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UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner to helphonor academic excellence during Valley trip

President Larry R. Faulkner of The University of Texas at Austin and UT System Chancellor William H. Cunningham will be among university officials honoring the academic achievements of about 300 star students in the Rio Grande Valley on Nov. 19.

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AUSTIN, Texas–President Larry R. Faulkner of The University of Texas at Austin and UT System Chancellor William H. Cunningham will be among university officials honoring the academic achievements of about 300 star students in the Rio Grande Valley on Nov. 19.

The students from Starr, Hidalgo, Zapata and Jim Hogg counties were selected by their teachers and counselors to represent their schools at the annual Valley Honors Banquet, which this year will feature astronaut Storey Musgrove as the keynote speaker. The banquet begins at 7 p.m. at the McAllen Country Club.

“We are making a special trip to McAllen to honor the outstanding students from the Rio Grande Valley who have distinguished themselves through their academic development. We want them to know that the University recognizes their hard work and dedication, and that we are eager to welcome them to our campus. The University of Texas at Austin offers Valley area students a challenging and inspiring academic community and a world of opportunity,” said Faulkner, who took office in April as UT Austin’s 27th president.

Cunningham, who first began participating in the banquets 14 years ago while he served as president of UT Austin, said, “This annual banquet is a tribute to academics. These are students who took the initiative to enroll in the tougher courses and work hard to learn as much as possible to prepare for their future. They are an inspiration to us all and it is indeed an honor for us to be able to share in celebrating their achievements.”

Dr. Mario Ramirez, who initiated the tradition of honoring academics among high school students in the Valley by treating them to a large banquet, said there was a good reason for choosing Musgrove as keynote speaker.

“Astronauts appeal to the young people, and we were told he can deliver a very good motivational message,” Ramirez said. “To us, the reason for the banquet is we believe these young people will be the future leaders of the area. They are the high, high achievers.

“We usually do this around Thanksgiving because we are so grateful for what they have accomplished so far, and we want to encourage them to continue. It always has been held near Thanksgiving for this reason,” said Ramirez.

The long-time community leader said the banquet each year ends with singing of the song, “America The Beautiful.” And, it is a fitting song because “what makes this country so beautiful is its young people.”

Ramirez said the first such banquet honoring Valley students was held about 40 years ago and, after being dormant for a while, the tradition was revived about 20 years ago and has been held each year since. During the past few years, the invited guests have included chancellors and presidents representing the UT System, the A&M System, Texas A&M University, UT Austin, UT Brownsville, UT Pan American and UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.

For additional information, contact UT Austin Deputy Director of Admissions Augustine Garza, (512) 475-7454, or Dr. Mario Ramirez at (512) 994-3300.