Beverly Okafor, biology junior and Alpha Epsilon Delta international relations director, is hit in the face with a pie by biomedical engineering sophomore Amit Narawane. AED organized the event to help raise money for children’s surgery.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

Presidents from various student organizations around campus got pied for a good cause Wednesday.

In light of April Fools’ Day, pre-health honor society Alpha Epsilon Delta held its third annual Pie a President event, which benefits Dell’s Children’s Surgical Global Outreach, at Speedway Plaza.

The presidents wore a sign reading their name and the organization they represented. Anyone from the UT community could purchase a whipped cream pie, or two, to throw in the face of their targeted president. 

“It’s worth it,” said Kendall Huddleston, petroleum engineering junior and Texas Bluebonnets president. “It’s very much worth it. They’re only putting whipped cream on there.”

Presidents such as Huddleston, who personally got pied more than 10 times, stood on a giant blue tarp stretched across the plaza. The Alpha Delta Pi sorority, Texas Blazers and many other organizations came out to support the benefit. AED officers stood on the side, equipped with paper towels to wipe down any president after receiving a pie.

“We just thought it’d be a good way to get the campus to come out and support the cause,” said Joshua Carrasco, neurobiology senior and AED president.

AED is the nation’s oldest pre-health society. The Texas Alpha chapter seeks to promote opportunities that would help anyone wishing to enter the medical field prepare for their future careers. Carrasco said the event started when Dell Children’s Surgical Global Outreach came to speak to the organization three years ago.

Dell Children’s Surgical Global Outreach is a group of medical professionals who provide surgical care to children in low-income communities. Most recently, the group has partnered with the Shalom Foundation to provide care at the Moore Pediatric Surgical Center in Guatemala City.

“Their story was very touching to us as a pre-health honor society,” Carrasco said. “Seeing them live their dreams and going out to do these procedures was really inspiring.”

Carrasco said the group joined up with the global outreach to try and bring together organizations from all over campus.

AED charged $3 for one pie and $5 for two pies to throw at any of the campus organization leaders who volunteered. 

Biochemistry sophomore Mashal Kara came out to throw a pie at Aftab Zindani, president of the Ismaili Muslim Students Association and mechanical engineering senior. Kara said she felt an organization benefitting and working with children is a good cause to support.

“I think we should have more organizations to come together like this for a good cause,” Kara said.

Zach Dell, left, and Nick Spiller discuss startups with students on a Monday night for UT Entrepreneurship Week.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

The most important part of creating a startup is avoiding fear of failure, according to two panelists who founded their own companies.

Zach Dell, founder of the dating app “Thread,” and Bob LiVolsi, founder of the e-book retailer “BooksOnBoard,” spoke as part of UT Entrepreneurship Week — a series of lectures designed to encourage students to develop their own businesses — about the challenges of building startups. 

Students have an advantage when launching a startup company in Austin because of the resources the city provides, Dell, who is a high school student entrepreneur, said. 

“Typically, it’s pretty hard to get in touch with top people in your city, but in Austin, it’s fairly easy to get meetings with influential business people,” Dell said. “People here have a willingness to help people — you just have to have a willingness to meet everybody.” 

Psychology senior Jason Brown, who pitched his startup “Carenexions” at the event, said he discovered a strong support network at UT when he found a board of advisors to help him develop his business. 

“Honestly, just not being afraid to share your idea and put yourself out there really helped,” Brown said. 

There is a surplus of business ideas in Austin, but the biggest factor that goes into selecting the right idea is positive feedback from customers about a product, according to LiVolsi.

“Validate, validate and revalidate,” LiVolsi said. “You have to keep going back on yourself as you are working through your business model and revalidating. The challenge is doing it as quickly as possible.”

It is tough building a startup without proper financial support, Dell said, and customer validation is an important tool in gaining investors. 

“When you have an idea, quickly build it a website, and send it out there,” Dell said, “If enough people sign up for a wait-list to get the product, you won’t struggle to get funding.”

