law

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a two-part series on the two new UT System Board of Regents. A profile on Sara Martinez Tucker ran Wednesday and is available online. 

UT System Regent David Beck will sit on the Board of Regents for the first time Friday.

Beck, a partner at the Beck Redden law firm in Houston, has held multiple leadership roles throughout his career, including president of the State Bar of Texas, International Association of Defense Counsel and American College of Trial Lawyers. Beck graduated from the UT School of Law and served as the president of the Law School Foundation. 

Beck Redden partner Alistair Dawson said Beck is well-recognized by his colleagues for his leadership qualities. 

“Just about every organization in which [Beck] is involved recognizes his leadership skills and asks him to take a leadership role, which he does routinely,” Dawson said.

Beck earned his bachelor’s degree from Lamar University before getting his law degree from UT in 1965. In a video the Texas Exes created in 2010, Beck said his years of studying at UT were crucial in helping him advance his career.

“Frankly, the most interesting part of Austin was being thrown together with a lot of kids from different backgrounds, seeing everyone one of which was very, very smart,” Beck said. “To me, that really made me realize how competitive life was.”

Dawson said Beck and his wife, Judy Beck, are passionate about education.

“David and Judy [Beck] have been big supporters of education at his alma maters, Lamar University and the University of Texas School of Law,” Dawson said. “They have funded several scholarships at each institution to help students achieve their goals.”

Beck said he shaped his career around striving to better society through helping individuals as a lawyer.

“That’s really part of your obligation as a lawyer, that you have got to make your community better — you have got to make your profession better,” Beck said in the video. “I’ve always believed that.”

In the video, Beck said his law professors at UT taught him how to fight for the rights of other people.

“I enjoy what I do so much that I can’t believe they pay us to do this kind of work,” Beck said. “Without the University of Texas law school, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.”

According to the video, Beck became known for his ability to connect to those around him — most notably, to juries.

“David’s courtroom skills and confidence grew in the 25-plus years he spent with [the Fulbright & Jaworski law firm], and his ability to connect with a jury became legendary,” the video said.

Beck said working to win a jury’s trust influenced other aspects of his life.

“I try to stake out the moral high ground because jurors invariably want to do what’s right,” Beck said.

Robert Strauss, UT alumnus and former Democratic Party leader, died in his Washington, D.C., home on Wednesday. He was 95. 

Strauss, who received his undergraduate and law degree from UT, worked as a special agent for the FBI following his graduation in 1941. Later, he established his own law firm in Dallas, which eventually became known as Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.    

Strauss has deep ties to UT, as he and his law firm endowed the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law to UT. Strauss also served as the Lloyd Bensten chair at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. 

In 1989, the UT System Board of Regents established the “Robert S. Strauss Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law” to benefit the School of Law. Funds for the scholarship were provided by Strauss’ law firm in his honor. 

Strauss’ political career started when he was still an undergraduate student at UT, as he had the opportunity to work on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first congressional campaign. Later, Strauss managed both of President Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaigns and advised presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush while they were in office. While working under Bush, Strauss was sent to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union because he was a self-defined “expert on people.”

Strauss is survived by three children. His wife, Hellen Strauss died in 2006. As of press time, no memorial service has been scheduled. 

Strauss — who was renowned for his quick wit, biting humor and self-reflective nature — reportedly told anyone who would listen:  “It ain’t braggin’ if you’ve done it.”

Parts of this story was compiled using reports from the Associated Press.

Ross Bennet, Designer of the Grid Girls uniform for Austin’s Formula One, spoke to senior undergrads in UT’s Fashion Design program. He spoke of his time at the universtity as well the inspirations behind his latest collections.

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

Ross Bennett came to UT with the intention to become the next Bennett at his father’s law firm, but redesigned his future after taking a course in fashion design.

Ross Bennett, a local Austin designer and textiles and apparel senior, began his design career at UT in 2002. He left UT in 2006 and returned in 2008, but after entering his designs in the Dallas Career Fair he was sought by the Texas State Fair to design an organic eco-friendly line. Opportunities in the fashion design profession led him to become a contestant on Fashion Star, an NBC fashion design reality TV show. This put his name into the industry and he was asked to design the grid girl uniform for the Circuit of Americas Formula One Race in November.

