An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Pulitzer Prize winners, filmmaker, cartoonist, sports writers top list of former Texan staffers honored Nov. 3

Eleven former Daily Texan staffers  – including a well-known filmmaker, a respected Texas state senator, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, a university president, the man who built the Dallas Cowboys franchise, two sportswriters and columnists who covered the early Cowboy years and a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist – will be honored at the Friends of The Daily Texan Awards Dinner Nov. 3 at the University of Texas-Austin.

University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven will be the keynote speaker at the fifth annual gathering, hosted by Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc., a non-profit group supporting The Texan through financial contributions for editorial projects and projects that support the financial stability of the student newspaper.

The gathering will be in the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom in The Texas Union on the UT campus in Austin, and registration is now open to the public at this link.

The Nov. 3 event will begin at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

Since its inception, the Friends group has recognized distinguished former staff members of The Daily Texan. The list of earlier inductees includes Walter Cronkite, Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Elam, Bill Moyers, Liz Carpenter, Ronnie Dugger, Dewitt C. Reddick and Liz Smith, and many other “graduates” of The Texan.

“As our honoree list indicates, we have honored some of the giants in national, regional and local journalism, plus other fields, including politics, education and business,” said John Reetz, president of the Friends group. “But this year’s group is perhaps the most eclectic and diverse, including Daily Texan grads who have made their mark beyond traditional journalism.

“Also, we’ve increased the number of our Rising Star inductees, which recognizes recent graduates, and this year will honor the social media manager for The Texas Tribune, and social media manager for NASA’s Johnson Space Center.”

This year’s 11 inductees are, by category:


Hall of Fame

Sam Blair, Dallas Morning News, sportswriter, editor and columnist for 41 years.

Berke Breathed, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and creator of

“Bloom County,” “Outland” and “Opus.”

Skeeter Hagler, first Texan photographer to win a Pulitzer Prize, for his series documenting the Western cowboy.

Shirley Strum Kenny, a literary scholar, author, teacher and university president.

Frank Luksa, first with the Dallas Times Herald then Dallas Morning News, he was “the” expert on the Dallas Cowboys, covering them from their formation in 1960 until his retirement in 2004.

Robert Rodriguez, producer, director, screenwriter, editor, composer for numerous films and television series, including “El Mariachi”, “Desperado,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and “Sin City.”

Tex Schramm

Texas Earnest “Tex” Schramm, the general manager of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989, regarded as one of the most influential executives in the history of professional sports.

Senator Judith Zaffirini, the first Hispanic woman elected to the Texas Senate, second in seniority, highest-ranking woman and Hispanic in the Senate; has received nearly 900 awards for her legislative, public service and professional accomplishments.


The Griff Singer Award

Richard Finnell, member of Shiva’s Headband when the group recorded “Take Me to the Mountains,” a 1969 release on Capitol Records that was one of the first major-label releases to come out of Austin; later, a distinguished journalism career, with12 years as Texan adviser.


The Rising Star Award

Bobby Blanchard

Bobby Blanchard runs The Texas Tribune’s social media channels, following his first job out of school at the Dallas Morning News as a reporting fellow, covering Texas politics and breaking news.

Hayley Fick

Hayley Fick is the social media manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she works on social media strategy, video productions and live coverage of human spaceflight missions.

(Full biographies at the end of this article.)

More info about the event and other Friends of The Daily Texan initiatives – and membership information – can be found

Members of the group include anyone with an interest in supporting a free and unfettered student press on the UT campus. Many of the members are media professionals from local, regional and national media, plus a variety of other professions, including academics, law, publishing and public service.

Officers of the group and organizers of the event include John Reetz, president; Tom Kleinworth, vice president; Alicia Dietrich., treasurer; and Jennifer Morehead, secretary. Former Texan staffer Wynne Davis is handling social media conten


2017 Friends of The Daily Texan Honorees

The Daily Texan Hall of Fame

Sam Blair

A Dallas native, Sam Blair attended UT Austin from 1950 to 1954 and served as sports editor of The Daily Texan. After graduation, he joined the staff of The Dallas Morning News, where he worked as a sportswriter, editor and columnist for 41 years.

Mr. Blair won numerous national and regional awards for his work covering all the major sports, including football, baseball and golf. Beginning in 1960, he reported on both of Dallas’s new professional football teams — the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League and the Dallas Texans in the American Football League — and would continue covering the Cowboys and the Houston Oilers after the Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City in 1963.

