Texas Exes

Photo Credit: Evelyn Moreno | Daily Texan Staff

Alumna Clara Villarreal twirled her son around as a tune played by UT’s mariachi ensemble echoed through the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.

Villarreal and her son found their seats at the 16th annual Texas Exes Hispanic Alumni Fiesta on Friday, joining more than 200 former students at the sold-out event.

“It’s important to be able to provide alumni avenues to connect with each other, along with the experiences they shared,” said Brian Ricter, Texas Exes business analyst and networks coordinator. “The Hispanic alumni all had similar student organizations and similar experiences during their time on campus. This is a way for them to stay connected to the University in that affinity, even if they don’t all live in the same place anymore.”

Complete with a towering queso and chip display, raffle prizes lining the walls and an appearance by the UT mascot, Hook’em, the fiesta provided an activity-packed evening while helping raise money for the alumni scholarship fund.

Through the Texas Exes, the Hispanic Alumni Network’s proceeds will go toward a set of scholarships for UT students. Ricter said there are currently nine students benefiting from the Network’s scholarships.

For Villarreal, a former aerospace engineering major, the event’s cause brought her back to campus.

“The bottom line is all the money raised is for scholarships,” Villarreal said. “I earned the Texas Achievement Award when I was (at UT), and I wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise. That’s what called to me the most, the philanthropic part of it.”

For alumnus Richard Zuniga, the event was a way to reconnect with those he saw at Fiestas in previous years. Zuniga said the event provides a good way to give back to the University.

“We’ve been doing this for seven or eight years now,” Zuniga said. “It’s important to get people back and get them to stay in touch with the University and see what the scholarships are doing through here.”

This year was the “Sweet Sixteen” for the signature Hispanic Alumni event and also marked the last fiesta performance for neuroscience senior Frankie Lira, who plays the Guitarra de Golpe in the mariachi ensemble.

“It’s always great performing for people who know the music,” Lira said. “It’s fun seeing people come together, not only for the love of music, but also because they love UT.”

Matthew McConaughey attends the Texas football game Saturday evening in recognition of recent Distinguished Alumnus Awards. UT alumni recipients were awarded for their lifetime achievements and contributions.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

For the 56th year, the Texas Exes alumni association recognized the work of UT alumni through its 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Awards. 

The 2014 recipients included former football player Earl Campbell, former regent H. Scott Caven Jr., businessman John Massey, astronaut Karen Nyberg, actor Matthew McConaughey and Dealey Decherd Herndon, former executive director of the State Preservation Board of Texas. Jody Conradt, former UT women’s basketball coach, was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award.

In his acceptance speech, McConaughey said before attending the University, he decided to become a lawyer and thought about applying to Southern Methodist University. McConaughey, who won the Oscar for Best Actor in March, said his brother told him that because their oil business was going bankrupt, it would be cheaper to go to UT. 

“For that, I am happy the oil business went to pot because this was the four best years of my life,” McConaughey said. “When I tell people about this university, I tell them they will have access to a great education but also learn how to compete and engage. While I was here, I made a lot of my closest friends here and at Delta Tau Delta.”        

Remembered for his punishing style of play and becoming UT’s first Heisman winner, Campbell, who received the Heisman Trophy in 1977, said it was hard to initially understand the impact the University had on him.

“It wasn’t until I got to the NFL when I realized what UT gave me,” Campbell said. “I noticed this with teammates with the [Houston] Oilers as they talked to me more about Coach [Darrell K] Royal and the University and things that I went through.”

Caven served on the Board of Regents from 2003-09, including as chairman from 2007-09. In his speech, Caven talked about the significance of the hires he was able to make with the board, such as William Powers Jr. as president, Francisco Cigarroa as chancellor and Bruce Zimmerman as head of UT Investment Management Company.

“Having served on the Board of Regents and UTIMCO, it gave me opportunities to make a difference,” Caven said. “One of our most important duties was choosing our leaders.” 

Nyberg, who completed her doctorate in 1998, has participated in two missions and logged more than 75 million miles in space as a NASA astronaut.

