AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin’s alumni association, the Texas Exes, has announced this year’s recipients of the association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The six honorees are Laredo physician Joaquin Cigarroa, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, geologist and philanthropist John Jackson, West Texas author Elmer Kelton, philanthropist and university professor Curtis Meadows and Houston businessman Corbin Robertson. Recipients will be honored Sept. 20 in the Lyndon B. Johnson Library at The University of Texas at Austin.
The Texas Exes inaugurated the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1958 to recognize alumni whose achievements in their careers or life work, community and service to The University of Texas at Austin have been remarkable.
Cigarroa, a member of former Gov. John Connally’s original Texas Commission on Higher Education (1963-65), has been a strong advocate for the importance of education on the future of Texas. He also was a member of the state’s Coordinating Board in 1965-69 and 1993-99, and was a member of the Laredo Independent School District Board of Education for 23 years.
Cigarroa was instrumental in the Coordinating Board’s approval of The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and its dental school in San Antonio, as well as in the increase of medical school enrollment in Texas. He has been a physician in his hometown of Laredo since 1954. He and his wife, Barbara, are the parents of 10 children, three of whom are cardiologists, another of whom is a surgeon and the president of University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Cigarroa attended The University of Texas at Austin from 1941-43 and was graduated from Harvard Medical School cum laude in 1947.
Evans, who became the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in January 2001, received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1969 and a master of business administration degree in 1973. His success in the energy business began in Midland, Texas, where he worked rough-necking for Tom Brown, Inc. Within 10 years, he was chief executive officer of the independent energy company, a position he held until his appointment to President George W. Bush’s cabinet. In addition to his public service with organizations such as the United Way and the Scleroderma Research Foundation, Evans served on The University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1995-2001. He was chair of the board during his last four years. Evans worked on Bush’s two gubernatorial campaigns and was chair of the Bush/Cheney 2000 presidential campaign.
Jackson is a prolific and generous donor to The University of Texas at Austin. He was graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1940, joined the U.S. Navy shortly after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and served with the U.S. Geological Survey and Bauxite Deposit Program throughout World War II. Jackson went into business for himself as a geological consultant in 1951 and his success in oil and real estate helped him to dedicate the second half of his life to philanthropic endeavors. He has donated land to the city of Dallas for a service center and a city park. Buildings are named for him and for his late wife, Katie, at Temple Junior College, Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and Texas Lutheran University. His gifts to the Texas Exes enabled the alumni association to expand the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center. Jackson also has given nearly $200 million to The University of Texas at Austin, most recently through his March 2 announcement of the gift of his estate to the university.
Kelton’s years at the University of Texas at Austin were interrupted by his service as an infantryman in Europe during World War II. He was graduated with a bachelor’s of journalism degree in 1948 and returned home to San Angelo, Texas, to work as a reporter for newspapers and ranching journals. On the side, he began to write novels and in about 50 years wrote more than 38 books. His fans include two quintessentially Texan figures: President George W. Bush (who mentioned prominently Kelton’s The Time It Never Rained in his autobiography) and Tommy Lee Jones (who has directed one film, an adaptation of Kelton’s The Good Old Boys). Kelton has won four Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, six Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America and the Barbara McCombs/Lon Tinkle Award for “continuing excellence in Texas letters” from the Texas Institute of Letters.
Meadows, who received his bachelor of business administration degree in 1960, began an 18-year career as an attorney after he earned his law degree in 1962. Focusing on tax law and estate planning for the Dallas law firm Ray, Anderson, Shields, Trotti and Hemphill, he worked there as managing partner for 10 years. In 1978, he was elected president, chief executive officer and director of the Meadows Foundation. He retired from his work as a lawyer two years later.
In the years Meadows presided over the foundation, its endowment increased from $60 million to about $735 million while dispensing more than $270 million in gifts and grants to organizations statewide. Meadows resigned as director emeritus in 1996. He has taught nonprofit management courses as an adjunct faculty lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2000, Meadows became founding executive director of the Southwest Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he holds the Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Government/Business Relations.
Robertson played linebacker for the Texas Longhorns football team from 1966-68, earning All America status in 1967. Since earning his bachelor of business administration degree in 1969, Robertson has proven he can translate his playing field success to equal success in the world of business. He even has been named to another All America team — he became a member of the All American Wildcatters in 1993.
Robertson is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Quintana Minerals Corporation, an oil and gas exploration company based in Houston. His various oil and gas ventures have produced energy products equal to more than 1 billion barrels of oil. His three children (Corbin Robertson III, Christine Robertson Morenz and Will Robertson) all have graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. Robertson also has been named a distinguished alumnus of Lamar High School in Houston and the Red McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.