Letter From the Executive Director: #UTatSXSW

From left, Texas Exes President-elect Gay Gaddis, Banger’s Owner Ben Siegel, UT President Jay Hartzell, Chuck Harris.

South by Southwest, the conference that temporarily makes Austin, Texas, the center of the universe every March, has grown exponentially since it was co-founded in 1987 by Longhorn Louis Black, MA ’80, PhD ’19. Originally just a humble music festival, SXSW is now 10 days long and includes interactive, film, and television festivals as well. And with something this important in our own backyard, the question has changed from how could the Texas Exes get involved? … to: How could we not?  

This year, The University of Texas created a headquarters on Rainey Street, in the heart of all the action downtown. For one full day, Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden was blanketed in burnt orange and featured a program full of panel discussions about UT Austin’s impact. I was struck by the evolution of this festival—from its music-centered early days to now trying to confront the biggest challenges facing the world.  

In between sessions, you could pop down to an underground speakeasy with a light-up Tower replica and, most crucially, the Texas men’s basketball game playing everywhere you looked. And the Texas Exes had an exclusive perch on a balcony that overlooked everything. The VIP section was open to our Business Members and their guests.  

While we were up there, I had a chance to visit with Ben Siegel, BBA ’05, Life Member, the Longhorn who owns Banger’s—because, of course, a Longhorn would own a place as cool as this. He’s got an enviable mustache and an enviable job. Siegel majored in finance at UT, and although it seems like a pivot away from a traditional career path, he is now living his dream by heading to his beer garden office every day with the smell of smoked sausage wafting through the air.   

To thank him for hosting us, the Texas Exes presented Siegel with a one-year Business Membership. Now he’ll be front and center in the Longhorn Business Network and can connect with other alumni at all stages of their careers. And we’ll make sure anyone in Longhorn Nation with a hankering for delicious sausage and beer knows about Banger’s because supporting alumni is what we’re all about. Some of them change the world with AI—and some of them do it with bratwurst. 

Hook ’em,

Chuck Harris, BBA ’86, Life Member

Executive Director & CEO, the Texas Exes



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