UT

Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

Inspired by the tradition of the typical Americana band, Dallas-based folk band Light Horse Harry hopes to bring down-home roots and Texas twang to the UT campus, co-ops and bars across Austin.

Made up of UT students Augustus Miller, Zach Youpa, Drew Scherger, Kathryn Drake and Shane Gordon, Light Horse Harry originated in Dallas and then came to Austin to pursue its education at UT. 

The band is currently working on its second feature album, which will be released in 2015, and records in the West Campus apartment of Miller, an unspecified business junior and lead vocalist. “Busted in Brownsville,” the band’s four-song EP, was released this past summer. 

Scherger, radio-television-film sophomore and bassist, said the band prefers to record the songs themselves. 

“We do have complete artistic control,” Scherger said. “That’s the benefit to not having a professional recording space.” 

According to Scherger, Light Horse Harry is a Texas band, first and foremost, but enjoys playing all genres.

“We play rock; we play blues; we play country,” Scherger said. “We kind of do a mix of all of them.” 

Youpa, acting sophomore and guitarist, said it can be hard to stand out with so many young bands based in Austin.  

“There’s nobody that’s like a UT band,” Youpa said. “Hopefully that could be us.”

In an attempt to expand its sound, the band gained two new members — music performance junior Drake and business junior Gordon — on fiddle and drums. Miller met both Drake and Gordon through connections at UT. With the new additions to the band, Scherger said its sound has is gradually transforming. 

“We’re on kind of [a] lighter thing than we were earlier,” Scherger said. “We dropped a lot of the technology; it’s gotten more raw and ‘roots-y.’” 

The band makes an effort to meet up and hold practice every week. 

“There’s more of a problem with all of our schedules getting matched up to where we can find time to progress with each other, rather than just individually,” Miller said. 

The group even shares a Spotify playlist with songs they like to inspire each other and keep everyone in the same creative ballpark. 

“You want to get people dancing and jumping,” Miller said. “You wouldn’t want to play songs that are sentimental and lyrically driven.” 

For Light Horse Harry, getting a live audience excited about their music is essential. 

“We make people smile and alter their moods; one song we can play can make people feel a little better,” Youpa said. 

Scherger said the band would love to pursue a career in the music industry, but they hope to continue playing together no matter where members’ professional careers take them. 

“I’m still gonna play music as long as my hands work,” Scherger said.

J.J. Campbell, UT alumnus and founder of Rural Rooster, a screening printing studio, uses a slate and screen to create art designs on paper. Campbell designs posters and merchandise for bands such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and St. Vincent.

Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

Color is something there is never a shortage of at Rural Rooster. Buckets of ink containing almost any color imaginable line the art studio’s shelves. There are screens of different designs on every table, and clean T-shirts are nowhere in sight. The artists, of course, don’t mind the chaos, describing screen printing as messy — but a labor of love.

Rural Rooster is an East Austin screen printing studio founded by J.J. Campbell in 2001. Six other artists help run the studio. Each comes from varying artistic backgrounds, such as graphic design, T-shirt printing and poster-making. Campbell and the other artists of Rural Rooster can be seen during the East Austin Studio Tour, a self-guided tour showcasing the studios of local artists. The tour will take place Saturday-Sunday and again Nov. 22-23. 

While Campbell started out designing T-shirts for bands he was in as a teenager, the Austin artist and UT alumnus is now a regularly commissioned artist. He now designs posters and other merchandise for bands such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and St. Vincent.  

“I was still a senior in college, and I started working under that name — Rural Rooster — just out of my house.” Campbell said. “I’ve worked on perfecting my craft since then and getting other people involved who have helped the business change and evolve over the years.” 

Louis Eastman, the primary T-shirt printer at Rural Rooster, believes working with various artists helps not only the company evolve but the artists themselves. 

“I’ve learned a lot from my coworkers,” Eastman said. “They’re very knowledgeable and well rounded. I can bounce ideas off of them, and brainstorming is always welcome. It gives you different perspectives [because] we all have lots of experience in several different fields.” 

