Philanthropists, center director among picks for Powers’ award

Preethi Srikanth

The four recipients of this year’s Presidential Citation Award come from a diverse range of fields, but they share a common dedication to the University and its impact on the community, UT President William Powers Jr. said.

The University created the award program in 1979 to recognize distinguished alumni or members of the UT community, and each year the UT president chooses two to four nominees to honor. This year, Powers chose United States Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk, a UT Law School alumnus; Shirley Bird Perry, UT’s Senior Vice President and a UT alumna; philanthropists and UT alumni Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long; and Thomas Staley, the director of the Harry Ransom Center and a renowned humanities expert.

Powers said while the selection process is difficult, honoring outstanding faculty and graduates is one way the University can give thanks.

“Each of the recipients have given so much back to UT,” he said. “We talk about taking education from UT and making a difference with it, and these are the people changing the world.”

Staley came to the University in 1988 and focused on acquisitions and cataloging manuscripts for student use. He wrote or edited 15 books on topics including James Joyce, Italo Svevo and modern British women novelists. An accomplished humanities scholar, Staley is promoting the growth of modern literature and said he wants to see the center acquire more photography and film.

“This award is very important to me not just for its honor, but because it makes my service at UT meaningful,” Staley said.

Perry’s nomination for the award comes after a half-century-long career at UT, when she was involved in numerous leadership roles and clubs around campus. She started her career at UT as program director and eventually became Union director. Perry then served as vice president and vice chancellor for development and external relations with the UT System until 2004, when she became UT’s senior vice president.

She now works with the Briscoe Center for American History and seeks to create a better historical record of the University.

“We pick key people to interview and do research on background and facts with oral historians from the Briscoe center,” Perry said. “We then conduct interviews which are archived via call transcripts and videos. This way, we have raw materials to look at of our University’s history with varying perspectives.”