The Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University, awarded since 1962 to only 306 of Texas A&M’s more than 533,700 former students.
Presented jointly by the university and The Association of Former Students, this award recognizes Aggies who have achieved excellence in their chosen professions and made meaningful contributions to Texas A&M University and their local communities. This year’s three recipients are being honored posthumously.
E.E. “Mr. Mac” McQuillen, Class of 1920, led The Association of Former Students as Executive Secretary from 1926 to 1947. He firmly established Aggie Muster as a worldwide tradition; reorganized and encouraged A&M Clubs throughout Texas and beyond; created an Opportunity Award Scholarship Program that helped thousands attend A&M; and introduced annual giving in 1942. In 1943, McQuillen created the first Muster packets sent worldwide, formalizing Aggies’ practice of gathering on April 21 under the name of “Muster.” He initiated the Gold Star Fund for children of former students killed in combat and led fundraising for A&M’s Memorial Student Center. From 1947 to 1963, he was director of the Texas A&M Development Office; he led the Texas A&M Development Foundation (today’s Texas A&M Foundation) 1953-63. A former A&M basketball captain, he was elected to the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame in 1975.
Ray B. Nesbitt ’55 retired in 1998 as president of Exxon Chemical Co. after a 43-year career with Exxon; previous positions included vice president of Exxon Chemical Europe and president of Exxon Chemical Americas. A recipient of the Texas A&M Engineering Outstanding Alumni Award, he and wife Sarah created A&M chemical engineering scholarships, a professorship, chair, faculty endowment and an engineering study classroom; they also co-chaired capital campaigns for St. Francis Episcopal Church and The Women’s Home in Houston. He served on industry councils and boards, as a director of the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and on boards for Hibernia Bank and Marshall National Bank. Nesbitt supported The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation and Texas A&M Foundation and was a member of the Chemical Engineering Advisory Council and A&M Legacy Society. He served on the executive committee for A&M’s “One Spirit, One Vision” capital campaign.
John C. Otto ’70 was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2004 and represented District 18 for six terms, from 2005 to 2017; he chaired the House Appropriations Committee and served in other key positions. In 2017, he became assistant vice chancellor and director of local government relations for The Texas A&M University System. Otto previously served on Dayton’s city council and school board, and also served 8 years active and reserve duty in the U.S. Army. He was a certified public accountant in Dayton from 1975 to 2010 and in Houston from 1970 to 1975. In 2017, The Association of Former Students and Texas A&M Advocacy Network presented Otto with the Olin “Tiger” Teague ’32 Award for outstanding contributions and government service on behalf of A&M. In 2020, the mace used by A&M’s head drum major to lead the Aggie Band was named in honor of Otto, a former A&M head drum major.
Dr. C. M. Cocanougher ’53 built a successful veterinary practice in Wise County and served as a Decatur City Council member and civic leader who helped draw employment to the area during a downturn, supported the hospital system and gave decades of scholarships to high school and A&M students; he and wife Jo Ann endowed ten A&M veterinary school scholarships. He was named an Outstanding Alumnus of A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and 1985’s Citizen of the Year in Decatur. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a captain and base veterinarian. He was a president and rodeo secretary of the Wise County Sheriff’s Posse, president of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, officer of the Decatur Rotary Club and charter member and chairman of the Wise County American Heart Association chapter. He also served on the Texas Veterinary Medical Association board of directors.
