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. 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 to achieve its mission.
Pamela Willeford, a former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in English. She began her professional career as a school teacher and since then has served as president of the Pico Drilling Company Ltd., a family-owned oil services business. In addition to serving as a U.S. ambassador appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003, Willeford was appointed to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 1995, where she served for eight years and was promoted to chairwoman in 1998.
Judith Zaffirini, the second longest-serving senator (and highest-ranking female and Hispanic senator) in the Texas Senate, was elected to the Texas Senate in 1986 to represent Laredo and has served in the Senate since then. She received her bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees from UT Austin. She is the second longest-serving senator. Zaffirini served as chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee from 2006 to 2012 and is the chair of the Senate Government Organization Committee. Her business, Zaffirini Communications, specializes in professional communication services such as consulting, one-on-one coaching and keynote addresses.
Joe Jamail, a well-known Texas attorney and long-standing university patron, made national headlines in 1985 with the case Pennzoil v. Texaco, in which Jamail and his partner won a record-setting $10.55 billion judgment while representing Pennzoil. Jamail received his bachelor’s and law degree from UT Austin. At 87 years old, he’s still an active partner in his law firm. Jamail is a long-time and frequent donor to the university. His gifts span a variety of colleges and departments throughout the university, including the College of Liberal Arts, School of Nursing, School of Undergraduate Studies, School of Law, the Harry Ransom Center and athletics (including the Lee and Joe Jamail Swimming Center).
Peter O’Donnell, president of the O’Donnell Foundation and namesake for the O’Donnell Building for Applied Computational Engineering and Sciences, created the O'Donnell Foundation with his wife, Edith. The foundation is the fifth largest independent foundation in Dallas. It primarily supports engineering, science and math education at the graduate level along with arts programs in higher education. O’Donnell served in the Navy and was appointed to President Ronald Reagan’s President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.