Although she has been working for Rural Rooster for just two years, Colleen Judge is an experienced printmaking instructor. She said she focuses primarily on creating the shop’s posters — something that allows her to work on more intricate designs. 

“I like posters because you can get a lot of different details with only a few amount of colors,” Judge said. “Printing posters allows me to see how paper and ink interact with each other, and it allows me to mix inks and manipulate colors.”

The printing process is an intensive one. After creating a design, every color that makes up the design has to be separated, dedicating each screen to a
single color. A transparency is then printed out for each color while the screen is coated in a photo emulsion, which reacts with light and leaves the screen with a stencil of the design.

“There are several stages to it,” Campbell said. “Once I have an assignment, I’ll start in on the design, and I’ll generally draw out a few directions in my sketchbook or do digital sketches and get inspired by things around me.”

For Campbell, his work at Rural Rooster has been heavily influenced by his experiences making T-shirts for bands, studying studio art at UT and working a part-time job through college.  

“I definitely learned a lot of the craftsmanship behind screen printing at UT,” Campbell said. “We talked a lot about the implications of certain image and colors. It helped me build my visual vocabulary to help me communicate certain things. Then I worked a part-time job at a T-shirt store through school, and there were things I learned there that I didn’t learn in college. I think the blending of both of those sides gives me a unique voice.”

Vincent DiNino, a retired UT band director, died Tuesday night at age 95.

He was with his family members at his home in Bay City after being transferred from St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston.

DiNino was hired as the first full time UT band director in 1955 and served in the position for 30 years. After retirement he remained involved with the program throughout his life. Director of Bands Jerry Junkin said DiNino was generous with the department both financially and as a mentor.

“All of our current students knew him, who he was, and loved him," Junkin said. "They adored as much as the students who were in the band when he was a director.”

Junkin said DiNino had an incredible memory and a “flare” about him that came naturally and made people feel like his best friend.

“He could remember and could recall, I’m sure to his dying days, the names of virtually every student he ever taught,” Junkin said. “But not only that, where they were from, their their parents names were, what they did for a living, the names of their children and all of that.”

According to Robert Carnochan, the current director of the Longhorn Band, when DiNino was first hired the band had only white male members. DiNino allowed women to march in the band beginning in 1956 and later integrated the band.

“His moral compass was so right and so true that he knew the right thing to do before it became a mandate of what the rest of the country was eventually forced to do,” Carnochan said.

DiNino also started the tradition of orange and white western-style band uniforms, said Carnochan.

‘The uniforms that we currently wear are a design that we’ve modified somewhat since his time, creating this very iconic Texas cowboy look that other people have tried to copy throughout the country,” Carnochan said.

Carnochan said DiNino is an iconic members of the UT community,

“We always talk about the people that ‘bleed burnt orange’ in the Longhorn nation,” Carnochan, said. “If there were going to be a president of that organization, he would be at the top of that list. He truly, truly loved The University of Texas and the Longhorn band.”

DiNino is survived by his wife Timothy Ann Hardy Sloan.

RTF majors junior Justin Perez, senior Victoria Prescott and senior Hannah Whisenant stand outside the UT Tower as a part of a memorial service presentation organized for the anniversary of the 1966 Tower shooting. As president of the Students of the World organization, Whisenant organized the event that memorialized victims of the shooting.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Current and former University students gathered on the Main Mall on Friday for a living memorial 48 years after Charles Whitman opened fire from the observation deck of the UT Tower.

The memorial service began at the Littlefield Fountain and moved to where each victim fell, to remember 16 people who were killed and the 31 wounded after architectural engineering student Whitman’s shooting spree on Aug. 1, 1966.

Many of the survivors of the shooting were in attendance, including Claire Wilson James who was one of the first people shot, while eight months pregnant. Her boyfriend at the time, Tom Eckman was killed in the attack, as was their unborn child.

“This is the first time that I’ve been able to be part of a community that was involved in this and I’ve longed for it. I’ve longed for it for all of these years and I’m incredibly touched,” James said.