“When I came to UT, I started as a graduate student,” Nyberg said. “It is because of the people I met and the opportunities I was given that I was able to accomplish my dreams.”

This year’s recipients joined a long list of well-known alumni, including Walter Cronkite, Lady Bird Johnson, Ben Crenshaw, Michael Dell and Adm. William McRaven, the next UT System chancellor. 

Kay Bailey Hutchison speaks at a conference on research in Dallas Tuesday, June 4.

Photo Credit: Bobby Blanchard | Daily Texan Staff

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison took office as the president of the Texas Exes alumni association on July 1.

Hutchison, who is 71 years old and a former UT cheerleader, will lead the organization of more than 100,000 UT alumni for the next year. Hutchison said she will use her position to protect the University and its relevance to the state.

“This is a time where I think all of us who love the University need to come together to assure that the value of our diploma and the value of UT to the state of Texas is not diminished,” Hutchison said.

Tim Taliaferro, Texas Exes spokesman, called Hutchison’s involvement an honor for the University and the association.

“It’s just a point of pride, regardless of your politics. She’s the kind of person that Texas Exes are proud to associate with,” Taliaferro said.

Hutchison earned an undergraduate degree from the University in 1962 and graduated from the School of Law in 1967. Hutchison said her love of the University motivated her to accept the position.

“I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it with the other things I’m doing, but I decided that it was so important that we all try to promote our University and give back where we can,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison was the first woman to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, serving there for 20 years before retiring in 2013. Hutchison has also served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as state treasurer.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Business and Law, a joint center of School of Law and McCombs School of Business, was recently named in her honor. She is also a member of the UT Law School Foundation Board of Trustees and the UT Southwestern Medical Foundation Board of Trustees.

“We are proud that such a wonderful public servant who has a long and cherished relationship with the University is going to continue her legacy of service by leading the Texas Exes,” UT spokesman J.B. Bird said.

Hutchison, who has been supportive of Powers, said she hopes the University can move past controversies that have strained relations with the UT System leadership.

“I think the leadership of the Texas Exes has been excellent and the past presidents with whom I’ve met are all very supportive of assuring that the controversies don’t cause any lessening of the value of our diploma, the value of UT to the state of Texas, and the enthusiasm of our alumni,” Hutchison said.

Robert T. Alexander, an Austin attorney and lifetime Texas Exes member, said he was happy with the selection.

“She is without a doubt the classiest lady — she loves this university,” Alexander said.

Hutchison, the seventh female president in the alumni association’s 125-year history, said she is looking forward to the year ahead leading the organization.

"We have the greatest group of chapters all over the state,” she said. “I think we have to get through this and just stay steady in our support of UT.”

Much has changed on the 40 Acres over the last 40 years—beyond adjusting the size of the “40 Acres” main campus from 388 acres to 350. When my parents were students here, Earl Campbell had just become the first Longhorn Heisman recipient. The UT System Board of Regents had just purchased the esteemed Gutenberg Bible for $2.4 million. And a historically unprecedented number of students — 48,145 — led the administration in 1981 to institute enrollment management. 

For me, a current student, the scene changes a little bit. Our football team certainly wasn’t led by a Heisman trophy winner, as we ceded that honor to Aggie Johnny “Football” Manziel. At least one regent spends his time searching through President William Powers Jr.’s papers rather than for biblical rarities. And while my freshman class of 8,092 students became the school’s largest ever, the school simultaneously saw its overall enrollment at its second highest: 52,186 students in fall 2012. The diverse student body identified as just below 50 percent white, 19 percent Hispanic, 16 percent Asian, 7 percent international and nearly 5 percent African-American.

But when I joined my mom this month for an informal reunion with college friends — she graduated from UT-Austin undergraduate in 1982, and from the Law School in 1985 — some experiences she and her friends recalled on the 40 Acres reminded me of my own. Some of our associations differed — my mother joined Spooks (the forerunner to Texas Spirits) and read the Texan, while I admire the Spirits’ energy and write for the Texan. Yet much remains the same, as we took classes from the same professor, played intramural sports and enjoyed Greek life. In each instance, we discovered the culture and opportunities at the University hold similar, with school spirit and traditions standing the test of time. We’re a part of something larger than ourselves.

