AUSTIN, Texas – Four people will be honored April 4 for outstanding contributions to liberal arts at The University of Texas at Austin. Receiving the Pro Bene Meritis award are Rex G. Baker Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Wales Madden Jr. and UT Professor Américo Paredes – all UT exes.
The recipients will accept their awards at the Honors Day College of Liberal Arts convocation beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Hogg Auditorium. The Pro Bene Meritis award was established to honor those who are committed to the liberal arts, and who have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits.
World-renowned folklorist Américo Paredes, the Raymond Dickson, Alton C. Allen and Dillon Anderson Centennial Professor Emeritus in English and Anthropology, is a towering figure in the scholarship of Texas/Mexican border studies. Poet, musician, academic writer, author of fiction and master teacher, he entered UT in 1950 as a 35-year-old student with overseas military experience and a 14-year journalism career behind him. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish, summa cum laude, in 1951, followed by a master of arts degree (1953) and Ph.D. (1956), joining the faculty as an assistant professor a year later.
Since then, he’s carved out an enduring legacy through his books and articles, through the folklore and Mexican-American studies programs he founded on campus, through the courses in literature, folklore and related subjects he created and taught, and through the generations of students he’s inspired. He has been honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the government of Mexico, and the American Folklore Society in recent years. The Américo Paredes Distinguished Lecture Series, established at the University in 1987, attests to the esteem in which he is held. He received the UT Presidential Citation in 1997.
Baker (bachelor of economics 1941; LLB, JD 1947), a member of a family that has produced dozens of UT graduates, has displayed his commitment to his alma mater through the long series of leadership positions he’s held over the years. These include chairman of the Development Board, president of the University of Texas Foundation, president of the Dads’ Association, and member of the executive committees of the Chancellor’s Council and Ex-Students’ Association. He and his wife, Jeanette, together endowed the Rex G. Baker Jr. Professorship of Political Economy in the College of Liberal Arts. He is a 1977 recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The devotion of Wales Madden, Jr. (bachelor of government 1950; LLB 1952) and Alma Cowden “Abbie” Madden (bachelor of English 1952) to Texas education in general, and UT in particular, is widely felt through their innumerable contributions, separately and as a team. He has served on the UT System Board of Regents, the Governor’s Committee on Public School Education, the UT College and University System Coordinating Board and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He chaired the Centennial Committee, which celebrated UT’s first hundred years in 1983, and he is a past chairman of the UT Development Board, a past president of the Ex-Students’ Association, and a 1979 recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award. She served on the Liberal Arts Foundation Advisory Council from 1980-86, and on its predecessor, the Humanities Foundation Advisory Council, from 1974-80 – a total of four terms. They endowed the Alma Cowden Madden Centennial Professorship in the Liberal Arts in 1983.