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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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12 former students selected for Distinguished Alumnus Award, to be honored at gala

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Photo by Ashely Bautista

The Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center on Friday Sept. 1, 2023. 

Twelve former students were selected for the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the most prestigious honor a former student can receive from The Association of Former Students. 

They will be celebrated at the Distinguished Alumni Gala on Oct. 6, hosted at Reed Arena. In the award’s 61-year history, only 330 out of more than 574,000 former students have been honored. 

The 2023 Distinguished Alumni are:

  • Albert G. “Bert” Pfaff Jr., Class of 1925

  • James D. “Jimmy” Tittle, Class of 1949

  • Joe R. Straus Jr., Class of 1950

  • Hector Gutierrez Jr., Class of 1969

  • Henry B. “Hank” Paup, Class of 1970

  • Michael J. “Mike” Havel, Class of 1976

  • P. William “Bill” Toler, Class of 1976

  • T. Michael O’Connor, Class of 1977

  • Jeff Potter, Class of 1978

  • Michael J. Plank, Class of 1983

  • Anthony J. Wood, Class of 1987

  • Kathryn J. Greenwade, Class of 1988

Candidates must be nominated, and then decided on by a committee. Vice President of the Association of Former Students Scot Walker said the committee evaluates nominees based on three factors.

“One is professional achievement, one is service to their community and the third is service in support of Texas A&M itself,” Walker said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have given money back to [A&M], but it certainly means that you have supported [A&M] in some way. There are a lot of ways that you can serve and support your alma mater, and that is part of the criteria.”

Walker said he expects the gala will have between 900 and 1,000 attendees. The Association has prepared biographical videos about each of this year’s distinguished alumni, which will play before they are presented with a medallion.

The event will end with a rendition of the Aggie War Hymn by The Singing Cadets, where distinguished alumni from past and present years will be invited to the stage. This year’s honorees will then attend Midnight Yell with VIP access to the field.

Bill Toler, Class of ‘76, said he was thrilled to be selected for the award.

“Over the years, I have celebrated so many of those who have been named as distinguished alumni,” Toler said. “I have such great respect for them that I’m quite humbled to be considered part of that group. I think they’ve accomplished tremendous things and given back so much to [A&M].” 

Toler served as a vice president for Procter & Gamble and the CEO for Swift Communications, a publisher for more than 30 newspapers. He later returned to A&M to serve on the boards for both the Association of Former Students and the Texas A&M Foundation. 

Toler said the values he learned at A&M were what convinced him to come back in a new capacity.

“When I was in school, they discussed the fact that you’re supposed to give back,” Toler said. “For some, that meant you sent your $100 to the Association of Former Students every year — but also there’s your own time and talent. What can you contribute to make [A&M] better for today’s students and future generations of Aggies?”

Walker said honors like the Distinguished Alumnus Award serve as a reminder to students of what they could accomplish.

“I think that it is important to show current and future students what’s possible,” Toler said. “Right out there is the distinguished alumni tribute [in Aggie Park]. I think a student could walk out to that and read those names and realize that could be in [their] future. There is nothing about the people whose names are on there that made them predestined to achieve at the level they did and what they achieved is, I hope, inspirational and motivational for the students on campus.”

Walker said a task force has been assembled this year to broaden the nominations the committee receives for the award.

“Our board chair has appointed a task force to look at every aspect of that process with the goal of ensuring that we are being both thorough and inclusive,” Walker said. “We don’t want to overlook somebody who is worthy, and we want the population of distinguished alumni to look like [A&M].”
To nominate a former student for the Distinguished Alumnus Award, visit tx.ag/danominations.

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