Mr. Blair is the author of numerous books on sports, and was a co-author of books with several athletes and coaches, including Cowboys defensive tackle Bob Lilly, golfer Lee Trevino and college football coach Grant Teaff. He has been inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and received the Excellence in Journalism Award from the Press Club of Dallas in 2015. Since 1995 he has been a producer, writer and speaker at Blair Productions.


Berke Breathed

Gus Berkeley Breathed’s first regularly published comic strip was “The Academia Waltz,” which appeared in The Daily Texan in 1978. While in school, he self-published two collections of the strip, which helped pay for his tuition.

The comic strip attracted the notice of the editors of The Washington Post, who recruited Mr. Breathed to do a nationally syndicated strip. On Dec. 8, 1980, “Bloom County” made its debut and featured some of the characters from “The Academia Waltz.” Eventually the strip would appear in 1,200 newspapers with an estimated 40 million readers, and his work would earn Mr. Breathed the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning in 1987.

Mr. Breathed retired “Bloom County” in 1989. However, he would continue his work by publishing the comic strips “Outland” from 1989 to 1995, and “Opus” from 2003 to 2008. In addition to his syndicated cartoon work, Mr. Breathed has produced 11 cartoon collections and five children’s books, two of which were made into animated films.

In 2015, Mr. Breathed resumed work on “Bloom County” after a break of more than 25 years, and he now publishes the comic strip on Facebook.

In a 2001 interview with the A.V. Club, Mr. Breathed discussed how he got his start:

“I started as a news photographer at the University of Texas’ Daily Texan. They failed to see the marketing advantage in manipulating news photos (this is pre-digital, remember) to enhance the drama. I recall a dandy front-page photo of a community street preacher, in which I burned a halo floating above his head. I got fired and started writing stories for the campus magazine. I wrote about an unnamed student who secretly released hundreds of baby alligators into nearby Lake Travis, which would have been compelling if I hadn’t made it up. Property values around the lake plummeted over $70 million the next week, which brought federal game agents into town. I was arrested, eventually – you think I’m lying again, but I’m not, check the records – and then the death threats and getting kicked out of my apartment complex, and I won’t bore you with the rest, except to add that some wise sage finally suggested that the cartooning desk might be where I belonged, as I could let my little imagination soar wherever it wanted, and federal agents wouldn’t be needed. So I started copying Doonesbury, and you know the rest.”


Skeeter Hagler

Skeeter Hagler was a Daily Texan and Cactus photographer in 1970 and 1971. He would go on to become the first Texan photographer to win a Pulitzer Prize.

He got into photojournalism “pretty much by accident,” he said in a 2014 interview. “I got my degree in architecture and needed a few electives to graduate, so I took some photojournalism courses and worked for The Daily Texan. I got the journalism bug and went out looking for a newspaper photographer job and found one at the Waco News-Tribune.”

From 1972 to 1974, Mr. Hagler was a photographer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and he then joined the staff of the Dallas Times Herald, where he worked until 1988. Mr. Hagler was honored by the National Press Photographers Association as regional photographer of the year in 1972 and in 1974.

In 1980, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography for his series documenting the western cowboy. Since leaving the Times Herald, Mr. Hagler has been a freelance photographer with assignments around the world. Recent works include stories for Texas Highways magazine, a book with poet Red Steagall and a coffee table book on Fort Worth, where he was born.


Shirley Strum Kenny

A native of Tyler, Shirley Strum Kenny is a literary scholar, author, teacher and university president. She also was one of the first women to serve as editor of The Daily Texan.

Dr. Kenny received bachelor’s degrees in journalism and English at UT Austin, and served as Texan editor from 1954 to 1955. Her husband, Dr. Bob Kenny, was Texan editor the previous year.

Dr. Kenny would go on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate from the University of Chicago, and would teach at many universities, including UT Austin. She also would be awarded four honorary degrees.

In 1985, she was appointed president of Queens College in Flushing, N.Y.  The New York Times later wrote that “she faced a formidable task,” not only because the school was demoralized by a fiscal crisis but also because “some on campus might have had a stereotypical impression of her.”

“If you have a Southern accent and you’re a woman, they assume you’re a powder puff,” Dr. Kenny said. As the Times noted, “Dr. Kenny soon proved she was no pushover.”