A group called UT Students of the World organized the event. Hannah Whisenant, event coordinator and radio-television-film junior, learned that an official memorial service had never been held for the victims while working as an intern on an upcoming documentary film on the shooting.

“The turtle pond is built as a memorial, but it’s a very tiny plaque, and a lot of people have been upset about that and with the recent shootings and with mass shootings kind of becoming a recurring problem it seemed like a good time to revisit that issue,” Whisenant said.

The walk finished at the turtle pond behind the tower, where the memorial ended with a speech from adjunct associate professor Alfred McAlister and a moment of silence. McAlister said less guns in fewer hands and better mental health care for people were the keys to preventing mass shootings.

Actually, the same way you prevent mass killing is how you prevent suicide,” McAlister said. “It’s exactly the same thing — school psychologists, mental health experts at the grassroots level finding and helping disturbed people.

James said she didn't feel traumatized by the event, but rather that she is a proud survivor and said she thought it was good that people can talk about it.

Remember how important it is to try your best to talk to somebody when something like this happens, James said. I think it's better if they didn’t focus so much on the killer, but you know, personally, I just always felt sorry for him.

Caroline Khoury, a senior member of the Ransom Notes, practices for her upcoming April concert.  The Ransom Notes is a capella group at UT consisting of 13 people who perform 20-30 gigs per year.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

With all of her might, Caroline Khoury stepped on the arched platform and into the spotlight to perform the song she had been waiting two years to sing.

Khoury was accepted into the UT a capella group, Ransom Notes, her junior year. She had not performed since high school and immediately knew this group was what she had been missing.

Freshman year, her roommate encouraged her to audition for the group. Khoury soon realized she missed the deadline for auditions, and during her sophomore year there were no open spots. Khoury, now a journalism senior and music director for Ransom Notes, auditioned for the group her junior year. 

“I was sitting in my room junior year, minding my own business when I randomly remembered about Ransom Notes,” Khoury said. “I don’t know if it was by chance, luck or God, but when I looked up audition dates, they were in two days.” 

More than 70 girls auditioned for the group and only three made it, Khoury included. She auditioned with “Broken-Hearted Girl” by Beyoncé and “At Last!” by Etta James

Within two weeks of making Ransom Notes, the group had Khoury performing monthly for crowds of 200 people. Her first performance with the group solidified her passion for music.

The Ransom Notes consist of 13 people: six boys and seven girls. They perform anywhere from 20 to 35 gigs during the school year and have an annual winter concert in December and spring concert in April. With a repertoire covering everything from Beyoncé and Patty Griffin to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Ransom Notes explore many genres of music.

“For my first gig with Ransom Notes, all I remember are the smiling faces in the audience,” Khoury said. “I was standing on the smallest, gray-carpeted platform and realized there was no other place I wanted to be.”

Lexi Bixler, director of Ransom Notes and economics senior, said that Khoury was a shoo-in from the second she sang the first verse of her audition performance.

“We look for two main things in our potential candidates: talent and personality,” Bixler said. “Caroline was outstanding in both areas and has grown into a fearless performer. Her incredibly powerful voice, control and clarity set her apart.” 

Khoury and Bixler worked closely this year as they organized rehearsal schedules, picked setlists for gigs and pieced together arrangements for the group. 

“Caroline has been an incredible music director and absolutely wonderful to work with,” Bixler said. “She is a perfectionist, yet has a disarming quality about her that allows her direction to be accepted.”

The Ransom Notes have performed for many UT students throughout the years. Michael Aaron, a journalism sophomore, first heard Khoury sing with the group last year.

“I’ve heard Caroline sing several times, and I think she has an immense amount of talent,” Aaron said. “There is definitely a lot of soul in her voice. She reminds me of Christina Aguilera in a way.”

Though she is only 5 feet 2 inches, Khoury described her voice as surprisingly strong and soulful. While she knew she wanted to join an a cappella group in college, she was unaware of how much it would impact her life. 

“I realized that if I didn’t have Ransom Notes, I’d probably be depressed without even knowing it, because music would have been missing,” Khoury said.