But how do we remain a part when we graduate?

On campus, the Texas Exes alumni association boosts University pride. The Student Leadership Committee, according to President Rita Holguin, organizes alumni panels, etiquette dinners, networking events and football rallies. 

Texas Exes’ 149 branches worldwide award students $1.9 million in scholarships each year. 

“People join to support the University and demonstrate pride as part of the Longhorn family,” Student Relations Coordinator Kelsey Roberts said. “Membership in the Texas Exes says you’re proud of and you support UT.”

And yet, most alumni do not join Texas Exes. The 100,000 members stem from a graduate base of nearly 450,000. According to Roberts, most alumni not involved tell Texas Exes they merely never got around to joining. Others feel the price they paid for tuition was contribution enough to the University.

With only a year at Texas under my belt, I’m not sure how I’ll support and stay connected to the University long-term. But I won’t just be a Longhorn for four years.

Be it through Texas Exes, athletic loyalty or the simple acknowledgment later in life that the University aided our success, it’s important to give credit to our alma mater. 

UT alumni have found a multitude of creative ways to do so. One recent anonymous Plan II alum began a grant for the Plan II biology class to travel to Bastrop State Park and the UT Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas to enrich classroom study.

Decorated World War II Veteran and business and law alum Frank Denius funds the Normandy Scholars Program, which provides participants an intensive study of World War II and subsequent visits to key battle sites in Europe.  Denius meets with the students each year to recount his battle experiences.

And when The Daily Texan faced the prospect of print reduction last semester, a string of newspaper alumni emerged to support the paper. They offered financial contributions, advocacy and even expertise — to find a profitable business model for the paper, to mentor students and to recharge the paper that kick-started their careers.

Why? Because they, too, got their start on the 40 Acres. 

Epstein is a Plan II and journalism sophomore from Dallas. 

Almost a century after a falling out with the administration spurred the University’s alumni association to become independent, its leadership says its autonomy is critical in allowing the organization to meet its goals and give millions of dollars to the University and its students.

A group of alumni formed the Texas Ex-Students’ Association, known as the Texas Exes, in 1885 as an extension of the University. In 1917 the association broke away from the University when former UT System Regent William Hogg led alumni against former Gov. Jim Ferguson after Ferguson vetoed state appropriations to the University. As a separate organization, the association could hold an official position on proposed legislation and administrative decisions — something state law prohibits the University from doing.

The legacy of that independence lives on in the organization, Texas Exes executive director Leslie Cedar said.

“Our purpose is truly to be an independent and formidable network of supporters to champion the University,” Cedar said. “… Any time there is friction with the System and the University or the University and any governing bodies — that’s the exact reason an independent association should exist. Because we’re independent, we can report on the situation and we can provide an open forum for commentary
for alums.”

The Texas Exes have openly supported UT President William Powers Jr. in his recent battle between the UT System Board of Regents. Cedar testified before the state Senate Committee on Higher Education on March 26 that a regent she chose not to name left her emails and phone calls expressing displeasure with the association’s support of Powers.

Regent involvement in the Texas Exes’ policy decisions is unusual, said Gordon Appleman, former president of the Texas Exes’ board of directors.

“The regents have no role in the governance of the Ex-Students’ Association,” Appleman said.

Regent interest in the relationship between the University and external nonprofits peaked in late 2011 when Larry Sager, dean of the UT School of Law, was asked to step down after receiving a forgivable loan from the UT Law School Foundation — presumably without University oversight. Joseph Moldenhauer, professor emeritus of the English department, said there was no University involvement at all when he took a $14,000 loan to finance his home through a program run by the Exes in 1965.  

“[The Exes] had money and they wanted to put the money to use,” Moldenhauer said. “I don’t remember having to get permission from anybody in the department or the University. I went there and said ‘I want to talk to somebody about the mortgage.’”