She served as president of Queens College until 1994, when she was named the fourth president – and the first woman president – of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

She served in that role until 2009. Dr. Kenny also later served as interim president of Augusta State University in Atlanta from 2012 to 2013.

Dr. Kenny has published five books and numerous articles about the Restoration and 18th-century British drama. She has served on numerous boards, including the Carnegie-funded Boyer Commission on undergraduate education, the Fulbright Association, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Before she was Daily Texan editor, Dr. Kenny was a member of the Texas Stars, a women’s twirling organization that performed at UT football and basketball games, pep rallies, and parades. She almost certainly is one of the few Texan editors who can twirl a baton.


Frank Luksa

A gifted writer, Frank Luksa graced North Texas sports pages with color, wit and sarcasm for nearly 45 years.

Mr. Luksa worked on The Daily Texan while attending UT Austin in the mid-1950s. He left to work for the Gladewater Daily Mirror and the Tyler Morning Telegraph, and also served in the Korean War, before he returned to UT to earn his journalism degree.

Mr. Luksa began covering the newly formed Dallas Cowboys in 1960 for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and continued doing so when he moved to the Dallas Times Herald in 1972.

In December 1991, Mr. Luksa was pulling up to Texas Stadium to cover a Cowboys game when he heard on the radio that the Times Herald would close the next day. “This complicated my future,” he wrote, “since I planned to ask for a raise on Monday.”

Three weeks later, he was hired by the Dallas Morning News, and he would continue working there until his retirement in 2004. He was known as a genial mentor to young sportswriters.

He wrote five books on the Cowboys, including ones co-authored with Roger Staubach and Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson.

Mr. Luksa was a longtime Pro Football Hall of Fame voter. In 1992, the Hall gave him the Dick McCann Memorial Award, presented annually by the Pro Football Writers of America in recognition of long and distinguished service. In 2011, he was presented the Blackie Sherrod Award by the Dallas Sports Commission for his distinguished sportswriting.

Mr. Luksa died at age 77 in October 2012.


Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez showed an interest in filmmaking at an early age, creating animated flip films in the margins of books. By age 13 he was using Super 8 and video cameras to make short films. While at St. Anthony’s High School Seminary in San Antonio, he was commissioned to film football games, but lost the job after getting more footage of the ball in the air and the fans’ reactions than the actual plays.

Mr. Rodriguez entered UT in the late 1980s and for three years published the cartoon “Los Hooligans” in The Daily Texan. However, at the time, he wasn’t able to enter the UT film program because of his grade point average.

Using borrowed equipment, Mr. Rodriguez produced a video reel called “Austin Stories.” It won several competitions, and as a result, he was admitted into the film program.

Using money he raised as a human guinea pig in a number of clinical research trials, Mr. Rodriguez first wrote and directed the film “Bedhead” and then, with a budget of $7,000, filmed “El Mariachi” in a Mexican border town, using a hand-held 16mm camera.

An agent who viewed “Bedhead” and the trailer for “El Mariachi” recognized Mr. Rodriguez’s potential, which led to a two-year, two-picture contract with Columbia Pictures. Columbia released “El Mariachi” on 35mm, making it one of the most inexpensive films ever released by a Hollywood studio. In 2011, “El Mariachi” was one of 25 films chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Since then, Mr. Rodriguez has been the producer, director, screenwriter, editor and composer for numerous films and television series, including “Desperado,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” the “Spy Kids” series, “Machete” and “Sin City.” A pioneer in digital filmmaking and 3D, he is founder and president of the Austin-based Troublemaker Studios and founder of El Rey Network, a cable TV channel.

Mr. Rodriguez completed his bachelor’s degree at UT Austin in 2008 and gave the commencement address at the 2009 spring graduation ceremonies. In 2015 he received the Texas Exes Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Tex Schramm

Texas Earnest “Tex” Schramm, the general manager of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989, is regarded as one of the most influential executives in the history of professional sports.

Mr. Schramm was born in in 1920 in California, the son of transplanted Texans, and enrolled at UT Austin in 1939. He joined the Daily Texan staff as a sportswriter and sports editor, but, less than a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces, where he served for almost four years. He returned to UT in 1945, took a job as a sportswriter for the Austin American-Statesman and graduated from UT with a journalism degree in 1947.