She has found her love for music leaking into other areas of her life. Recently, she has explored combining her passion for performing with her future journalism career.

“I think if I never did anything in music again, I’d be extremely sad,” Khoury said. “As a journalist, I can see myself being a potential music critic.”

Her final performance with Ransom Notes will be Sunday, April 28 at 7 p.m. in Hogg Auditorium, the day after a free performance at the Blanton Fifty Fest

“I am so blessed to have found an outlet to sing while in school,” Khoury said. “Ransom Notes was the best decision I’ve made at UT.”

Live music defines Austin. Ever since the late 1960s, music has flourished here, and anybody who has ever taken a walk down Sixth Street can see how important live music is to the city’s cultural identity. In fact, I still remember the first time I came to Austin; the sights, sounds and smells of the music venues lining the streets downtown left an impression that I won’t ever forget. I felt like Austin was a true music town, which was a huge part of why I decided to come to school here. And the fact that the Cactus Cafe — an especially historic venue that helped launch the careers of The Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith and many other venerable music legends — was on UT’s campus only furthered my conviction that I was choosing a school connected to Austin’s vibrant music scene. But the true relationship between UT and the local music is tenuous at best, despite the Cactus Cafe’s presence on campus. Every UT student has a lot to gain from taking advantage of the Cactus Cafe, and we can all do more to take part in Austin’s unique music scene.

With the impending arrival of SXSW — the annual music, film and technology mega-festival that descends upon Austin for 10 days — it is a better time than ever to examine the relationship between UT and Austin’s music scene. This relationship is definitely complicated, but it isn’t what I expected it to be when I first decided to come to school here. When I visited UT five years ago as a junior in high school, I was thrilled by the live music all around me, and especially by the fact that such an historic venue was in the Texas Union, right in the middle of UT’s campus. But soon after settling in to my dorm room, I started to realize that the UT campus was a world away from the vibrant music community I saw when I visited, even though the Cactus Cafe was right outside my bedroom window.

In reality, the idea of Austin as a music town plays only a very minor role in our identity as a student body. How many students on this campus appreciate how important the Cactus Cafe is?  How many don’t even know that it exists?  The University attempted to shutter the Cactus Cafe in 2010, in no small part because they simply didn’t think it mattered to the UT community and wasn’t worth the financial commitment, and this speaks volumes about how little appreciation we have for Austin’s live music tradition.

Granted, there are plenty of UT students who love live music and do everything they can to take advantage of what Austin has to offer, but this is likely nothing more than a product of the sheer size of UT’s student body. In fact, my impression after my freshman year was that UT’s only real engagement with the Austin music scene was during the Austin City Limits music festival each fall. We have such a deep, rich and varied music scene at our fingertips all year long, not just during that one weekend in September or October, and it is a shame that this isn’t a bigger part of who we are as a student body.

The Cactus Cafe is an amazing resource and a true musical treasure that is literally sitting right in our backyard, and it’s time that UT students start to appreciate its value. I recently spoke with Matt Munoz, the director of the Cactus Cafe, and he made it clear that attracting more UT students to shows is one of the venue’s main goals for the future. He told me that after a good show, he often hears UT students saying, “’Wow, I didn’t even know this was here.’  This is part of our longtime goal on campus, to get these younger kids on campus engaged.”  According to Munoz, the Cactus Cafe is always looking to book younger, UT-based bands and hosts a monthly open mic night focused on UT students. But our campus community is still disappointingly disengaged with the Cactus Cafe and Austin’s vibrant music scene in general.

In the upcoming months, the Cactus Cafe will host countless rising stars of the music world, as well as well-established acts from Austin and beyond. For instance, in the month of March alone you can see country and rock legends Tom Russell, Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely. These are musicians people cross the state to see live, and all you have to do is cross the street. But even if you can’t make it to a show, you can always just stop by for a beer; the Cactus Cafe is open all week as a common space for UT students to meet and relax. The fact is that UT is in a unique position to benefit from Austin’s one-of-a-kind music scene, and we are blessed to have a venue like the Cactus Cafe right on our campus. We should take advantage of it.