Failure is a key part of the process of reaching success, according to LiVolsi. 

“Failure is not something that you want to have happen, but it happens, and it’s part of your growth.” LiVolsi said. “You gotta keep going, and you gotta plow through.”

Many entrepreneurs will face failure in their careers, but it is not embarrassing to fail, Dell said — it is embarrassing to have an idea and not attempt to launch it.

One year ago on March 6, I was selected to serve as the Overall Director for Texas THON.

On a weekly, if not almost daily basis, I get asked why I do THON, what makes Texas THON special and what Texas THON even is. My answers are always simple:

Nothing can explain the mission of Texas THON better than the story of a Miracle Child.

Little Sara was just three years old when she was diagnosed with Stage III Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Despite the odds, Sara proved her fighting spirit as she successfully underwent more than 10 rounds of chemotherapy in just six months at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas to be cancer-free today. 

She loves dancing and cheerleading, the color pink, parties and her little brother Drew. Every year at Texas THON's Day Of, Sara schools me on the dance floor and enthralls the room with her spunk, personality and love of life.

Sara inspires me again every year. She is truly a miracle, and one of many Miracle Children helped by Dell Children’s.

I THON, I dance and I stand for little Sara, for Stephanie, for Princess, for Caleb, for Harley, for Patton, for Amanda, for Olivia, for Skyler, and for EVERY Miracle Child treated at Dell Children’s — so that no child fights alone.

That's the mission of Texas THON, an entirely student-run philanthropy at UT and the largest dance marathon (which is exactly as it sounds) in the state of Texas. To raise funds and awareness for a medical center that treats 17 children every hour, every day, 365 days each year — many who fly in from around the nation. 

To help foster a sense of philanthropy and create a culture of inclusivity here at UT. To allow over 500 UT students — with more joining each day — to realize the motto of “What starts here changes the world” by being a part of something bigger than themselves: a dance marathon movement through which college students like you and me have raised over $14 million for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit that raises funds for children’s hospitals and of which Dell Children’s is a member, around the nation.

Texas THON is special because it helps bond the UT community by bringing over 75 student organizations and people from all areas of UT together on our 12-hour Day Of event — one day for one common purpose, and that one day of common purpose makes a life-long impact on the lives of UT students and families and kids at the hospital.

Just like nothing can explain the mission of Texas THON like the story of a Miracle Child, nothing can show you why we do what we do like our 12-hour stand. Although uncomfortable, standing for 12 hours allows us to raise money for children who need medical care. This year our Day Of is Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Gregory Gym. To register as a Miracle Maker for the kids, visit and click on the "Register Now!" link to sign up with your student organization or residence hall, or come check out the event with a visitor pass available at the Day Of for $5 per hour.

Saastamoinen is Overall Director of Texas THON.

Correction: An earlier version of this article was misattributed to another member of Texas THON.


Author Jayne Anne Phillips speaks about the characters in her new book “Quiet Dell” at the Harry Ransom Center on Thursday. 

Photo Credit: Cristina Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Author Jayne Anne Phillips, read from her new book, “Quiet Dell,” at the Harry Ransom Center on Thursday.

“Quite Dell,” deals with the true horrific tragedy about a serial murder committed in Phillips’ hometown of West Virginia in the year of 1931. 

The historic event is about a widowed mother, Asta Eicher, becoming infatuated with a man named Harry Powers, who turns out to be a serial killer, eventually murdering Eicher and her three children. According to Phillips, the novel focuses more on one of Eicher's daughters, Annabel.

“I invented the personalities, perceptions, relationships even of these real characters,” Phillips said.

Phillips said her mother would tell her stories about the history of the murders. 

“I was drawn to this material because I’ve known about it all my life,” Phillips said. “But it was really this picture here [of Annabel] that really influenced me.”

