On June 18, 1885, 34 new graduates of the two-year-old University of Texas organized the UT Alumni Association, later renamed The Ex-Students’ Association. The Association was an extension of the University, but the events of 1917 changed that, when Will C. Hogg led alumni in opposing Gov. Jim Ferguson, who vetoed the University’s appropriation bill. Ferguson was impeached in 1917 and two years later the Association separated itself from the University.
Since then, the Association has always protected UT’s interest in the Legislature. In 1955, the Association worked with Texas A&M to pass legislation to use the Permanent University Fund to issue building bonds for both schools. In 1982, the Association played a major role in passing a constitutional amendment to protect the PUF from further division after allotment of part of it to all schools in the UT and A&M systems. And in 1986, Texas Exes’ fierce defense of the PUF against threats of additional raids is credited with saving the fund. The Association has now set up a full-time legislative advocacy program, UT Advocates for Higher Education.
The Association didn’t get its first home until 18 years after its inception, when the regents gave it a space in the Old Main building. The offices moved about campus until the regents offered a site on San Jacinto Boulevard between 21st and 22nd streets and $110,000 from the Lila B. Etter Fund to help build a permanent home. In 1965, the Association moved into the Etter Alumni Center. More than 1,000 Texas Exes helped pay for the building. Between 1988 and 1990, the center underwent a renovation and addition that tripled its original size and made it into a showplace on the UT campus. More than 9,000 tiles on The Texas Exes Plaza and the Creekside Terrace were inscribed with names of donors to the $7.17 million expansion.
In 1892, the Association began its mission of fundraising by helping to raise money for a YMCA building adjacent to the campus, and a year later the Association gave its first recorded gift to the university: $53.59 for commencement ceremonies. Throughout the years, the Association has spearheaded many fund-raising campaigns, including those for Memorial Stadium, the Texas Memorial Museum, and the Longhorn Band, for a band hall and scholarships. The Association provided the main push behind the Union Project, which resulted in the construction of Gregory Gym, the Texas Union, Hogg Auditorium, and Anna Hiss Gym. In 1937, the Association helped to plan and establish the University Development Board.
Rewarding excellence in scholarship, teaching, and professional achievement has been a central theme of the Texas Exes activities. In 1899, the Association awarded its first scholarship, supported by membership dues. Now the Association gives out more than $2 million dollars in scholarships a year, including the coveted four-year, $28,000 Texas Exes Awards for Scholarship and Leadership. Many local chapters of Texas Exes use Texas Independence Day (March 2) celebrations to raise scholarship money for students from their respective areas. In 1997, in response to the Hopwood vs. Texas decision banning racial consideration in admissions and financial aid, the Association created the Texas Leaders Scholarship, aimed at preserving Texas’ ethnic diversity.
The Association began giving its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, in 1958, and its Outstanding Young Texas Ex award, for those 40 or younger, in 1980.