Nikolaides is a Spanish and government senior from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jose Quezada, 12, reads a Naruto graphic novel while waiting for dismissal at Cedar Creek Middle School Thursday afternoon. UT Libraries has joined the READ promotion in which they’ve distributed posters of UT mascot Hook Em  reading in various settings to 655 schools encouraging students to read more.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Posters of Bevo and Hook ‘Em reading on the beach, in a chemistry lab and at the stadium have filled the libraries at local schools, encouraging kids to pick up a book and read.

UT Libraries joined the American Library Association’s READ promotion to produce four posters of the UT mascots. They have been distributed to 655 schools in the Texas Education Agency’s Region XIII area since mid-September.

UT Libraries spokesperson Travis Willmann said once the posters were distributed and the images appeared online, he began receiving positive feedback and requests for posters from teachers, librarians and UT fans. He said more than 50 teachers asked for posters during the first week of distribution.

“As soon as we put it out there we got a good response through emails and Facebook,” Willmann said. “We had somebody contact us from as far away as Colorado Springs to find out how she could get the posters.”

Dixie West, a librarian at Cedar Creek Middle School in Bastrop ISD and a UT alumnna, said receiving the box of posters to find her mascot was a nice surprise. She said she emailed UT Libraries to express her appreciation.

“The first one I saw was the one with the band, and I was in band at UT so it just made my day,” West said.

West said the posters fit well with the middle school’s initiative encouraging its students to pursue higher education.

“Each teacher has the college they went to on their door, and we have posters for universities up in halls,” West said. “We encourage higher education of any kind, so things like this are great.”

Boone Elementary librarian Tina Shands said the faculty at her school also show their collegiate pride to emphasize the importance of higher education.

“Even though we are an elementary school, we want them to be college-ready,” Shands said. “The kids will recognize Bevo and UT, and it will definitely encourage them to read. They love them.”

Willmann said the current posters are available online as free downloads, but if the interest increases, full-size posters may be sold to reach other schools outside the region.

The READ promotion, which began in 1985, frequently features celebrities and actors. Willmann said the positive response to the mascot posters could lead to others featuring celebrities associated with the University.

“We didn’t go with a celebrity. We thought the mascots would be cost-effective and didn’t anticipate such a positive response,” Willmann said. “We have a wish list in mind of some UT alumni we would like to get in contact with. We would also like to get suggestions from students.”

Printed on Friday, October 12, 2012 as: Libraries use mascots to promote reading

Ross McBee, a third-year biology major, remembers driving to dinner on 24th Street with his roommates last fall, when a black Porsche pulled up. At first, McBee and his pals merely admired the car, and then they noticed the driver, UT President William Powers Jr. himself.

"I look over and my friend looks over, and we look at each other like, holy crap, that's President Powers, and whoever was driving double taps the horn and gives him the hook'em and he smiles and does it back and we're like, 'Yeah let's keep this going,' and so we started yelling and screaming and someone was standing out of the sun roof and hooking'em, and he was smiling and giving a hook'em back the whole time. I've seen that car by the tower, but I've never seen him driving in it," McBee said.

We still don't know if "jeopardized" accurately described or describes President Powers' employment status. The online ruckus about Powers' job began around dinnertime on May 9, when Texas Monthly Senior Executive Paul Burka published a post on his eponymous BurkaBlog, which said: "A source tells me that UT president Bill Powers may be in danger of losing his job as a result of his opposition to Governor Perry's insistence on a tuition freeze."

Burka never named his source, but Powers' opposition had been made available in an email he sent several days earlier to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others, which said: "The freeze will have serious consequences for UT Austin and for the ability of Texans to benefit from strong public universities," and that the regents' decision "inevitably will affect our ability to teach our students and make new discoveries."

