The UT Tower will shine with burnt orange lights Friday, April 22 in honor of this year’s recipients of the Presidential Citation Awards.
The Presidential Citation program was established to recognize the extraordinary contributions of individuals who personify the university’s commitment to the task of transforming lives, and it is the highest honor bestowed by The University of Texas at Austin.
The university does not award honorary degrees, and these citations are designed to salute persons whose service exemplifies the values shared by the university community. The Presidential Citation honors those who have brought great distinction to the university and helped the institution achieve its mission.
To be considered for a Presidential Citation, a person must have achieved distinction in his or her field of endeavor and be a person of such integrity, stature, demonstrated ability, and renown that the university community will take pride in and be inspired by his or her recognition. In addition, the person must have provided service that has made a profound and positive difference in the achievement of the university’s mission.
This year’s honorees are:
Letty Fernandez earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from The University of Texas at Austin and, after graduation, began a career in broadcast journalism at CBS affiliate KGBT-TV, working as a reporter, anchor, producer and assignments editor.
After a 15-year career in broadcast journalism, she joined what was then The University of Texas at Brownsville (later The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley) as director of news and information.
Now she serves as Media Relations Liaison, Division of Marketing and Communications for The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). She has also served as director of Presidential Media Relations for UTRGV.
Letty is a Life Member of Texas Exes. She served on the Commission of 125, a commission that was composed of a group of citizens convened in 2002 to express a vision of how The University of Texas could best serve Texas and society during the next 25 years. And she is on the UT Austin Alumni Advisory Board for the Office of Admissions. In 2016, she received the Texas Exes Jack Harbin Top Hand award for Outstanding Service. She is a graduate of Leadership Texas and Leadership Brownsville.
A past president of the Brownsville Texas Exes alumni chapter, she helped create the Rio Grande Valley Scholars scholarship at Texas Exes, which awards annual $10,000 scholarships to exceptional students from the region to help them complete an undergraduate degree at The University of Texas at Austin.
Melinda B. Hildebrand
Melinda “Mindy” Hildebrand currently serves as the President of the Hildebrand Foundation, and Vice President of Hilcorp Ventures Inc. Hildebrand is the President and Owner of River Oaks Donuts in Houston, Texas.
Hildebrand also serves on the following boards or committees: MD Anderson, Houston — Executive Committee, Board of Visitors; The University of Texas at Austin — Executive Committee for the What Starts Here Campaign, Development Board, and McCombs Advisory Council; University of St. Thomas — Advisory Board member; Museum of Fine Arts Houston — Bayou Bend and European Arts sub-committees; Houston Parks Board — Trustee; President of the Memorial Park Conservancy Endowment, Houston; Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Texas — Executive Committee and Endowment Committee; Elected to the board of the Upper Snowmass Creek Caucus, Snowmass, Colorado; Life House Houston — Advisory Board; Partnership to End Addiction, New York City — Advisory Board; Preservation Square, Austin, Texas — Board Member; and James Beard Foundation, New York City — Board of Directors.
Hildebrand has volunteered for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, as a member of the International Committee for 34 years, and is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Houston. Hildebrand holds the officer position of Commandeur for the Houston Chapter of the Confrerie des Chavaliers du Tastevin.
Hildebrand earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin. She has been married to Jeffery D. Hildebrand for 33 years, and they have three children.
Jeanne L. Klein
Jeanne Klein holds a vision of a society free of racial intolerance, one with equal and quality educational opportunities afforded every person and a world that is culturally developed. At The University of Texas at Austin, she discovered a passion for education and art, which she realized are not only personally fulfilling, but essential to our society. Her studies toward a degree in Special Education, with a minor in Art History, inspired her lifelong goals of advancing education and art.
Jeanne feels that the education that she received keeps giving back to her, even into her 60s and 70s. She has been on the Advisory Board for the College of Education for 29 years. In 2005, she was attending one of the board meetings and heard a Ph.D. student talk about a new philosophy in education called Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). She was fascinated with the idea of teaching the whole child and realized that without emotional intelligence our academic intelligence does not have the same importance in our success in life. So for the last 10 years she has devoted a great part of her life to working with the College of Education and the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts with a goal of introducing SEL first into UT Elementary School and second into all 130 schools in the Austin Independent School District. She notes that there is fast-growing recognition that vibrant relationships are as critical to successful students and schools as is excellent content, and that instruction and research bear this out. She has seen in the last decade an emergent body of educational and other research (including from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology) that suggests that success in education, the labor force, and the living of daily life depends not only on what young people know, but also on 1) their ability to identify and regulate their emotions and 2) their ability to establish relationships that enable them to engage effectively with others.
Jeanne Klein has been on the Blanton advisory board since before the museum was the Blanton (formerly known as the Huntington). She has found it to be a great satisfaction to be part of the transformation from a museum that began as several small rooms in the art building where she took classes into a world-class museum on the campus of the university. She notes that probably the most fun and important art project she was ever responsible for began when an art dealer from Houston asked if he might present an exciting project to her. He showed her the plans for a fabulous building with three amazing stained glass windows, 14 black and white paintings and one large totem, all designed by her favorite artist, Ellsworth Kelly. She knew this project would be momentous. The idea was presented to Bill Powers, the President of the University. He was supportive from the start and Jeanne felt the project would not have been realized without him. This edifice and the art within was named “Austin” by the artist, Ellsworth Kelly. Jeanne states that it is a beautiful structure that functions as a place of contemplation, respite, and reflection or a place to rest and clear one’s mind. It is visited extensively by students and has had visitors from all over the world, and Jeanne feels that she was privileged to have a significant role in shepherding this valuable addition to the University from its beginning to its completion.
Richard J. Reddick
Richard J. Reddick, Ed.D. is the inaugural Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach and Distinguished Service Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy for the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Effective August 1, 2022, he will be Senior Vice Provost for Curriculum and Enrollment and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at UT Austin. Reddick is also faculty co-chair of the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) and Bravely Confronting Racism in Higher Education at the Harvard University
Graduate School of Education. Most recently, he has served on the Advisory Council of UNESCO’s Countering Racism in Textbooks and Learning Materials Committee. Dr. Reddick is an award-winning teacher who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Plan II Honors, Educational Leadership and Policy, and Plan II Honors, including a first year signature course, the “Exploring UK Education” Maymester in England, and a President’s Award for Global Leadership course in the UK this summer.
Dr. Reddick conducts ethnographic research on the experiences of faculty of color in predominantly White university settings, mentoring relationships in higher education, Black families in American society, and work-family balance in junior faculty fathers. A respected researcher, Dr. Reddick and his work has been highlighted by NPR, the BBC, the Associated Press, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He is the co-author and co-editor of four scholarly volumes, and his articles have been published in the American Educational Research Journal and the Harvard Educational Review, among other leading educational journals. He is a first-generation collegian and Pell Grant recipient, and a proud graduate of Department of Defense and East Austin public schools. Dr. Reddick earned his undergraduate degree at The University of Texas at Austin, and his masters and doctoral degrees at Harvard University. A dad to two, husband, son, and brother, Dr. Reddick is also the co-host of the new NPR podcast, Black Austin Matters, and he is currently working on a book, Restorative Resistance in Higher Education: Leading in an Era of Racial Awakening and Reckoning. A trivia maven, Reddick has appeared and won on several game shows, including Wheel of Fortune (UT College Week Champions, 1994) and Jeopardy!