7 DAA Winners You’ve Seen in Hollywood

It’s no secret that there are plenty of Longhorns in the history books. But each year, only a few alumni receive The University of Texas’ highest honor: the Distinguished Alumnus Award. The Texas Exes created the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1958 to honor the alumni who have distinguished themselves in their professions, communities, and through service to the university. It’s gone to justices, governors, doctors, philanthropists, scientists, authors, and more.

And over the years, some of these Longhorns have made their names on the silver screen, stage, TV, or behind the scenes. Here are seven who have earned the coveted orange jacket, as well as some serious name recognition in show business.

Robert Rodriguez: 2015 Distinguished Alumnus
BS ’08, Moody College of Communication, Life Member

Rodriguez is a movie director, producer, and writer best known for films such as Sin City, the Spy Kids films, Machete, Alita: Battle Angel, and more. “I still see myself as a student because those were the best, most informative years of my life,” he said in 2015. “Being a student is what I carry with me always, and I learned that from UT.”

Matthew McConaughey: 2014 Distinguished Alumnus
BS ’93, Moody College of Communication, Life Member

McConaughey is a Texas native and Hollywood star. He is known for movies such as Dazed and Confused, Mud, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Interstellar, to name a few. In 2014, he won an Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey is the founder of the just keep livin Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers high school students to lead active lives and make healthy choices. He also partnered with Mack Brown and Jack Ingram to found Mack, Jack, and McConaughey, a joint fundraising effort that benefits kids. McConaughey serves as a professor of practice at the Moody College of Communication and as UT’s Minister of Culture.

Marcia Gay Harden: 2008 Distinguished Alumna
BA ’80, College of Fine Arts, Life Member

Harden is a well-known film, television, and stage actress. Her first film role was in a 1979 student-produced movie at The University of Texas. She became known for her roles in the 1993 Broadway run of Angels In America, American Gun, The Mist, Into the Wild, and HBO’s The Newsroom. In 2001, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as artist Lee Krasner in Pollock.

Tommy Tune: 1992 Distinguished Alumnus
BFA ’61, College of Fine Arts

Tune is an American actor, dancer, singer, theatre director, producer, and choreographer who has won 10 Tony Awards and the National Medal of Arts. Tune made his Broadway debut as a performer in the musical Baker Street in 1965, and his first Broadway directing and choreography credits were for the original production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1978. Tune was honored with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993.

Barbara Conrad: 1985 Distinguished Alumna
BM ’59, College of Fine Arts, Life Member

The late Conrad was a distinguished opera and soul singer who spent eight years performing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera from 1982–89; held lead roles in the Vienna State Opera, the Teatro Nacional de Venezuela, the Houston Grand Opera, the New York City Opera, the Pittsburgh Opera, and many other opera houses both in the U.S. and internationally. She also performed with the world’s greatest orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the London, Boston, Cleveland, and Detroit symphonies.

Conrad first arrived at UT Austin in 1956—the same year that the first Black students were allowed to enroll at the university. From not being allowed into the Paramount Theatre to the Texas Legislature forcing her out of a lead role in the school play, Conrad faced racism and adversity while on campus. Despite this, the Precursor earned her music degree and became one of the leaders in the movement to make the university community more open and diverse.

Eli Wallach: 1988 Distinguished Alumnus
BA ’36, College of Liberal Arts

Wallach, who died in 2014, was a prolific actor who appeared in more than 100 films, television shows, and plays from the 1940s–2010. Some of his most famous credits include The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Misfits, The Magnificent Seven, The Godfather III, and The Holiday. Over his long career, Wallach received BAFTA Awards, Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, and an Academy Honorary Award.

Fess Parker: 1968 Distinguished Alumnus
BA ’50, College of Liberal Arts, Life Member

Parker became famous for playing pioneers—notably Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett—on TV and film. Parker, who died in 2010, donated funds to help build the original Alumni Center, and its courtyard was named for his father, Fess Parker Sr. Later, after the courtyard was enclosed, the deck overlooking Waller Creek was named the Fess Parker Deck. In 1991, he was named a Disney Legend for his roles in multiple Disney films and TV series.

Do you know a Longhorn worthy of recognition? Nominate them here for DAA or OYTEX.


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