After the Burka post, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa swiftly denied that Powers was at risk of being fired. Facebook groups and Twitter accounts where students voiced support for Powers appeared online. Some of those listed as members of the group, "I STAND WITH BILL POWERS," said they were surprised to find they had been added to the group overnight, without prior consultation. The group, started by UT graduate student Rachel Meyerson and past student body president Keshav Rajagopalan, now boasts more than 11,000 members. Rajagopalan told The Daily Texan the majority of the people who are now in the group now requested to join.

Because further student protest was rendered unnecessary by Cigarroa's reassurances, it remains to be seen if clicking "join group" is as far as students' righteous indignation will take them.

Quite possibly, personal tension exists between Governor Perry and President Powers. That tension reflects a larger and long-running conflict between two groups: those who believe UT should do more with less money, and those who believe the Texas legislature is obligated to support UT so that the burden of funding its necessary growth does not fall on the shoulders of UT students. 

There is a third group, UT students, which, it too often goes unsaid, supply the reason for the existence of the regents, a President, a Chancellor and a University. Their explosive online support of Powers was curious because the President's outspokenness in favor of tuition increases, while courageous, is not a position one might expect to endear him to UT students, who may support Powers' efforts to ensure UT continues to be well-funded, but not on their dime. Notably, many UT students who voiced support for Powers online denounced tuition increases at the same time.

UT history demonstrates the regents' potential clout, which could trump students' sentiment in favor of Powers, no matter how unified or forceful it becomes. In the 1940s, UT President Homer Rainey and the regents battled over free-speech. When Rainey voiced his objections to the regents at a faculty meeting, the regents fired him. UT students went on strike, marching 8,000-strong and silent from campus to the Capitol, but the regents refused to reverse their decision.

Fifty years later, a skeptic might wonder if UT students really know much about Powers, other than as the man in charge for the past seven years, and for some, like McBee, the friendly man in charge driving a Porsche. Would he inspire them to turn out en masse, whether online or in the streets as the students did more than half a century ago? It's fair to question whether the May outcry in favor of Powers actually stemmed from students' support for his policies, or ran no deeper than "I Heart Powers" t-shirts and a parody Twitter account. Both demonstrate the extent to which Powers' popularity transcends any unpopular policy decision he may support thanks to the celebrity status he enjoys among many UT students. If events unfold so students are compelled to show support for Powers, they better study their man, their arguments and their tactics to beat the regents at this game.

One has a hard time believing the May online campaign would have dissuaded the regents from firing Powers had that been their objective. Importantly, though, the groundswell of support enjoyed by Powers reveals students' willingness to overlook differences in opinion regarding tuition increases when they feel that something, or someone, that they deem important to keeping UT the place they know and love is threatened. After all, maintaining UT's cherished character has been the argument used to justify tuition increases all along.

Ethan Newman and Colton Jansyek take advantage of the free photo booth set up at the biannual Blanton Museum’s Student Fest.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

The Blanton Museum of Art was filled with Old West spirit Thursday as museum patrons took part in various cowboy-themed activities.

At the biannual Student Fest, museum staff came together with the Blanton Student Guild and various campus art organizations to present a free day of activities, food, offerings and exhibits for the general public. The event sported an Old West theme, and activities included student-led tours of the museum, an interactive crossword puzzle and word search, an outdoor photo booth managed by the Texas Photography Club and performances by UT’s Conjunto Ensemble, a band that played music with south Texas origins and Spitshine Poetry, a campus poetry-reading organization.

“The museum hopes to be more conducive to the Austin community’s needs in the future and is holding events like this one to gain more knowledge about public interest, get the public more involved and raise attendance,” said Danielle Schulz, graduate student and University program coordinator at the Blanton Museum of Art.

Joel Guzman, specialist in the Sarah and Ernest School of Music Endowment and instructor of UT’s Conjunto Ensemble, said he was delighted to have his band participate and sees major value in the museum’s work.

“The Blanton is representative of all things important in the art world,” Guzman said. “That also includes forms of art like music and poetry, and I see it as a real advantage that the Blanton has decided to showcase these other art forms through this event. I hope they will continue to grow.”

