Eyes on Them: The 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Awards

On an unseasonably warm Friday night this past November, Bevo stood outside the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center to welcome a group of esteemed guests to the 65th annual Distinguished Alumnus Awards. From a fighter pilot to a football legend, to their loved ones and the alumni who came before them—and those of us just lucky to be in the room—the crowd spent a night to remember celebrating the 2023 class of recipients. With a shared sense of humility and characteristic Longhorn pride, these six alumni donned their burnt-orange jackets for the first time and took their place in University history. —Eliza Pillsbury

Photographs by Matt Wright-Steel

John C. Goff
BBA ’77, Life Member
Founder, Goff Capital, Inc.; Co-founder, Crescent Real Estate
Fort Worth, TX  

“I drove here from Lake Jackson back in 1973, and I used the Tower as my beacon to figure out where to go. It was long before Waze and Google Maps. The Tower really became my wayfinder. When I was off campus, that was how I navigated back; when I was on campus, I used it as that central point to get to and from classes. Little did I know at that time how significant the Tower and this University would be to the trajectory of my life.”   

Ed Hyman
BS ’67, Life Member
Chairman, Evercore ISI; Vice Chairman, Evercore
New York, NY  

“When I graduated from UT, I got the 1967 Cactus yearbook. At that point, not before then, I discovered I had been selected for the Outstanding Student Award. I was blown away, stunned, so proud. And that award has stayed with me ever since. So this Distinguished Alumni Award 50 years later is my bookend. It completes my life. Now, I can rest.”

Jeannie M. Leavitt
BS ’90, Life Member
Major General, United States Air Force (Ret.)
New Braunfels, TX  

“Coming to Texas opened a whole world of opportunities and experiences, and it truly changed my life. This University teaches strength of character. It builds the innovative leaders of tomorrow. Students learn lessons about creative thinking, courage, and compassion. These lessons served me well in my Air Force career. And it all started here at The University of Texas.”  

Ross R. Moody
BBA ’84, Life Member
Chairman & CEO, National Western Life Group, Inc.
Austin, TX  

“During my time at UT, in the decades that followed, and as all roads—destiny, perhaps—led me back to UT, I’ve had the good fortune of being able to give back, to help pave the road for future generations of Longhorns. As I have in the past, I will continue my commitment to UT in the future. The University of Texas changed the trajectory of my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.”  

Ricky Williams
BS ’16, Life Member
Retired NFL Running Back; Entrepreneur
Grass Valley, CA  

“The truth is, it wasn’t really about me. It was about making all of you proud. For me to know that all of you who are real Longhorns got some joy out of what I was able to contribute, that’s the greatest gift in the world, and I thank you all for that.”  

Dr. Mitchel Wong
BA ’60, Life Member
Ophthalmologist, Austin Eye; Real Estate Developer
Austin, TX  

“Our family was in the grocery business, and I started working in the store at 6 years old. My dad would tell me to go do something, and I’d go do it and then come back and wait until he’d tell me to do something else … Then he gave me a little advice, and I still remember it to this day. He said: ‘Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. Look around, see what needs to be done, and do it.’” 


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