Weldon Jaynes ’54 was chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of Priester Supply Co., which he spent more than 40 years building into a prominent southwest U.S. regional distributor for electric and gas utilities. He also created Repcom International, a national telecommunication company. He is a past president (now called chair) and trustee of the 12th Man Foundation who helped start its Major Gifts Department, a recipient of its E. King Gill award and member of its Diamond Champions Council. He has created the Mr. and Mrs. L. Weldon Jaynes ’54 Sul Ross Scholarship, the Weldon Jaynes ’54 Presidential Endowed Scholarship and a Corps scholarship. Jaynes is an A&M Lettermen’s Association Hall of Honor inductee and a past director of the Fort Worth A&M Club. He and wife Judy give time and support to Trinity United Methodist and First Baptist Church in Arlington, Mission Arlington and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
LTG Randolph W. House ’67 was an Army officer for over 32 years, commanding in peace and war at every level from rifle platoon leader to deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. He has served 2003-present on the board and as president of the Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial and is a mentor to the A&M student organization SCONA (Student Conference on National Affairs). He has served on the board of visitors for A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service and for Texas A&M University at Galveston. His awards for valor include the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Silver Star, the Soldier's Medal, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, 32 Air Medals and four Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. He was inducted in 2001 as a “Legend of Aggieland” and is a member of the Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor and the Tyrus R. Timm Honor Registry in A&M’s Department of Agricultural Economics.
R. Sam Torn ’70, a past chair of the 12th Man Foundation, co-chaired the Kyle Field Redevelopment Committee and $485 million campaign and coordinated the redevelopment of Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. For 36 years, he and his wife, Susan '13, have owned and operated Incomparable Camp Ozark, one of the largest residential summer camps in the nation; he is also developer and owner of Camp OTX, executive director of Camp War Eagle for underserved children, and founder and chairman of Ozone Ministries and Ozark for All camp. He is a member of Texas’ Higher Education Coordinating Board. The Torns received the 12th Man Foundation’s E. King Gill Award in 2016. Torn is a member of the Corps Hall of Honor and Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association Hall of Honor. He has been a Class Agent for the Class of ’70, an Association area representative and past president of the Association of Former Yell Leaders.
John D. White ’70 is a former Air Force judge advocate with over 40 years’ experience as a fund manager and lawyer. He is a chairman emeritus of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, a trustee of the George and Barbara Bush Foundation, a former board member of The Association of Former Students, a former board chairman for the Ed Rachal Foundation, a past director of the University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Company (UTIMCO) and a former director of the Greater Houston Partnership. He is a Corps Hall of Honor inductee and a namesake of A&M’s John D. White ’70-Robert L. Walker ’58 Music Activities Center. He and wife Daisy created the Neva and A. E. (Buddy) White ’42 President’s Endowed Scholarship. In 2007, he was named the Texas Aggie Bar Association’s Lawyer of the Year. He is a member of the American Bar Foundation and Texas Bar Foundation, a charter member of the Houston Bar Foundation and has been board certified in civil litigation.
Dr. R. Bowen Loftin ’71 served as the 24th president of Texas A&M University from 2010 to 2014 and 22nd chancellor of the University of Missouri in 2014-15. Previously, he served as A&M’s interim president; vice president of A&M and chief executive officer of Texas A&M University at Galveston; executive director of Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center; director of the University of Houston’s Virtual Environments Research Institute; and chair of the UH Department of Computer Science. His awards include the NASA Invention of the Year Award and the NASA Public Service Medal and the 1982 UH-Downtown Award for Excellence in Teaching, at that time the only teaching award given across the entire campus. He has served on numerous boards and committees including Chief Executive Officers of the Southeastern Conference, the FBI’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board and, currently, the MRIGlobal Research Institute board of trustees.
Carol E. Jordan ’80 is creator and current executive director of the University of Kentucky’s Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women and holds faculty appointments in the psychology, psychiatry and political science departments. She has 38 years of experience in public policy, legislative advocacy, research, writing and development of programs addressing domestic violence, rape and stalking. She was the first elected president of the Aggie Women Network, an Association constituent network she co-created with K. Sue Redman ’80. She led expansion of the number of rape crisis centers in Kentucky from four to 13, and in 1996 was founding executive director of the Governor’s Office of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Services. In 2002, Jordan created UK’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women; after a decade there, she also created the university’s Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women. At UK, Jordan conceived the Women’s Empowerment Scholarship Program, a resource for abuse survivors.
