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Seven former students named Distinguished Alumni

Published: Monday, April 12, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

Seven individuals have been awarded what is considered by the Association of Former Students the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University.

"We have individuals who are leaders in whatever field they have chosen. In some cases, they've been educators, business leaders, military leaders," said Kathryn Greenwade, vice president of communications for the Association. "In all the cases, in addition to their career accomplishments, they're always individuals who have given back to their community or back to the University in some way."

Robert L. Acklen Jr. Class of 1963

Acklen received a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1967 and was a member of the Corps of Cadets. He was named a distinguished military student and joined the Army after graduation where he served in Vietnam.

After suffering from a broken back during a helicopter crash in Vietnam, Acklen recovered and earned a business degree from the University of Texas. He served in Korea and retired in 1978.

After earning a computer science degree in 1989 from the University of North Texas, Acklen taught computer science courses and wrote software programs.

Acklen has earned more than 60 military decorations and will be awarded posthumously. He died Dec. 31, 1998 with cancerous brain tumors.

Don H. Davis Jr. Class of 1961

Davis, from Sedona, Ariz, graduated from A&M with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and went on to receive a Master of Science in business administration in 1963.

While at A&M, Davis was on the varsity baseball team and in the Corps of Cadets. Davis' was CEO of Rockwell International for 45 years and retired in 2005.

A&M has recognized Davis' accomplishments by awarding him with the Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Engineering in 1990. Davis and his wife, Sallie, have given back to the University through professorships, graduate fellowships, and gifts.

He was on the College of Engineering external advisory committee and is an Endowed Century Club member. Davis also contributes to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

William H. "Bill" Flores Class of 1976

Flores, a Bryan, Texas, native, graduated from A&M with a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting and then went on received a Master of Business Administration from Houston Baptist University in 1985. Flores was a member of the Corps of Cadets and was a Ross Volunteer. He became CEO and president of Phoenix Exploration, Co. Flores and his wife have contributed to A&M through scholarships and endowments with the College of Education, Mays Business School and Corps of Cadets.

The Great Hall in the Clayton W. Williams Jr. Center was renamed in Flores' honor. Flores is involved with councils at A&M and is an Endowed Century Club member.

Dudley J. Hughes, class of 1951

Hughes of Jackson, Miss., received a Bachelor of Science in biology and was a member of the Corps of Cadets. He served in the Army and received a Bronze Star for service in Korea. Hughes is the president of Hughes Oil Inc. and Hughes South Corp. and has operated more than 10 oil and gas exploration companies in his career. In 2009, he was named Philanthropist of the Year by the State of Mississippi and has contributed to various chairs and professorships for the Department of Geology. Hughes is a member of the Association of Former Students' Century Club.

Fred A. Palmer, class of 1959

Palmer, from Godley, Texas, graduated from A&M with a Bachelor of Science in wildlife science and served in the Corps of Cadets. Palmer worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department before serving in the Army. Afterward he received a Bachelor of Science in veterinary science and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Palmer has endowed scholarships at A&M and established the Dr. Fred A. and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology. The College of Veterinary Medicine awarded him the Outstanding Alumnus award in 2008. Palmer was also chair man for the Association and is an Endowed Century Club member.

Charles W. Soltis, class of 1955

Houston native, Charles Soltis received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering at A&M and was involved with the Corps of Cadets, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Pi Tau Sigma. Soltis became the president and managing partner of Soltis Enterprises. Soltis donated a state-of-the art research center in San Juan de San Isidro de Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica, to allow students to study sustainability in the tropics. Soltis donated 250 acres of rain forest for research. The Department of Mechanical Engineering inducted Soltis into the Academy of Distinguished Graduates in 1994. Soltis is part of the Houston A&M Club and the Association's Century Club.

Joe Utay, class of 1908

Joe Utay graduated A&M with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering before receiving a law degree from Samford University in 1912. While at A&M, Utay was a member of the Corps of Cadets, was a Ross Volunteer and captain of the varsity football team. Utay became an attorney in Dallas and practiced law for 55 years. Utay served as a freshman football coach for A&M and helped establish the Southwest Officials Association that started the Southwest Conference. He was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972 and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. He will be awarded posthumously.

Award selection

The selection of former students is based on a variety of contributions to the community, the University and accomplishments in life. Distinguished alumni include CEOs of companies, public servants and individuals responsible for inventing technology. The career paths vary as much as the Aggie network, Greenwade said.

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