Ernest H. “Ernie” Cockrell, alumnus and longtime supporter of the Cockrell School of Engineering, was honored with a Presidential Citation by UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves for his exemplary leadership and continued dedication to the university. Cockrell’s father, Ernest Cockrell Jr., is the namesake of the school.

This year’s other Presidential Citation recipients are: Wallace B. Jefferson, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and noted civic leader; Janiece Longoria, a prominent Houston Lawyer and former vice chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents; and Sen. Kirk Watson, state senator and former Austin mayor.

"Each of these honorees has given UT superb leadership, exceptional service, and generous support," Fenves said. "I am personally grateful for their friendship and their counsel. I look forward to celebrating their life-changing contributions to the university."

Fenves presented the Presidential Citations along with other major university awards during a ceremony on April 22.

The university created the citations in 1979 to recognize the extraordinary contributions of individuals who personify the university's commitment to transforming lives. The citations salute those whose service exemplifies the values shared by the university community and who have helped the institution to achieve its mission.

About the 2016 Presidential Citation recipients:

  • Ernest H. “Ernie” Cockrell, chairman of Cockrell Interests Inc. and president and director of The Cockrell Foundation, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an MBA from UT Austin. He previously led the Cockrell Oil Corporation for more than 30 years as chairman and CEO. He received the Outstanding Young University of Texas at Austin Ex-Student Award in 1980 and was named a distinguished graduate of Texas Engineering in 1981. In 2003 he was inducted into the McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame. In 2010 he was awarded the UT Distinguished Alumnus Award. As a community leader, he has served as chairman of the board of many major nonprofits, including The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Methodist Research Institute, The University of Texas College of Engineering Foundation and The Welch Foundation.
  • Wallace Jefferson, a partner at Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend and a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, served as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas from 2004 to 2013, where he made history as the Court’s first African-American justice and chief justice. During his tenure, he served as president of the Conference of Chief Justices. He has received numerous awards for exemplifying the highest standards of legal ethics, leadership and integrity. He was recently honored with the Anti-Defamation League Austin Jurisprudence Award for exhibiting a commitment to equality, justice, fairness and community service. He currently serves as chairman of the Texas Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services and treasurer of the American Law Institute.
  • Janiece Longoria, a partner with the Houston law firm of Ogden Gibson Broocks Longoria & Hall LLP, is an honors graduate of UT Austin where she received her J.D. in 1979. Her long and distinguished career in law and public service includes serving as vice chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents and chairman of the Commission for the Port of Houston, the first woman to hold the position in its 100-year history. In addition to serving on the boards of two public companies and multiple nonprofits, she is a founder of the Center for Women in Law, and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business at the University of Texas School of Law.
  • Sen. Kirk Watson is the state senator for District 14 in Travis County. An active Austin community leader and former mayor of Austin, he has been recognized numerous times for his legislative work and civic involvement. Honors include being named “Austinite of the Year” by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Family Magazine’s “Favorite Local Hero,” and honorable mention in Texas Monthly coverage of the state’s best legislators in 2011 and 2013. He serves on the Senate committees overseeing finance, business and commerce, higher education and nominations. He is the former chairman of both the Texas Advisory Board on Environmental Defense and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and served as chairman of the Texas State Democratic Caucus from 2011 through the legislative session in 2015.
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cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students
cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students