The University of Texas at Austin
  • Extraordinary Exes: Billy Ray Hunter and Karen Elliott House

    Published: July 1, 2010

    To celebrate its 125th anniversary, the Texas Exes asked its members to share their stories, showing that what starts here truly changes the world. During the next few weeks, Know will feature 12 stories that show why these alums deserve the title “Extraordinary Exes.”

    Billy Ray Hunter

    Billy Ray Hunter, Bachelor of Music, 1997

    Billy Ray Hunter came from humble beginnings on Austin’s east side, and while still in his 20s became one of the top trumpeters in East Austin.

    Now as principal trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, Hunter holds one of the highest orchestral positions in the world at age 35, and remains one of only three African Americans in the 95-member orchestra.

    In the years before he “hit it big time,” Hunter was a struggling musician. He played show tunes at Disney World before breaking into orchestras in Boston, Dallas, Baltimore and beyond. He maxed out his credit cards en route to Miami to audition for the New World Symphony.

    In spite of his challenges, Hunter’s climb is a story of personal discipline and mentor intervention. “I always had teachers who saw potential,” he said. Hunter is a recipient of the Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award and was presented this year with the annual Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music Distinguished Alumnus Award.

    Karen Elliott House

    Karen Elliott House, Bachelor of Journalism, 1970

    A native Texas girl, Karen Elliott House grew up in a town of 900 in a house with no telephone or television. From those unlikely beginnings, she went on to travel the world, win a Pulitzer Prize and rank on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women.

    A journalism education from the university started House on the path that would lead her to a 32-year career focused on international affairs at The Wall Street Journal. She served as the storied paper’s foreign editor, and later, publisher. Along the way, House won a 1984 Pulitzer Prize for an extraordinary series of interviews with Jordan’s King Hussein — a series that correctly anticipated the problems the Reagan administration would face with its Middle East peace process.

    Since retiring from the journal, House has become a senior Fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and is working on a forthcoming book about Saudi Arabia.

    View a full list of Extraordinary Exes on the Texas Exes Web site.

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