Bennett creates custom garments using fabrics made from natural fibers. He said his clientele consists mainly socialites that want an original dress.

“When they can say it was made for me, they feel special,” Bennett said. “It’s all about having this individuality, custom piece, one of a kind experience that’s what I deal with.”

He showcased his designs in the textile and apparel independent studies course Thursday evening. He said the most important thing for a designer is to stay true to their brand when they design their collections. He has a tattoo of a needle with red thread on his left hand ring finger as a reminder. He said the red thread means consistency throughout the brand.

“Identify your style and stick to it. It might change a little. Adapt, but stay with it because that is your identity,” Bennett said.

Ockhee Bego, Bennett’s fashion design lecturer, said it gives her great pleasure to teach Bennett because they communicate well.

“He and I understand very well the business aspect, to the artistic aspect, to the technical things,” Bego said.

English junior Ali Bass, Bennett’s assistant, said the job entails something new and different every day.

“[Bennett] is a ball of energy, and he has a million ideas and he’s all over the place, yet somehow he is so driven that he gets it all done,” Bass said.

Bennett will debut his Fall 2013 Resort collection in January, and will travel to four cities by March to exhibit the designs. He is also working on a luggage collection that will be launched in the spring. Bennett is also looking to open a factory on the east side of Austin so he can have complete control of the production of the garments.

Printed on Friday, December 7, 2012 as: UT student breaks into fashion industry

In June, Charles Graham Jr. will leave his job at an Austin law firm and move almost 2,000 miles to Philadelphia to embark on a new teaching career. Graham, who received his government degree in December, will spend his first summer as a UT alumnus training for Teach For America. According to Teach For America, a program that signs recent college graduates to two-year teaching commitments at underprivileged schools, more of the program’s teachers came from UT than any of the other 630 institutions in 2010. Graham said he is excited to be a part of such a competitive institution, which accepts about 4,500 of its 46,000 applicants. “I always said that I wouldn’t be a teacher,” he said. “When I decided to be a government major, people would ask, ‘What are you going to do, become a government teacher?’ and I always answered no.” Graham is not unusual — one in six of the program’s participants say they never considered education before joining the Teach For America corps. He said he is looking forward to learning about how to improve the nation’s education system and hopes to take his teaching experience with him long after his two-year commitment. “My long-term goal is to work in education policy, and I saw this program as a way to get in the classroom and see some of the problems of the education system firsthand,” he said. “I saw Teach For America as an opportunity to give back and reach future generations.“ Graham plans to attend graduate school after his two-year commitment ends, which some critics of the program argue could be problematic. Some criticize the program because its participants leave the classroom after their commitment is up and pursue other careers, said assistant education professor Julian Heilig. “In its initial conception, it’s a fantastic idea, because they are trying to get high-quality teachers to students that our nation has left behind,” Heilig said. “The problem is that they attract teachers to those schools, but they can’t keep them there.“ Heilig argued the program functions as a “temporary agency” and “perpetuates the cycle” of underqualified teachers in underprivileged schools. “I think the criticisms would melt away if their members would make five-year commitments instead of two, but this is just a stopover for most kids,” he said. A 2008-09 Urban Institute study shows that corps members have positively impacted student achievement as first- and second-year teachers, said program spokeswoman Kaitlin Gastrock. “Our alumni, inspired by their two-year teaching experience, become lifelong leaders in a variety of professional fields in their effort to expand opportunities for kids growing up in low-income communities,” Gastrock said. Etherial Edetan, a UT alumna and current corps member in Atlanta, has taught kindergarten and first grade since joining the program in 2009. In May, she will spend her final days in the classroom but not in the field of education. “I’m going to continue working in education in some kind of way, but I don’t think I can be the strongest advocate of education by staying in the classroom,” she said. “I think I need to go outside of the classroom to make effective improvements.” Graham said he hopes to instill “confidence and a love for learning” into his Philadelphia elementary students. The program will provide him with weeks of training, preparation for his teacher certification test and relocation funds. Then he will be off to his classroom. “I know it’s going to be a hard job, and I think that if I can do this, then I can do anything,” Graham said. “I’m not going to shy away from the challenge. Actually, I’m looking forward to it.”