EL PASO – The University of Texas System Board of Regents today awarded its highest distinction – the Santa Rita Award – to longtime landowner, rancher and former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe, Jr., whose association with UT institutions spans nearly 70 years.
“The University of Texas System and its institutions have prominence on a world scale because people like Gov. Briscoe and his late wife, Janey – a former regent on this board – contributed selflessly their time and resources for the benefit of higher education,” Regents’ Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr., said. “I could not begin to capture all of the ways Governor and Janey Briscoe have enhanced excellence among UT institutions, but their unsurpassed dedication and service makes them shining models for everyone in the great state of Texas.”
The Briscoes – both UT Austin graduates – have made gift commitments of more than $26 million to UT System institutions, including $15 million to the Center for American History at UT Austin, enhancing it as one of the country’s great repositories of historical collections; creating faculty and scholarship endowments at UT San Antonio; funding cardiovascular research and medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio; and supporting other medical programs at UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Additionally, Gov. Briscoe has served on numerous boards within the UT community, including UT Austin’s Centennial Commission and the Commission of 125; UT San Antonio’s development board and President’s Associates; UT M.D. Anderson’s University Cancer Foundation Board of Visitors; and UT System’s Chancellor’s Council. He was named a distinguished alumnus of UT Austin in 1986.
Dolph Briscoe was born on April 23, 1923 in Uvalde, more than 90 years after his family first settled in what is now Fort Bend County. A lifelong resident of Uvalde, Briscoe graduated as valedictorian from Uvalde High School, then attended UT Austin, where he met his wife, the former Janey Slaughter. The pair married in 1942, a year before Dolph Briscoe earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration. Janey Briscoe later earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in education, both at UT Austin. She was named a distinguished alumna of UT Austin in 1996.
After graduating from the university, Dolph Briscoe enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II. Following his service, he returned to Uvalde and his family’s cattle-ranching business. He served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1949 to 1957 and was elected governor in 1972. He served until 1979.
With a spread that covers 640,000 acres across 10 counties in South and West Texas, Briscoe is one of the state’s largest landowners and last great cattle barons. He becomes the 21st recipient of the Santa Rita Award, which is given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the UT System and who show a deep commitment to higher education and serve as an example of selfless, spirited service. Past recipients are Bernard Rapoport, Frank Denius, Margaret McDermott, Wales H. Madden, Jr., Peter T. Flawn, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, Jack S. Blanton, Jess Hay, Larry Temple, Peter O’Donnell, Jr., William P. Hobby, J. Erik Jonsson, Mary Moody Northen, John H. Freeman, John W. McCullough, Cecil H. Green, Harry H. Ransom, Eugene McDermott, Hines H. Baker and Ima Hogg.
Briscoe will be honored at a reception and dinner to be held in Austin in February 2009.
The award, first handed down in 1968, is named for the Santa Rita No. 1, the first producing oil well on UT System property in West Texas. The well produced oil from 1923 to 1990 and spurred growth of the Permanent University Fund.
The University of Texas System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems, with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $11.5 billion (FY 2009) including $2.5 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Student enrollment exceeded 194,000 in the 2007 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's healthcare professionals annually. With more than 81,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.