This crime was one of the first crimes of the Great Depression, according to Phillips, and functioned as a warning and a lesson to women at the time. This caused another lead character, journalist Emily Thornhill, to become involved in the case. 

“It was spun as a warning and lesson to women which irritates Emily Thornhill really much, and irritated me,” Phillips said. 

Phillips said that while writing her book, it was interesting working with the evidence and gathering research over the years for the making of the novel. 

“I like to work with something. I need a shred of something real. I needed to go from the beginning to the end and even beyond the end,” Phillips said.

History junior Marlene Renz said she has not read the book yet, but she is very interested to do so after hearing hearing from Phillips about how the research went. 

“I thought it was so interesting how she gave the different perspectives and point of views in the book, and I really like how she tied in the research,” Renz said.

While working with the case, Phillips got the chance to go to the house that the family once lived in and visit their graves. She noticed that the graves were unmarked and that bothered her because the tombs marked the end of a family.

“I said to myself ‘If I finish this book, I am going to make sure there are foot stones here at these graves,’” Phillips said.

Phillips said the tombstones of the graves will be uncovered on Nov. 8.

Digital artist Casey Reas’ “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” is a new permanent art installation in the Gates Dell Complex. Commissioned in part by the computer science department, the wall mural will officially be unveiled Friday.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Casey Reas, a digital media artist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, can paint a picture with technology.

His unorthodox medium is what brought his two-part wall mural, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” to the Gates Dell Complex on campus as a permanent installation. The piece will be unveiled Friday afternoon, featuring a Q-and-A with Reas, followed by a reception.

The piece was commissioned through a partnership between Landmarks, the University’s public art program, and the computer science department. Reas made a point to visit the University before finalizing his installment. 

“A lot of the piece came out of my visit to campus earlier in the year,” Reas said. “My work for many years has worked with ideas of emergence and information theory, and it became a hybrid between ideas I had been working with, along with the research that is going on in the building by the different faculty.”

Reas took an original source material, communication media such as television waves and radio waves, and gradually broke down their codes until they appeared to be abstract.

“I start with a series of images, like a collage,” Reas said. “Then I write some software to break them down and reassemble them into a new form, and, in the case of this piece, that new form is printed. Even though it looks largely abstract, the origin of this piece is in a very representational photographic image.”

In collaboration with Landmarks, the computer science department was searching for a piece to complement the existing grid-like, structured art installations in the building. Artist Sol LeWitt’s sculpture installation, “Circle with Towers,” sits in front of the Gates Dell Complex.

“LeWitt was creating the instructions and using people to construct the work,” said Nickolas Nobel, the Landmarks external affairs coordinator. “Casey Reas is using the computer in order to create the design for the work and then using the computer itself to construct the work.”

Once Reas had the rendered image, the work was printed by inkjet printers onto a material similar to wallpaper. 

“The GDC feels very modern, and that contrasts it pretty hard,” computer science junior Robert Lynch said. “Something like the Sol LeWitt painting behind the elevators has vivid colors and sharp angles, which complement the building’s shape, which is why I like it.”

Nobel said much consideration went into the placement of Reas’ piece.

“The work is there to complement and be a response to its own location,” Nobel said. “This is particularly true with Casey Reas’ work, where he is synthesizing technology and art.”

The piece was largely inspired by the book “The Mathematical Theory of Communication,” by Claude Shannon, and Shannon’s views on information theory, according to Reas.

“I’m really interested in the fundamental elements in a metaphorical sense of patterns,” Reas said. “This piece is all about images and mass communication and about how images are taken apart and analyzed and put back together again, or how they are pressed and decompressed.”

Reas said the biggest misconception about his work is that the computers make all the decisions for him.  

“It’s a very traditional way of working in the studio,” Reas said. “It feels like there’s this potential that is unexplored, and there is just this joy of making things and seeing them.”

Wild Art

Biology sophomore Katherine Wee pies Jacqueline Lim at the second annual Pie A President fundraiser for Dell Children’s Surgical Global Outreach on Wednesday in the West Mall. All proceeds go toward the program, which sends doctors and nurses to Guatemala to give care to children in need.