Willie T. Langston II ’81 is founder, past chairman and CEO and current executive vice chairman of Avalon Advisors, LLC, a $9 billion asset advisory and management firm. He is a board member of Breakaway Ministries, chairman of the board for Glorieta Camps in New Mexico and chairman of the deacons at Second Baptist Church of Houston. He was finance chairman for 2016’s Ted Cruz for President campaign and served 5 years as board chairman for Houston Christian High School. Langston is on the Mays Business School dean’s advisory board and is a former outside investment advisor to the Texas A&M Foundation and former trustee of the 12th Man Foundation. He has supported the Mays Family Foundation Building Expansion Fund and created a Department of Accounting endowment, a business honors scholarship and an MBA fellowship. While on the 12th Man board, he helped create the idea for the Champions Council, which today is the 12th Man’s primary fundraising arm.
Tim Leach ’82 is executive vice president of ConocoPhillips and a member of its board of directors; previously, he was chairman and CEO of Concho Resources, which he founded in 2004. He is chairman of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents. Leach has supported A&M projects including the Zachry Engineering Education Complex, E.B. Cushing Stadium, Leach Teaching Gardens and MSC renovation; he has supported the Association, the 12th Man Foundation and the George and Barbara Bush Foundation and created a scholarship, professorship and chair in petroleum engineering. He is a Petroleum Museum Hall of Fame honoree and a member of the All-American Wildcatters Association. His service to A&M and his community includes serving on the board of visitors for MD Anderson Cancer Center, on the board of directors for the Scharbauer Foundation and the Midland College Foundation, on the Midland Memorial Foundation board of governors, as a former member of The Association of Former Students’ board and as an emeritus member of A&M’s College of Engineering Advisory Council.
Thomas J. Saylak ’82 co-founded and for more than nine years served as co-head of Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, now the world’s largest and most successful real estate investment firm. He then served as president of Merrill Lynch Global Commercial Real Estate, which conducted investment banking, financing and principal investment activities worldwide. During Saylak’s tenure at Blackstone, he and his partners created four real estate investment partnerships with more than $4 billion in total equity and completed over $13 billion in real estate investments, financings and restructurings. In 2001, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of A&M’s Mays Business School. He is a trustee and past chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation, an Aggies on Wall Street host, a board member and vice chairman of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and a trustee of D.C. public TV station WETA, which produces The PBS NewsHour.
Mike Hernandez III ’83 is the owner and CEO of D&M Leasing, one of 2019’s Top 100 Places to Work rated by the Dallas Morning News, among the Fort Worth Business Press’s Top 5 privately-held companies and Dealer Rater’s Top Leasing Company in America. He founded the Brownsville Scholars Program at A&M and is president and founder of the Hernandez Foundation, which has provided significant support to schools and scholarships, and has supported ventures that boost opportunities in Cameron County. In 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed him as a member of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents. He was recognized as one of Fort Worth’s top CEOs in 2014; in 2016, he was named Brownsville’s “Person of the Year” and in 2017, he was Rio Grande Valley’s Citizen of the Year, Honorable Mention. He is a member of the advisory committee for A&M’s McAllen campus and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s advisory committee on workforce training.
Charean Williams ’86 became the first woman to enter the writers’ wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 when her peers voted her the 50th recipient of the Dick McCann Award for a long and distinguished career covering professional football. The 2021 season is her 28th covering the NFL, including more than a decade as a Dallas Cowboys beat reporter. She became the first female Pro Football Hall of Fame selector in 2007 and the first female president of the Pro Football Writers of America in 2009. She has reported on the NFL for the Orlando Sentinel, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and currently NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk website. She has covered 26 Super Bowls and seven Olympic Games. Williams serves on the board of the Pro Football Writers, frequently returns to A&M to speak to journalism students and Battalion staffers, and has served as an adjunct professor in SMU’s sport management program.
To see and read about all past honorees, please visit our Tribute Wall.
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For more information about the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Gala, please visit this page or contact Jamie Veazey '17, Director of Events, at 979-845-7514 or Gala@AggieNetwork.com.