Archive for July, 2010
I don’t know anyone who bleeds orange more than Jim Boon, the executive director and CEO of the Texas Exes alumni association. For 16 years he has done a fabulous job at the helm of the association, and I’ll miss him when he steps down in December to run the new Texas Exes Scholarship Foundation.
Jim has been an ambassador for UT in Texas and around the world, and we couldn’t have asked for a better advocate. At UT occasions large and small – whether it’s a game, a fundraising event, or a Texas Independence Day celebration – you can count on Jim and the Texas Exes to be making a contribution, if not organizing the entire affair.
Under his leadership at the Texas Exes, revenues and staff size have doubled and its assets have increased from $10 million to more than $80 million. He raised funds to remodel the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, oversaw the construction of the Texas Cowboy Pavilion, and led the development of the Longhorn Village retirement community. And Jim has already raised $22 million for the merit-based 40 Acres Scholars Program.
I’m happy to report that Jim will still be active in the life of the University as he manages the Texas Exes Scholarship Foundation. I’m just afraid that he may get more time to practice his golf game. I’d like to beat him one of these days, but the odds of that are very low.
Thank you, Jim, for your outstanding support of your alma mater and for the tremendous goodwill you have created throughout the UT family.
This week I hosted a dinner for a group of high school students participating in a pilot program called Subiendo: The Academy for Rising Leaders. The program brought outstanding students to Austin for four days of intensive training in leadership and community building. Topics included policy creation, crisis management, financial literacy, and communications.
Subiendo is the inspiration of distinguished alumnus Kenny Jastrow. The program is designed for students entering their senior year of high school, with special focus on leaders in the Texas Hispanic population, although it was open to Central Texas students regardless of ethnicity. Subiendo was funded by Kenny and Susie Jastrow and philanthropists David and Suzanne Booth.
The Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Texas Exes hosted the program. About 50 high school students, who were housed at Jester Center, participated. Events were held on the campus, as well as at the capitol, the Bob Bullock Museum, and Dimensional Fund Advisors, which was founded by David Booth. The students also heard from leaders such as Governor Rick Perry, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, and former Under Secretary of Education Sara Martinez Tucker.
It was a great four days of activities for some of our most promising student leaders. As a result of the generosity of the Jastrows and the Booths, it was free to the students.
Subiendo is Spanish for “climbing” or “going up.” The name refers to our rising leaders of the future. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this inaugural event.
Monday we held a press conference announcing a new product that will help fund scholarships at UT. H2Orange is a new brand of purified Texas water that’s packaged in a bottle shaped like the UT Tower.
This is the first time the Tower has been licensed for a consumable product.
I know a lot of you are concerned about the environment. H2Orange is packaged in bottles made from 100% recyclable plastic, and carbon credits have been purchased through Green Mountain Energy to offset energy used in H2Orange’s manufacturing and transportation. The company has vowed to keep up with advances in technology to make sure that the product is packaged in the most environmentally friendly way.
The product is the inspiration of alumnus Tim McClure, who developed the idea in collaboration with his colleague and fellow alumnus Steve Gurasich. Tim and Steve are the “G” and “M” in the celebrated Austin advertising agency, GSD&M. They’re the folks who brought you “Don’t Mess With Texas” and other memorable messages.
Every bottle of H2Orange purchased will help reach our goal of raising $1 million annually for scholarships for the next 10 years and beyond.
H2Orange goes on sale next month.
Architect Paul Cret designed the Tower in the 1930s with the intention that it become “the image carried in our memory when we think of the place.” Because the Tower is such a powerful symbol of the University, we are careful about the ways we depict it. I believe using it to fund scholarships is appropriate.
In 1998, Coach Mack Brown asked Longhorn fans to: “Come early, stay late, be loud, wear orange.” I think H2Orange will build on that tradition with its own slogan:
Hook ’em, Horns!
Although it is summer, the 40 Acres is buzzing with activity. Each week, hundreds of incoming freshmen are visiting UT for orientation. Right now the class of 2014 is walking the campus, learning about UT traditions and getting all those fine details of housing, computing, and class scheduling settled. Our summer orientation staff does a wonderful job making these campus visits fun and informative for our new students and their families. During orientation, students have the opportunity to sign up for extra-curricular activities and student organizations, and they also find out how to get involved in undergraduate research.
There is one program that I am particularly proud of, the Freshman Reading Round-Up, where our entering freshmen have a chance to read a great book over the summer. The day before classes begin in August, these students will meet with a small group of their classmates and a distinguished faculty member for a lively discussion of the book.
The books being read this summer run the gambit of genres, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell to An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro. Our finest professors from across the disciplines are leading the discussions, and the books they select sometimes fall outside their own academic interests. Last year well over six hundred freshmen took part in this program.
I host a Reading Round-Up session each year, and this year my group is reading Oedipus Rex. It’s one of my favorite plays because it raises issues of free will, humanism, and the role the gods were believed to play in significant historical moments.
What better way to kick off the new academic year than with a great book, a fun discussion, and no exams.
Hook ’em, Horns!
Not long after the BP Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, UT’s Computational Hydraulics Group and Center for Space Research were contacted regarding their expertise in mapping ocean currents and processing satellite imagery. Could the scientists at UT help map the movement of the oil spill? UT researchers quickly began adapting their knowledge and modeling techniques for hurricane simulations to compute the trajectory of the oil spill for federal agencies. I am continually amazed by the cutting edge work our faculty is producing.
The Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT joined resources with the National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security to provide 1 million computing hours on UT’s Ranger supercomputer. Ranger is one of the most powerful computers in the world.
This collaborative research will not only help emergency response teams, it will continue to expand our understanding of the complex currents in the Gulf and the impact of future hurricanes.
The Computational Hydraulics Group, headed by faculty member Clint Dawson, is part of UT’s Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Gordon Wells at CSR heads the satellite imagery team. ICES, CSR and the Ranger supercomputer team are three more reasons to be proud of UT.
For those of you looking for more in-depth information about our scientists’ work on the oil spill, check out “UT Researchers Map Oil Spill Destruction.” Professor Dawson’s video discussion of hurricane modeling and storm simulations is also quite fascinating.
UT is also collaborating with Texas A&M, the University of Houston, Rice, Texas Tech, and SMU in the Gulf Project, a coalition of energy and environmental scientists working with the governor and state agencies to improve testing of energy exploration systems and our response to oil spills.