Portions of Red River Street will close between March and October 2014 for street realignment, which will allow Seton Healthcare Family to build a teaching hospital on an enlarged tract of land, meant to accompany the future Dell Medical Center.

Because the University needs more room than it currently has for the medical district, which is projected to be more than 1 million square feet with the addition of the teaching hospital, the city agreed in August to reroute Red River Street, city spokesperson Clark Patterson said.

The curved portion of Red River Street near 15th Street will be vacated by the city in exchange for University land east of the street, Patterson said. This will extend Red River Street to East 15th Street.

At a UT System Board of Regents meeting in May, architecture professor Lawrence Speck said the realignment would allow for a more practical building structure.

“[Red River Street] creates strangely shaped parcels of land, where the grid [that used to be in place] made for much more sensible parcels,” Speck said.

The road extension, utilities, landscaping and other preparations are projected to cost $16.5 million, according to Dell Medical School preliminary documents.

The medical school, scheduled to begin construction in April 2014, will be built on land that is currently Centennial Park, said Rhonda Weldon, director of communications. Part of this land is also a Frank Erwin Center parking lot and another part is University property east of Waller Creek.

Because the medical school’s construction will take away parking from the Erwin Center, there will be a parking lot in the medical campus area to make up for this,
Weldon said.

The University is leasing the land to Central Health, a governmental entity that maintains health care facilities in Central Texas, which will in turn sublease to Seton, said Florence Mayne, executive director of real estate for the UT System. Because the land is zoned for various uses, including multi-family, general commercial services and general office uses, the UT System is requesting that the city change the zoning to public.

“[The University] just came in and said, rather than have all this various zoning, which also gives you various development standards, we’ll just change it all to [Category P],” Paterson said. “We’ll be under one big umbrella.”

Weldon said the University is working to ensure construction will not affect Waller Creek, which runs through Centennial Park.

“The university plans to improve Waller Creek … sure up banks, manage health of vegetation and water,” Weldon said. “We see Waller Creek as a natural amenity, an asset to continuing the pedestrian experience we already have on campus.”

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Zachary Dell, son of Michael Dell, will be joining with StartATX on Tuesday evening for a presentation about student entrepreneurship. 

StartATX is a campus organization founded in the spring as a networking and resources group for students in start-up businesses. 

It was created and is run by Sebastian Bruce, a computer science and business economics senior, with co-president Zachary Cook, a management information systems senior. 

Bruce said he was inspired to create StartATX when he learned about similar organizations at schools such as Harvard University and Penn State. He said there are other groups at UT designed for students beginning to consider small business, but there is nothing like StartATX, 

“We’re hoping to primarily target people who are [already] in start-ups,” Bruce said.

Cook said he felt the
organization was important because student entrepreneurs face challenges specific to running a small business. 

“Starting a business when you’re a full-time student is such a unique experience,” Cook said. “It is a lot of responsibility and risk.” 

Bruce and Cook said students behind start-ups struggle with finding mentors, co-founders and investors. StartATX provides students with the support, advice and a pool of contacts entrepreneurs need. 

“There’s a start-up culture [in Austin] but it’s very young,” Bruce said. 

Bruce said StartATX plans to enrich this culture, and said he hopes to see success stories come from their organization. The co-presidents are being mentored by McCombs’ Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brett Hurt and receive input from Michael Dell.

Last summer Bruce met with Zachary Dell to discuss the development of Dell’s new business. Dell, a junior in high school, is already working on his second company. Dell’s latest project is a new mobile app called “Interested,” which will be released in 3 to 4 weeks. 

His first business was a sports camp he founded with his cousins. According to Dell, entrepreneurship is like a baseball game.

“You swing until you hit it with a new company … maybe we’ll hit a homerun, maybe we’ll strike out,” Dell said. “But it won’t be the last time I step up to the plate.” 