Mr. Schramm joined the Los Angeles Rams as publicity director in 1947 and later became general manager. From 1957 to 1960 he was assistant director of sports for CBS Television. In 1960, he oversaw CBS’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif.

When Dallas was awarded an expansion National Football League team in 1960, owner Clint Murchison hired Mr. Schramm as general manager. Mr. Schramm then hired fellow UT Austin alumnus Tom Landry as coach and Gil Brandt as head of player personnel and chief scout.

Over the next 29 years, the Cowboys would become one of the most successful franchises in sports history. During that time, they would play in five Super Bowls — winning two — and had a winning record for 20 consecutive seasons. Mr. Schramm was also a pioneer in many innovations in professional football, including the use of instant replay, and was a major figure in bringing about the merger of the American and National Football Leagues.

Mr. Schramm was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991 and was named the 1999 Outstanding Alumnus by UT’s Moody College of Communication.

Mr. Schramm died at age 83 on July 15, 2003.


Senator Judith Zaffirini

In 1986, Judith Pappas Zaffirini became the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the Texas Senate. She now ranks second in seniority and is the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic in the Senate. She was the first woman to chair a major Senate committee in 20 years and the first Hispanic woman to serve as president pro tempore of the Senate and as governor for a day.

While a journalism and speech education major at UT Austin from 1965 to 1967, Sen. Zaffirini wrote a weekly column for her hometown Laredo newspaper and was a reporter and headline writer for The Daily Texan. She also served as assistant editor and special edition editor for The Texan in the summer of 1966.

Sen. Zaffirini has received nearly 900 awards for her legislative, public service and professional accomplishments. With B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from UT, she also has been recognized for her strong support of the University. She received the UT Presidential Citation in 2013, was named a Distinguished Alumna by the Texas Exes in 2003 and was named an Outstanding Alumna by the Moody College of Communication in 2016.

Through her business, Zaffirini Communications, Sen. Zaffirini provides professional communication services, including consulting, workshops, seminars and writing. In 2015, the Press Women of Texas presented its highest honor, the Communicator of Achievement Award, to Sen. Zaffirini.

Sen. Zaffirini was inducted into The Daily Texan Hall of Fame in 2016.



The Griff Singer Award

Richard Finnell

Before embarking on a career in journalism and serving as the print adviser at The Daily Texan, Richard Allen Finnell played drums for a pioneering Austin rock band.

Born in McAllen on Oct. 12, 1945, Mr. Finnell graduated from UT Austin and was a member of the psychedelic rock band Shiva’s Headband when the group recorded “Take Me to the Mountains,” a 1969 release on Capitol Records that was one of the first major-label releases to come out of Austin.

Mr. Finnell had a long career in journalism, which included four years as managing editor of the Taylor Daily Press and 10 years as editor of the Hill Country News, from 1983 to 1993. He then worked at Texas Student Publications as Night Composing Room Supervisor for four years, and worked the next 12 years as Editorial Adviser, retiring in 2009.

Texan staffers who worked with Mr. Finnell during his 12 years as adviser described him a supportive, steadying presence.

“When I told Richard I wanted to be managing editor, I was dumb, and 20, and had all these beautiful ideas — and he supported me in every direction I wanted to go,” said Jennie Kennedy, who served three years as Texan managing editor during Mr. Finnell’s tenure. “The thing I loved about Richard is that no matter what we wanted to do, he had our backs.”

Mr. Finnell died at age 69 on Feb. 21, 2015.


The Rising Star Award

Bobby Blanchard

Bobby Blanchard runs The Texas Tribune’s social media channels. A graduate of UT Austin, Mr. Blanchard spent his first year out of college at The Dallas Morning News as a reporting fellow, covering Texas politics and breaking news. He got his start in journalism in the poorly lit basement of The Daily Texan, followed by internships at the Houston Chronicle, KUT News and The Texas Tribune. Born and raised in the Houston area, Mr. Blanchard is a native Texan. He relies on a steady supply of Tex-Mex and Red Bull to survive.



Hayley Fick

Hayley Fick is the social media manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. There she works on social media strategy, video productions and live coverage of human spaceflight missions. She graduated from UT Austin with a B.S. in public relations in 2015. During her time at The Daily Texan, she worked her way up from web staff to digital director of web and social media efforts.