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Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Credit: Casey Dunn

In 1971, the same year David Lake arrived on the Forty Acres, the very first Schlotzsky’s opened amid a row of small, shuttered storefronts on South Congress Avenue. The previous year, Armadillo World Headquarters opened at the corner of South Congress and Barton Springs. There were signs of new life on the run-down street (once known as the bustling “Avenue,” in the 1800s) but it was a sleepy kind of rebirth. Guero’s Taco Bar was still Central Feed and Seed.

Lake, BS ’76, says that as a kid growing up in the Mount Bonnell neighborhood of Austin in the ’50s and ’60s — or even as an undergrad — he never could have imagined how that same stretch of pavement would look in 2020. Except today, five full city blocks of what is now Austin’s most vibrant and iconic street look exactly the way Lake imagined. …

A new project aims to capture the Black student experience at UT.

Photographs by Adraint Bereal | By Danielle Lopez

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“Black Homecoming” features Black students and alumni in front of the UT Tower celebrating during the annual Black Homecoming.

Adraint Bereal, BFA ’20, grew up in a predominantly Black and Latino area in Waco. He dreamed about being a Longhorn for as long as he can remember. But when Bereal started at UT Austin in 2016, he says it felt like a week went by before he saw another Black student walking around campus. He felt disappointed. The campus community wasn’t quite what he had expected.

Then one day in the Student Activity Center he came upon a room full of Black students in a meeting and peeked his head through the doorway. He recognized a friend who motioned for him to join them. “I walked in and was like, ‘Where’s everybody been?’” he says. …

Ten UT Austin students share their thoughts on a college experience they never saw coming.

By Danielle Lopez

There’s no telling how we’re going to feel looking back at 2020 — or if we’ll even remember the day in, day out all that well in the distant future. In April, Vice ran a story that addressed how for people who’ve spent the pandemic isolating at home, with little to break up the monotony, most of this will be a blur. For health care workers and anyone else on the front lines, this pandemic might be a point of trauma.

But as much as it seems like the world as we knew it is standing still, and may even be unrecognizable by the time this is over, it has been a year saddled with emotion. As the pandemic claims more lives and the second civil rights movement comes knocking on every state’s door, it has been a time of grief, confusion, frustration, anger, and fear. Alongside it all, life — and the smaller moments within it that bring us joy — carries on. Families are celebrating graduations, engagements, and babies over their computer screens; strangers are finding ways to fall in love; neighbors, eager for new hobbies, are leaving freshly baked loaves of sourdough at each other’s doors. …

By Danielle Lopez | Photographs by Matt Wright-Steel

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world found ways to honor those who deserved celebration. For birthdays, friends and families tailgated outside their loved ones’ homes; universities hosted elaborate virtual commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020; and people in cities across the country stepped outside on a nightly basis to clap for health care workers.

In April, the Texas Exes was set to host its second annual Texas Excellence Awards, recognizing outstanding members of the campus community. Though we couldn’t welcome these recipients onstage this year, we are celebrating them in the Alcalde with a portrait and kind words from faculty and students. …

By Alcalde Staff | Photographs by Matt Wright-Steel

Every year, the Alcalde flips the script and gives alumni the chance to give their favorite professors an A+. Through nominations from former students, the Texas Ten honors professors who have made a difference in the lives of Longhorns. From the musician who instills the power of music in young children to the engineer who loves to problem solve and the mathematician who is determined to see his students succeed, there is no doubt the 2020 class of the Texas Ten is one deserving bunch.

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John Rumrich

Professor, Department of English; Celanese Centennial Professorship | Years at UT: 35

Live in the Moment: Lately, he has been thinking about this quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” …

Turning glass into tools on campus.

Photographs by Matt Wright-Steel | By Danielle Lopez

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Adam Kennedy is part of a rare breed. Working out of his glass shop in Robert A. Welch Hall, Kennedy is one of a few in-house university glassblowers left in the country. While there are others like him at Texas universities such as Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and the University of Houston, and nationally at Princeton and Yale, Kennedy is UT Austin’s only scientific glassblower.