He said his father’s guidance has been helpful in establishing these start-ups, but he chooses to learn through his own experiences, 

“My dad has been an incredible influence — he never forced anything on me, but he was always there to say, ‘Read this book’ or, ‘Contact this guy’ when I had new ideas,” Dell said. “I’ve learned things I wouldn’t have if I’d gone straight to my dad.”

Dell said he plans to bring those experiences and his passion for small business together in his speech on Tuesday.

More information can be found at

Dell Miracle Kid, Marley, removes the hospital bracelets worn by Texas THON volunteers during the closing ceremony Saturday.

Photo Credit: Austin McKinney | Daily Texan Staff

More than 100 volunteers — including superheroes such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman — raised about $36,000 Saturday at Gregory Gymnasium for the annual Texas THON.

In its 11th year, the Texas THON is a philanthropic event produced by UT students where volunteers raise money by pledging to stand — literally, without sitting — for 12 consecutive hours for children in need. All proceeds go toward the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Austin.

The organization conducts fund-raising throughout the year, which culminates in a day filled with live entertainment, free food, games and dancing. Texas THON is one of many similar events held at universities across the nation to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

In her Batman costume, executive chairwoman for Texas THON Caitlyn Leal said she felt the event was a success for the Dell Miracle Kids. 

“The energy was so high,” Leal said. “Our exec team had a lot of obstacles this year so the amount we raised in the matter of weeks is amazing. It was such a success. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

The theme of this year’s event was “Super Heroes Stand 2013,” where volunteers and Miracle Kids dressed up as their favorite superhero.

“Every year we do a new theme,” Stephanie Morgan, Plan II senior and catering and sponsorship chairwoman, said “and this year we really wanted it to relate to what Texas Thon actually is doing. We wanted to be superheroes for the kids at Dell Children’s Medical Center because they’re an inspiration to us so we want to be an inspiration to them.”

Texas THON invites Miracle Children to speak about their experiences at the event. Math junior Lisa Huynh said hearing those stories serves as an inspiration to her to “stand” for them.

“Personally it is really touching to hear all of the families come speak,” Huynh said. “I used to have a little brother that had to go to the Children’s Hospital so it’s near and dear to my heart. One of the great things about Dell is they don’t turn away kids so that’s what makes it rewarding for us to do this.”

Marley, a Miracle Kid, was one of the children that spoke at Saturday’s event. At the age of five, Marley was hit by a vehicle that affected her ability to walk. During the aftermath and her recovery, she stayed at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

“It’s a very scary place to be when you’re a young child,” she said. “It’s frightening so you guys, what you’re doing, you’re raising money obviously, and you’re helping make everything safer and it feels safer. You make it so much easier for kids like me.” 

Marley and all of those who participated in the Texas THON wore hospital bracelets with the name of different Miracle Kids on each bracelet. At the end of closing ceremony, the volunteers gathered in a circle to have their bracelets cut off their wrists to symbolize when a Miracle Child can leave the hospital. Marley walked, on her own, around the circle to cut over a hundred bracelets off the wrists of UT students and other volunteers.

“That was the first time in my life I’ve ever cried of happiness,” she said. “That shows how awesome you guys are. Thank you so much.”

Published on February 18, 2013 as "Students stand 12 hours to support Miracle Kids". 


Slumping personal computer maker Dell is bowing out of the stock market in a $24.4 billion buyout that represents the largest deal of its kind since the Great Recession dried up the financing for such risky maneuvers.

The complex agreement announced Tuesday will allow Dell Inc.'s management, including founder Michael Dell, to attempt a company turnaround away from the glare and financial pressures of Wall Street.

Dell stockholders will be paid $13.65 per share to leave the company on its own. That's 25 percent more than the $10.88 the stock was going for before word of the buyout talks trickled out last month. But it's a steep markdown from the shares' price of $26 less than five years ago, when the company's eponymous founder Michael Dell returned for a second go-round as CEO.