The event developed as a replacement of Student MIX, a similar event sponsored solely by the Blanton Student Guild held in previous years, Schulz said. Schulz said the event did not garner as much attention as Student Fest because they did not have the resources to market it.

“We wanted to take the event and make it more widely known,” she said. “By putting the full power of the Blanton behind this event, we were able to use the Blanton’s PR and marketing professionals and really get the word out.”

Kate Stark, graduate student and event attendee, said the museum and events like Student Fest bring together the campus and the Austin community.

“It brings people to campus that wouldn’t normally come here,” she said. “This way, it helps make UT a part of the community.”

Samantha Youngblood, UT alumnus and PR and marketing manager for The Blanton Museum of Art, said the museum’s exhibits are a great way of sharing the University’s efforts with the public.

“The Blanton acts as a sort of bridge between the Austin and UT communities,” she said. “We’re here to serve them both and are very open to their ideas.”

Printed on Friday, April 6, 2012 as: Blanton Museum event hosts campus, community

Former student body president Natalie Butler congratulates mathematics Professor James Vick for receiving the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship Wednesday morning. The Friar Society presents the $25,000 award annually to an undergraduate proessor who demonstrates excellence in teaching.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

A professor’s 9 a.m. calculus class was interrupted when the Longhorn Band playing UT fight songs barged in yesterday to honor the professor and his achievements.

A large group of mathematics professor James W. Vick’s friends, co-workers students and members of the Longhorn band gathered outside of Vick’s classroom to present the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship, while Vick taught his class, unaware of the coming award reveal.

The Longhorn band played “The Eyes of Texas,” and Vick was presented with a handful of orange and white, UT-themed balloons and an oversized cardboard check in the amount of $25,000 to use at his discretion. The Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship is one of the most prestigious teaching awards on campus. The UT Friar Society presents this award annually to one undergraduate professor who demonstrates excellence in teaching undergraduates and who contributes to the University community. The FCTF has an endowment of more than $500,000 and an annual award of $25,000, making it the largest faculty award at the University.

Biology senior and Friar Society member Shannon Allport said The Friar Society, established in 1911, is one of the oldest and most prestigious UT honor societies. Allport said Vick was the perfect candidate for the FCTF because he deserves to be recognized for all of his achievements.

Vick currently teaches math to undergraduates and is the former vice president of student affairs.

“The decision was not hard at all,” Allport said. “Dr. Vick has always been and always will be an outstanding member of the UT community.”

Math and economics senior Mariana Fanous nominated Vick for the award and said she first met him as a freshman in M 408D, a calculus sequence that Vick teaches. At first, Vick was just Fanous’s calculus professor, but as she began to visit him in office hours and listen to his speeches at various events, she began to have a deeper respect for Vick.

Fanous said Vick has spoken at Tejas Coffee and Spirit and Traditions Council meetings on topics such as how the University came together after the 1966 Tower shooting and the need for a freshman seminar class, which ultimately led to Vick founding freshman signature courses. Vick was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008, a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. He was honored at last years Pancakes for Parkinson’s, an annual event that promotes awareness of Parkinson’s disease, she said. Vick has participated in multiple campus plan initiatives, which help advance the University’s culture and community engagement.

“Dr. Vick’s participation in Pancakes for Parkinson’s resonated with me the most because the experiences he shared about the disease and event were so heartfelt and genuine,” Fanous said. “I was impressed and inspired by all of his fabulous achievements.”

As he accepted his cardboard check, Vick said The Friar Society has done many great things.

“This is terrific and means more to me than I can say,” Vick said. “UT Austin is a great university because of things that happen here with many people around you who are intelligent, excited and willing to give.”

Looking out to the crowd of students, friends and faculty, Vick said, “You’re the reason why I’m here.”

Vick sent out many thanks to all who support him and those who attended his surprise award reveal.

“The last time someone barged into my classroom like this was for my 40th birthday,” Vick said as laughter filled the classroom. “He was holding a clarinet and wearing a turkey suit.”

Printed on Thursday, April 5, 2012 as:  Math professor earns Friar Fellowship