Since 2010, Kennedy has been shaping glass into customized pieces for colleges across the university. From creating vials to hold uranium to helping construct a device that mimics the way butterflies chew, it is up to Kennedy to meet with researchers from the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Geology, and others to take what they imagine and turn it into reality. “The advantage of having me here is custom glass work,” he says. …

Meet the 2020 President’s Leadership Award winners

By Danielle Lopez| Photographs by Matt Wright-Steel

Look around UT Austin’s campus and you’ll find no shortage of talented young minds. But even in a crowd this impressive, there are the ones who stand out. Since 1985, the Texas Exes has recognized students who have demonstrated remarkable leadership within the Longhorn community with the President’s Leadership Awards. From motivating others to changing what health care looks like to exploring our galaxy and beyond, these six recipients are deeply passionate and endlessly curious. The best part? They’re just getting started.

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Mamadou Balde

Senior, Chemical Engineering
Hometown: Conakry, Guinea
Credentials: National Society of Black Engineers member, American Institute of Chemical Engineers…

The Forty Acres is home to minerals and gems from all over the world. Here they are like you’ve never seen them.

Photographs by Matt Wright-Steel

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Rosasite: A carbonate mineral named after where it was originally discovered in 1908: the Rosas mine in Sardinia, Italy. New Mexico, USA

Just off of San Jacinto Boulevard, up two sets of long, narrow steps stands the Texas Memorial Museum, a towering white-stone building framed by tall green oaks. Inside, through a thick Art Deco glass door and underneath the 82-year-old building’s lofty, ornamental ceilings are 140 rare and magnificent minerals and gems from all over the world. The specimens were collected and bequeathed to UT by E.M. Barron, a former Texas legislator and World War II colonel from El Paso who turned his attention to minerals later in life as the founder of Southern Gem Mining Company. From a piece of delicate leaf gold from Nacozari once deemed the finest gold specimen from Mexico ever brought to the U.S. to a 925-carat blue topaz crystal that, in 1969, sat inside the Texas Capitol while the legislature voted to make blue topaz the official state gemstone, each piece in the collection is priceless. Even inside the dimly lit glass cases of the exhibition — sustained direct light can change their chemical nature — the gems glint and dazzle. These images, captured using a probe-lens to create a bug’s-eye view, unearth crystal faces and a depth of character from inside the rocks that is impossible to see with the naked eye, offering an unprecedented look at some of the university’s most shining treasures. …

Flying Longhorns take a trip to the Iberian peninsula.

By Danielle Lopez

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View from the Dom Luís I bridge in Porto, Portugal.

I stood 146 feet above Portugal’s Douro River on the Dom Luís I bridge in the city of Porto. For a moment, it felt like I was at the center of the universe.

The late afternoon Iberian sun shone brighter than any sun I’ve ever known. Hanging languidly in the sky, it seemed so close I could reach out and touch it. The air was sweet, like the tawny port wine and pasteis de nata, or custard tarts, I’d been having too much of. I admired the outline of the buildings stacked on one another standing tall in all their vivid colors — ochre, cobalt, emerald — and terracotta roofs. The boats disappeared into the horizon as sounds of music from the street performers and children’s laughter down below reached their way to the top of the world, where I witnessed this celebration of life. All at once, I was dazzled by this place teeming with vitality. …

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On Nov. 8, 2019, alumni, family, and friends gathered at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center to perform the Texas Exes’ most sacred ritual: honoring the Distinguished Alumnus Awards recipients. Every year, up to six Longhorns are bestowed the highest honor for alumni of the university. This year was no different, showcasing the immense talent UT Austin produces, from a woman who prioritizes inclusion and diversity as an executive at a major movie studio and a Precursor — among the first African-American undergraduates at UT — who became an Army colonel, to leaders in the fields of science, business, law, and academia. There was a seventh honoree this year, as the Texas Exes occasionally awards the Distinguished Service Award to a non-alumnus who has served UT to the highest degree. …


The Alcalde

All things University of Texas—sports, feature stories, alumni news, and more—from the magazine of the Texas Exes. Find more at

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