Dell shares rose 11 cents to $13.38 per share in morning trading, indicating that investors don't believe a better offer is likely.

Dell's decision to go private is a reflection of the tough times facing the personal computer industry as more technology spending flows toward smartphones and tablet computers. PC sales fell 3.5 percent last year, according to the research group Gartner Inc., the first annual decline in more than a decade. What's more, tablet computers are expected to outsell laptops this year.

The shift has weakened long-time stalwarts such as Dell, fellow PC maker Hewlett-Packard Co., chip maker Intel Corp. and software maker Microsoft Corp.

Once Dell's sale is finalized, its stock will stop trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market nearly 25 years after the Round Rock, Texas, company raised $30 million in an initial public offering of stock. Microsoft Corp. is helping the deal along by lending $2 billion to the buyers, which include investment firm Silver Lake.

The company will solicit competing offers for 45 days.

The IPO and Dell's rapid growth through the 1990s turned its founder into one of the world's richest people. His fortune is currently estimated at about $16 billion. Michael Dell, who owns nearly 16 percent stake in the company, will remain the CEO after the sale closes and will contribute his existing stake in Dell to the new company.

Dell's sale is the second highest-priced leveraged buyout of a technology company, trailing the $27 billion paid for First Data Corp. in 2007.

The deal is the largest leveraged buyout of any type since November 2007 when Alltel Corp. sold for $25 billion to TPG Capital and a Goldman Sachs subsidiary. Within a few months, the U.S. economy had collapsed into the worst recession since World War II.

Leveraged buyouts refer to deals that saddle the acquired company with the debt taken on to finance the purchase.

Like other PC makers, Dell has seen revenue shriveling and its stock sinking amid worries that the company might not be able to regain its technological edge.

Both Dell and its larger rival HP are trying to revive their fortunes by expanding into business software and technology consulting, two niches that are more profitable than making PCs.

The PC downturn has hurt Microsoft by reducing sales of its Windows operating system. As the world's third largest PC maker, Dell is one of Microsoft's biggest customers.

By becoming a major Dell backer, Microsoft could gain more influence in the design of the devices running on a radically redesigned version of Windows that was released in late October. The closer ties with Dell, though, could poison Microsoft's relationship with HP, the largest PC maker, and other manufacturers that buy Windows and other software.

In a statement, Michael Dell said that while the company has made progress, turning it around will be easier under private ownership.

"We recognize that it will still take more time, investment and patience, and I believe our efforts will be better supported by partnering with Silver Lake in our shared vision," he said.

As a private company, Dell won't have to pander to the stock market's fixation on whether the company's earnings are growing from one quarter to the next.

Taking the company private is a major risk, however. It will leave Dell without publicly traded shares to entice and reward talented workers or to help buy other companies.

As part of its shift toward business software and technology services, Dell already has spent $9 billion on acquisitions in the past three years.

Leveraged buyouts also require companies to earmark some of their incoming cash to reduce the debt taken on as part of the process of going private. The obligations mean Dell will have less money to invest in innovation and expansion of its business.

The buyout will mark a new era in another technology company that began humbly and matured into a juggernaut.

With just $1,000, Michael Dell, then a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, started his company as "PCs Limited" in his dorm room. He would go on to revolutionize the PC industry by taking orders for custom-made machines at a reasonable price — first on the phone, then on the Internet.

Initially valued at $85 million in its 1988, Dell went on a growth tear that turned the company into a stock market star. At the height of the dot-com boom in 2000, Dell was the world's largest PC maker, with a market value of more than $100 billion.

But Dell began to falter as other PC makers were able to lower their costs. At the same time, HP and other rivals forged relationships with stores that gave them the advantage of being able to showcase their machines. By 2006, HP had supplanted Dell as the world's largest PC maker.

With its revenue slipping, Dell's market value had fallen to $19 billion before the mid-January leaks about the buyout negotiations.