. That’s what we do: We make mistakes,
we ask questions, we’re wrong. All we have to do is be right occasionally.”


Judy Tate

BS ’73, Life Member

Longtime Supporter of the Blanton Museum of Art, Civic Leader, and UT Advocate

“As an alumna, I’ve gained a true appreciation for how special this university is. In its collections alone, there are over 170 million objects—ranging from the Gutenberg Bible to algae—on hand to enrich the quality of teaching and learning. I’ve had the privilege to observe firsthand the constant quest by administrators, deans, professors, and alumni to make sure UT continues to be a university of the first class.”


Dan Burck

BBA ’56, Life Member

Independent Chairman of the Board of American Campus Communities, Former Chancellor of the UT System, and Founding Director of ESPN

“I know Dan felt that the most important award he ever received was the University of Texas Distinguished Alumnus Award. One week before he passed away, Elaine Moore, his devoted UT System executive assistant, brought his orange jacket to him at Seton [Medical Center]. He commented on the beautiful buttons; he was very honored.” – Bill Cunningham, Former UT Chancellor and UT President


James C. Langdon, Jr.

BBA ’67, JD ’70, Life Member

Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and Leading Authority on International Energy Law

“Clearly what they say about the University of Texas is true: What starts here does change the world. But let me also add that what happens here can change your world, if you allow it to do so.” 


Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden.


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