U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) will be the speaker for the Spring Commencement ceremonies at The University of Texas at Austin on May 21.
William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin, said Hutchison, who received an Outstanding Alumna award in 1995, will address the graduates and their guests this spring. The evening ceremony will be held on the university's Main Mall.
"Sen. Hutchison's remarkable and distinguished career as a public servant serves as inspiration for our students as they move forward in pursuit of their own calling," Powers said. "She has been a powerful advocate for Texas and for higher education throughout her life, and the university is proud to recognize her as one of our most accomplished graduates."
Chelsea Adler, president of the university's Senate of College Councils, which participated with other Student Government organizations in the selection of this year's commencement speaker, said the students wanted "someone who knows what it means to be a Longhorn."
"Not only is Senator Hutchison a UT graduate, but she has made it a life commitment to serve the state of Texas," Adler said. "She has always been a personal role model of mine, and I am excited to hear what she has to say to the Class of 2011."
"It is always an honor to address university graduates as they complete their education and begin the next chapter in their lives," said Hutchison. "It is particularly gratifying to be able to speak to the graduates of my alma mater. Like so many generations of UT graduates, life's challenges and potential awaits them."
Hutchison, who grew up in La Marque, Texas, attended The University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate and received a degree from the university's School of Law in 1967. She was twice elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In 1990, she was elected Texas state treasurer.
In 1993, she was elected to the United States Senate in a special election, making her the first and only woman elected to represent the state in the Senate. One year later, she was re-elected to a full six-year term. In 2000, she received more votes for her re-election to a second full term than any other statewide candidate had ever received. She was re-elected in 2006 for the term ending in January 2013. Hutchison announced on Jan. 13 she would not seek re-election for the next term.
Hutchison is the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She also is a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and the Committee on Rules and Administration. In the 110th Congress, Hutchison was chairwoman of the Republican Policy Committee. She is a member of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly National Advisory Committee and chairwoman of the West Point Board of Visitors.
Hutchison was instrumental in establishing The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. It is the centerpiece of her effort to support research and development while promoting Texas as a science state. During her tenure in the U.S. Senate, Texas has moved to third in the nation in receipt of federal research and development expenditures.
Hutchison has received numerous awards and honors, including the Texas Council on Family Violence Outstanding Leader Award, 2010; Air Force Association Distinguished American Award, 2008; Association of the United States Army Outstanding Legislator Award, 2006; Forbes Magazine's 2005 World's 100 Most Powerful Women; Texas Women's Chamber of Commerce 100 Most Influential Texas Women of the Century, 1999; and Texan of the Year, Texas Legislative Conference, 1997. She was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1997.
The senator's Texas roots run deep. Thomas Rusk of Nacogdoches was the first Texan to hold the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Hutchison. He and Hutchison's great-great-grandfather, Charles S. Taylor, were friends, and both signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Travel Advisory: Interstate 35 to Shut Down Commencement Weekend
Visitors traveling on Interstate 35 to participate in spring commencement activities at The University of Texas at Austin this weekend may wish to allow additional time in their driving schedules due to highway construction south of the university.
The Texas Department of Transportation said construction on new direct connection ramps at Interstate 35 and State Highway 71 (Ben White Freeway) will necessitate the closure of northbound and southbound I-35 this weekend. The northbound main lanes will be closed at 10 p.m. Friday, May 20, while the southbound main lanes will not be shut down until 10 p.m. Saturday, May 21. All lanes are scheduled to be open by 10 p.m. Sunday, May 22.
Texas Department of Transportation details of the closure plans are available online.