Letter From the Executive Director: Word on the Street

Texas State Capitol Building in Austin, TX.

Recently I had a procedure that was inconsequential enough that I was back to work at the Alumni Center the next day, but serious enough to make me reflect on a thing or two.   

And as it happens, in the process of getting prepped for surgery, I figured out that my doctor was a Longhorn. And the scrub nurse was a Longhorn. As the anesthesiologist was knocking me out, I was telling them how they all needed to join the Texas Exes as Life Members. My pitch about the value of our alumni association is so refined and so second nature these days that I can rattle that off easier than counting backward from 10.   

The thing I like to stress is that the Exes have been here from the beginning, standing up for UT and rushing to its side when we are needed. The university was born in 1883, and two years later, when it had its first official alumni, 34 of them formed what we know today as the Texas Exes. They did it to show their pride—and their strength in numbers. 

In 1919, after famously marching on the Texas Capitol to protest Gov. Pa Ferguson’s vetoing of appropriations for UT, and his general abuse of power, the alumni voted to become independent of the university. The thinking was that if they were no longer publicly funded, they would be in a better position to protect their alma mater in the future.  

Jump ahead a hundred years or so, and here we are—organizing our UT Advocates, 8,500 of them around their state, to prepare for the 88th Legislative Session in the history of Texas (turn to page 18 for a preview). They’re starting to email and call lawmakers with messages about the incredible value of UT Austin and sharing data that backs it up. And we’re getting ready for another Orange and Maroon Legislative Day with the Aggies on Feb. 15 to show support for all the great public institutions of higher education across the Lone Star State.  

No matter if you went here, or not; if you’ve sent a child or grandchild here, or not; UT has changed your world for the better. From being an economic engine, business incubator, and job creator to the place where lifesaving and life-improving research happens every day, all Texans should understand the value of this place. And trust me, when you’re on the receiving end of a scalpel, it’s comforting to know that surgeon went to a university of the first class.  

So next time you’re lying on the operating table or standing in line at the grocery store checkout, spread the word to your fellow Longhorns like I do: The University of Texas and its alumni are a powerful force for good. 

Hook ’em,  

Chuck Harris, BBA ’86, Life Member 

Executive Director & CEO, the Texas Exes 


CREDIT: Shutterstock


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