The University of Texas at Austin
  • Extraordinary Exes: Justin Dart and Victoria Foe

    Published: July 19, 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.”

    Justin Dart

    Justin Dart, attended 1955-57

    They called him the Martin Luther King Jr. of the disability rights movement, the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and most simply, a great humanitarian.

    After contracting polio as a young man, Justin Dart lived more than 50 additional years confined to a wheelchair but traveling the country and world to advocate for justice. He applied the wealth he built as an entrepreneur to political advocacy he believed would benefit the disabled and society at large. The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed in 1990, after tireless efforts on Dart’s part, and he fought for it again later when it was in political danger of being repealed.

    Among his many honors was the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, which President Bill Clinton bestowed upon Dart after saying, “Justin Dart in his own way has the most Olympian spirit I believe I have ever come across.” Always searching to give credit to others, Dart then sent out replicas of the award to hundreds of fellow disability rights advocates, writing, “This award belongs to you.”

    Victoria Foe

    Victoria Foe, B.A. 1966, Ph.D. 1975

    In the scientific community, preeminent biologist Victoria Foe is legendary for her thorough, insightful research into how embryos develop. Studying this development entails hour upon hour, day upon night, of peering through microscopes at the embryos of fruit flies. Foe calls this observation process a “wonderland,” as awe-inspiring as diving deep into the ocean.

    Between her research and her dynamic personality, Foe has won a MacArthur “genius grant” and been profiled extensively in publications like The New York Times. Her findings are regularly cited and built upon in the research of fellow scientists.

    Today she works in affiliation with the University of Washington’s Center for Cell Dynamics, continuing to make significant strides in the way science understands life in its earliest stages of growth.

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

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