The Exes no longer provide loans to professors, Cedar said. Despite disagreement with the regents and the organization’s legal independence from the University, the Exes often work closely with administrators on campus to identify areas in need of support. 

“Our goal is almost entirely related to scholarships at this point,” Cedar said. 

In the 2011-2012 academic year, the organization gave $1.9 million in scholarships to almost 700 students, including gender and ethnicity-specific scholarships the University cannot legally administer and full-ride Forty Acres Scholars Program scholarships.

When the University identified the need for full-ride scholarships to lure top students to campus, the Exes set out to raise funds to create a scholarship program. After raising $50 million, the organization set up a separate scholarship foundation for the Forty Acres Scholars Program in 2009. The Exes have raised an additional $5 million since then to fund the program and hope to raise an additional $95 million in the next decade, Cedar said.

In addition to monetary support, the Exes also help organize its more than 97,000 members to advocate for legislation that could benefit the University, said John Beckworth, president of the organization’s board of directors.

“We organized alumni to participate in the advocating for establishing the medical school at UT-Austin through Central Health Prop 1 earlier this year,” Beckworth said.

The University has also at times made agreements that helped the association raise funds. For several decades, the Exes ran a company called Campus Services, a taxable entity that provided vending services on campus to generate revenue, Cedar said. Although Campus Services ceased operating vending services on campus in the ‘90s, in 2011, the Ex-Students’ Association reported the organization held $27,270 in deferred compensation for former director Jim Boon. 

“That was part of a deferred compensation plan set up for Jim some years ago,” Cedar said.

The Texas Exes announced a new scholarship named for Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a long-time champion of affordable higher education.

The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship was announced Tuesday morning during a ceremony hosted by the Texas Exes, the independent UT alumni organization. The scholarship will first be awarded to one student in fall 2013 and will be awarded to multiple students per year in the future.

Judith Zaffirini’s 30-year-old son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., will endow the scholarship for high school seniors from South Texas, with preference for students from Webb, Starr or Zapata counties. The scholarship will be renewable for up to four years if students maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

“What we all wish for our children is not be like us but to be better than us,” Judith Zaffirini said. “Not to match our accomplishments but to surpass them. Ladies and gentlemen, I think I have succeeded.”

Zaffirini, whose legislative priorities include adequate funding for financial aid programs, has authored bills in support of funding for financial assistance programs and helped establish the B-On-Time Loan Program, a state loan program that offers students loan forgiveness.

Both Zaffirini and her son earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from UT.

“If you look across this room, there’s a lot of people from all parts of the state and even different parts of the country,” Carlos Zaffirini Jr. said. “There’s one thing that we all have in common: the University of Texas made our lives better. The goal of this scholarship is to make this state and this country better the way my mom did.”

Judith Zaffirini formerly chaired the Higher Education Committee since its inception in 2009. Beginning in 2005, she chaired the Higher Education Subcommittee before it was upgraded to a regular committee.

In 1987 she joined the senate as the first Hispanic woman to be elected into the position.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst recently reappointed Judith Zaffirini to chair the Senate Committee on Government Organization, but she will continue to serve on the higher education committee as general member.

UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said the Zaffirini family understands the importance of financial assistance for students in South Texas.

“One of the UT System’s highest priorities is improving education and health in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” Cigarroa said. “This scholarship will support hardworking, qualified students who may not have been able to attend the University of Texas because of financial circumstances.”

UT President William Powers Jr. said Texas Exes scholarships, including the Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship, help the University attract a diverse
student body.

“[Scholarships] also stand for the proposition of what public and great public universities are about,” Powers said. “In every way, scholarships are so critical and that is one of the things we’re celebrating today.”

The Texas Exes will manage the scholarship. The alumni association awards close to $2 million in scholarships to about 700 students annually.

Printed on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 as: Scholarship named for Senator Zaffirini 

UT alumnus John Beckworth has walked down the burnt orange road for most of his life. He received two degrees at the University, and even married a fellow UT alumna. This month, Beckworth continues his burnt orange streak, becoming the 87th board president of Texas Exes, the UT alumni association.

