Introducing the 2016 Distinguished Alumni

Each fall, hundreds of Longhorns gather to honor some of the university’s most impressive alumni. Along with a touching ceremony and a coveted burnt orange blazer, these alumni are recognized with the Texas Exes’ highest honor: the Distinguished Alumnus Award. This year’s class is as impressive as ever, joining the likes of actor Matthew McConaughey, businessman Michael Dell, former Supreme Court chief justice Wallace Jefferson, and astronaut Karen Nyberg since the award was started in 1958.

From a sitting governor and a former regent to a broadcast journalist and a military leader, the 2016 recipients boast impressive achievements since their time on the Forty Acres.

The awards will be presented at the Frank Erwin Center on Friday, Oct. 28.

Photo by Eric DraperGovernor Greg Abbott, BBA ’81, Life Member, is the 48th governor of Texas. He was the longest-serving attorney general in Texas history and has also served as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. After earning his bachelor’s in business administration in finance at UT-Austin and his law degree at Vanderbilt University School of Law, Abbott began his legal career at the firm of Butler and Binion. He entered politics in Houston, where he served as a state trial judge in the 129th District Court for three years. He was also an adjunct professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas School of Law.


BEST PHOTO Pete Geren President CEO Sid W Richardson Foundation A13The Honorable Preston “Pete” Geren, BA ’75, JD ’78, Life Member, is president and chief executive officer of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation. From 2007-09, he was the 20th U.S. Secretary of the Army. Geren also served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1989-97. In 2001, Geren joined the Department of Defense to serve as a special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and in 2005 he was acting secretary of the Air Force. Prior to joining the Department of Defense, Geren worked as an attorney and businessman in his hometown, Fort Worth. He is the chairman of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.

Hunt_Woody_colorWoody L. Hunt, BBA ’66, MBA ’70, Life Member, is executive chairman of the board of directors of Hunt Companies, Inc.  He also serves as chairman of the Hunt Family Foundation, a private foundation he and his wife Gayle established in 1987. He is a member of the board of directors of Complete College America and is a foundation trustee of the College for all Texans Foundation. In 2015, Woody served as chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Strategic Planning Committee and was instrumental in establishing the Board’s new 60x30TX statewide plan. He was previously vice chairman of the UT Board of Regents and served seven years, three as chairman, on the board of the University of Texas Investment Management Company. 

ArthelArthel Neville, BJ ’86, Life Member, is a weekend anchor for FOX News. Neville began her journalism career at Austin’s KVUE-TV, where she was the station’s first female African-American on-air reporter. Neville also worked as an anchor and reporter at Houston’s KHOU and New Orleans’ WWL and WVUE before joining E! as the host of Extreme Close-Up. She went on to launch Warner Brothers Studio’s Extra and hosted FOX’s FOX Files and Good Day LIVE. Neville also hosted CNN’s TalkBack Live with Arthel Neville, making her the first African-American female to head her own signature on the iconic cable network.  She’s currently a weekend anchor on America’s News HQ  on Fox News Channel, the #1 cable news network. Neville covers the 2016 Presidential Election, the war on ISIS, the civil war in Syria, and breaking news around the world. 

StillwellBobbyTexasExes2016Bobby Stillwell, BBA ’59, LLB ’61, Life Member, is a retired partner of the Houston law firm Baker Botts and a member of the Board of Regents of the UT System from 2009 to 2015. He chaired two committees and served on the board of the University of Texas Investment Management Company during his tenure as a regent. Stillwell joined T. Boone Pickens as an original director of Mesa Petroleum in 1964, continuing his directorship until 2001. As a trustee of the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, he helped direct $700 million of educational, scientific, and healthcare gifts to nonprofit organizations. Stillwell has served on the Longhorn Foundation Advisory Council Executive Committee, and is on both the Board of Trustees of the UT Law School Foundation and the Development Board of UT Health Science Center Houston. In 2015 he was awarded the UT-Austin Presidential Citation by then President Bill Powers. 

TheWashingtonBallet_SeptimeWebrebyDeanAlexander..Septime Webre, BA ’84, is an international ballet choreographer, artistic director of the S & R Foundation/Halcyon Stage, and former artistic director of both The Washington Ballet (1999-2016) and the American Repertory Ballet (1993-99). Under his direction, the Washington Ballet took on creative projects such as “American Experience,” a series featuring original full-length ballets based on iconic works of American literature. He also worked to triple the enrollment of the Washington School of Ballet and bring outreach programs to thousands of children in the District of Columbia. Webre has choreographed works for more than a dozen leading ballet companies across the United States and was a featured dancer in works by George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Antony Tudor, Alvin Ailey, and Merce Cunningham, as well as in principal and solo roles from the classical repertoire. He received his early training from former Royal Ballet principal dancer and UT Professor Stanley Hall, and has served on the boards of Dance/USA and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington.

Distinguished Service Award 

Powers_Bill.jpgWilliam Powers, Jr., Life Member, was the 28th president of the University of Texas at Austin. The second-longest serving president in university history, he held the position from 2006-15. He joined the university in 1977 as a professor in the School of Law and would later become its dean, rising to national prominence when he was appointed to investigate the collapse of energy giant Enron. As president, Powers presided over a reform of the undergraduate curriculum, instating mandatory Signature Courses for all freshmen. He founded two schools: the School of Undergraduate Studies and the Dell Medical School. Powers launched and finished the Campaign for Texas, an eight-year fundraising effort that raised $3.1 billion, and oversaw the construction of 13 new buildings on the campus. Supported by alumni, faculty, students, staff, and the Texas Legislature, Powers defended the research university mission and was elected chair of the Association of American Universities in 2013. He has since returned to teaching in the School of Law, where he holds the Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law and University Distinguished Teaching Professor. 


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