Distinguished Alumni 2020

Thomas J. Saylak, Class of 1982, was one of 12 recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2020.

Twelve distinguished alumni have been recognized this year with the highest honor awarded to Texas A&M’s former students.

The Association of Former Students accorded 12 distinguished alumnus awards for 2020 on Aug. 11. According to a press release on the Association’s website, only 303 alumni have received the honor since 1962 out of the more than 517,000 former students.

“This honor recognizes those Aggies who have achieved excellence in their chosen professions and made meaningful contributions to Texas A&M University and their local communities,” the press release read.

Vice President of the Association of Former Students Kathryn Greenwade, Class of 1988, said the award is granted to individuals who truly exhibit the Aggie Core Values in their professional careers and personal lives.

“This award means you have reached the pinnacle of your career,” Greenwade said. “You have distinguished yourself in service to Texas A&M and your community. For each of those that are honored with this, they often tell us that this is the greatest honor of their life.”

Up to 12 recipients can be selected each year, though there have been years in the past where fewer than 12 former students were awarded, Greenwade said.

The 2020 recipients are as follows:

Dr. C. M. Cocanougher, Class of 1953

Weldon Jaynes, Class of 1954

Lt. Gen. Randolph W. House, Class of 1967

R. Sam Torn, Class of 1970

John D. White, Class of 1970

R. Bowen Loftin, Ph.D., Class of 1971

Carol E. Jordan, Class of 1980

Willie T. Langston II, Class of 1981

Tim Leach, Class of 1982

Thomas J. Saylak, Class of 1982

Mike Hernandez III, Class of 1983

Charean Williams, Class of 1986

Williams, professional sports journalist and the first female to be recognized in the writer’s wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said this award is both an incredible honor and a lifetime achievement. According to the press release, Williams is entering her 27th year reporting on the NFL, including over a decade covering the Dallas Cowboys. Williams said she has been a huge Cowboys fan since she was in second grade, when she decided her dream job was to write about the team.

“I have achieved what I set out to do in the second grade, and I don’t know how many second graders get to live out their dream,” Williams said. “I’ve covered the NFL for over 25 years now, and I’ve really done everything I wanted to do in my career professionally.”

Loftin, who served as the 24th president of A&M and 22nd chancellor of the University of Missouri, said it is an honor to have had so many friends and students collectively recognize him with this award, and he tries to live up to the Aggie Core Values every day. Loftin said he mentioned the Aggie Core Values in every speech he gave at A&M, and even during his time at the University of Missouri he would include the Aggie Core Value of integrity into UM’s own core values.

“I wear my ring all the time, but people would figure out where I came from by the words I used and the things I did,” Loftin said. “People recognize Aggies in spite of maybe what’s visible to them. They can figure out where you came from by your actions and your words.”

Jordan, the first elected president of the Aggie Women Network and the creator and executive director of the University of Kentucky’s Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women, said she started crying as soon as she heard the news. Jordan’s father was a member of the Class of 1953 and a drum major in the Aggie Band, and she said she grew up hearing his stories about A&M.

“I knew it was something profoundly important,” Jordan said. “I knew I wanted to go there, largely because of my father.”

Jordan said she has spent her career working on behalf of women, which has been rewarding and challenging at times. Additionally, Jordan said what she learned from her time at A&M has been consistent with the values and skills she’s needed to use in her career.

“I certainly took the [Core Values] with me when I left A&M,” Jordan said. “I have continued to use them and count on those kinds of characteristics and strengths as I have worked on my career.”

Anyone can nominate a former student for the distinguished alumnus award, and the 2021 nominations will be accepted until Oct. 2 at tx.ag/DAnominations.

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