Beckworth, a lifetime member of Texas Exes and partner at Houston law firm WattBeckworth, took over as Texas Exes president July 1. He is replacing former president Machree Gibson, the first black female president of the organization. He had previously served one year as president-elect. Beckworth will serve a one-year term and said he hopes to grow and strengthen the organization in several ways to better support the central goal of Texas Exes — to support the University, its students and alumni.

“Our goal is to enhance the University’s mission of being a university of the first class, both for its immediate constituency, students, as well as for the state of Texas and the exes,” he said.

Specifically, Beckworth said he plans to increase the openness of communication between Texas Exes and its constituencies, increase the focus of the organization’s volunteer efforts and expand the Forty Acres Scholars Program, a scholarship program run by Texas Exes that works to attract the most talented students to UT and support them.

“The Forty Acres Scholars Program has potential,” he said. “Indeed, it is undertaking a really transformational effort on our school to provide a comprehensive scholarship experience to very gifted students and to create such a textured experience that they will positively affect their fellow students and the community beyond them.”

Beckworth said UT has greatly affected the life of him and his family. He attended the UT School of Law along with his wife, Laura, and has two sons who are UT alumni and one that will be starting graduate school at UT. “Burnt orange is in their blood,” said Texas Exes spokesman Tim Taliaferro.

Taliaferro said by becoming president, Beckworth is taking on a very important responsibility, since the president serves as leader of a very large and historic organization of about 99,000 members.

Taliaferro said the board president is “sort of the honorary leader of the organization... he or she sets general priorities and oversees the staff operations.”

Armiya Humphrey, Business Honors Program junior and a Forty Acres Scholar, said she thinks the program is very successful in attracting the most gifted students to UT and would strongly advocate for its growth.

“When I was looking at colleges, my top school was Harvard,” she said. “I got in, and that was where I was planning on going before I went down to finals weekend of the scholars program and saw all the resources that UT has, how much they were going to put into this program and, basically, what it could help me do.”

[Corrected Sept. 30: Changed headline]

Customer usage of a Longhorn silhouette credit card generates $875,000 per year for the Texas Exes alumni association.

The almost 20-year-old corporate agreement with Bank of America includes an undisclosed third party that uses the names and addresses of UT alumni to mail out credit card offers. Texas Exes CEO and executive director Leslie Cedar said the contact name and address is kept confidential by the third party, and Bank of America pays the association based on transaction volume.

“We provide an offer to members, and if they use that offer, we benefit,” Cedar said.

Cedar said as a nonprofit organization, it is important for the Texas Exes to have agreements like this to continue to provide alumni services. She said these types of agreements help the association continue to run.

She said the offer is sent out every couple of months to 380,000 addressable contacts. Cedar said 95,000 of the addressable contacts are dues-paying Texas Exes members and the rest are UT alumni who are not members. She said the Texas Exes association manages the University alumni database, so the most direct way to get out of the offers is to call the Texas Exes.

“This is standard practice for alumni associations,” Cedar said. “In order to run the operations, we look for revenue streams.”

Jessica Ramsour, a 2004 alumna, said she does not think the association should collect revenue streams that would come in from credit card usage on top of its membership fees and does not like the extra mail that comes with the offer.
“I personally am not a fan of that because I get enough credit card offers as it is,” Ramsour said.

She said she does not mind the transfer of alumni names and addresses to a third party as long as they are kept confidential.

Bank of America spokesperson Betty Riess said the corporation has this type of agreement with other alumni associations and sports teams.

“It basically gives the card issuer the opportunity to market a card with a particular brand,” Riess said.

She said Bank of America stopped on-campus marketing of credit cards to students in 2008. Riess said for the past few years, Bank of America has excluded student names from marketing lists.

Brad Miller, 2011 alumnus and Texas Exes member, said he is fine with the agreement.

“If they can make a dollar here or there, it’s not a huge deal,” Miller said. “As a member, it will give me some perks so that will be nice.” 

Printed on Thursday, September 29, 2011 as: Alumni information used to distribute credit card offers