Letty Fernandez Named 2016 Top Hand

Letty Fernandez Recognized for Decades of Service

When Letty Fernandez helped found the Texas Exes Brownsville Chapter more than 30 years ago, she never imagined she would someday win the Jack Harbin Top Hand Award. The award, which is presented to the recipient as a surprise, recognizes those who have given extraordinary service to Texas Exes and the university.

In three decades, she has served as chapter president, recruited a core group of volunteers, produced countless successful events, and prioritized raising money for student scholarships.

“She’s one of those people who does this work and never asks for any recognition for herself,” says former Texas Exes Board President and Distinguished Alumnus Judge Ricardo Hinojosa. “She exemplifies what the award is for—people who have given of themselves for the Exes and the university.”

Perhaps one of Fernandez’s proudest achievements is the annual Brownsville Student Send-Off, which has become the chapter’s signature event. Each year since 1993, UT’s president, alumni, and friends of the university gather to celebrate the newest class of freshmen before they head to the Forty Acres. This year, the chapter saw a record 180 students from the Lower Rio Grande Valley.


“I’ve seen more and more students going to UT [from the Rio Grande Valley] each year,” Fernandez says. “But I don’t think their excitement and anticipation ever changes. It’s really great to see that … and it’s really fun to get them engaged with the president.”

Fernandez enjoys watching students succeed at UT, especially when they get involved with the Brownsville Chapter after graduation. “That’s what drives me,” she says. “Being with the students revives me; it reminds me why we do this work.”

But the students aren’t the only ones who benefit from her hard work. “Her greatest contribution is her example to the rest of us,” Hinojosa says. “There’s no higher contribution someone makes than to be an example for everyone to follow to pay back the university for what it has done for us.”

Fernandez says she doesn’t see her decades of volunteer work as work because of how much she loves the university.

Hinojosa agrees, “I suspect if anybody gave Letty a blood test, the blood would come out burnt-orange.”

Photos (from top): (From left to right) Former Texas Exes Board President and Distinguished Alumnus Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, Letty Fernandez, Texas Exes CEO Leslie Cedar, and UT President Greg Fenves pose after presenting Fernandez with the Jack Harbin Top Hand Award; Fenves stands with incoming UT students at the 23rd annual Brownsville Student Send-Off.

Credit: Courtesy of the Texas Exes Brownsville Chapter 


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