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Natural Sciences Spring '07 Commencement

Natural Sciences Spring '07 Commencement
The College of Natural Sciences is proud of our graduating seniors, and we feel confident that these highly motivated, intelligent young people will change the world for the better throughout their lives. It's been great having them here and providing them with some of the tools they will need for success.

At commencement this year, our graduates will hear from two distinguished guest speakers with some life experience, Bill Hobby and Ted Votteler, and two outstanding graduating seniors.

At the 8 o'clock ceremony

Bill Hobby, Texas' lieutenant governor for 18 years, served in that office longer than any other person elected to it. When he was first sworn into office in 1973, Hobby continued a family association with the Texas Senate covering three generations and spanning more than a century. His grandfather, Edwin Hobby, was a state senator and his father, William Pettus Hobby, Sr., was the state's 24th lieutenant governor, serving from 1915 to 1917, when he became governor.

Hobby was born in Houston on January 19, 1932. After attending Rice University and receiving his degree in 1953, he entered the United States Navy and served for four years in naval intelligence. Subsequently, he joined the staff of the Houston Post, at the time published by his father. Hobby eventually became executive editor and president of the company in 1965. He served as president of the Post for nearly 20 years, until 1983.

Hobby received his initial experience in state government as senate parliamentarian of the 56th in 1959. In 1971, Hobby ran for lieutenant governor. He was elected in 1972 and presided over the Senate of the 63rd Legislature. Beginning in 1974, Hobby was reelected to four four-year terms.

The Hobby era in Texas politics brought tremendous progress in numerous areas, including public education, mental health, water conservation, fiscal management, indigent health care, correctional programs, and public assistance programs. His many achievements point to his determination that Texas sustains its commitment to excellence in higher education and its support for the resources needed to make that possible.

Hobby also served as Commissioner of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department from 1993 to 1995 and as Commissioner of the Education Commission of the States from 1991 to 1994.

He is the current Radoslav Tsanoff Professor at Rice University and Chairman of Hobby Communications. His current directorships include Southwest Airlines, 1990-present; The Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, 1998-present; and, Center for Public Policy Priorities, 2003-present.

He is married to the former Diana Poteat Stallings, and is the father of Laura Poteat Hobby, Paul Hobby, Andrew Purefoy Hobby, and Katherine Pettus Hobby.

Kevin Hughes, Jr. is a pure mathematics major in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program. At UT, he has participated in graduate number theory and analysis seminars and graded classes for the mathematics department. He spent his summers as a counselor in the PROMYS program at Boston University and investigating mathematics research at various institutions. He enjoys playing IM basketball and hanging out with friends. Honors he has received include UT's Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship, a VIGRE grant, and the Jennifer T. Barrett Undergraduate Scholarship in Mathematics. In the fall, he will pursue a mathematics doctoral degree at Princeton University.

At the noon ceremony

Theodore P. Votteler, M.D., redefines the term “graduating senior.” This 79-year-old pediatric surgeon from Dallas has had a distinguished 43-year career, but he did so without ever completing an undergraduate degree.

Dr. Votteler was born Aug. 2, 1927, in Portland, Oregon, and moved to the Dallas area in 1939. He was attending The University of Texas at Austin when World War II intervened, and he joined the U.S. Navy in July 1945. For the next 18 months, he served his country. In 1947, he returned to the university to complete his coursework and was presented with a decision: spend another year finishing his undergraduate degree or leave the university with 93 hours (27 credits shy of a degree) and start medical school. He chose the latter and entered Tulane University School of Medicine without a college degree. (An undergraduate degree is not technically required to get into medical school.)

He earned his M.D. in 1951. Then in 1957, he completed a one-year surgical fellowship under Dr. C. Everett Koop at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. That same year, at the age of 29, Dr. Votteler started his career at Children's Medical Center in Dallas and a private pediatric surgery practice. He was one of three pediatric surgeons in Texas when he performed his first surgery.

Dr. Votteler was appointed medical director of surgical services and director of general surgery at Children's in 1960 and retired from the positions in 1993. In 1978, after performing pediatric surgeries for 19 years, he performed the first of seven successful separations of conjoined twins. He has never lost both twins in a single surgery. He has become an international authority on conjoined twin separations, writing on them extensively both in professional journals and in chapters for medical textbooks. He was named to the "Best Doctors of America" between 1996 and 2000.

In 2001, Dr. Votteler retired from pediatric surgery practice, having performed more than 20,000 surgeries. He discovered through a longtime friend, John Stuart, that it might be possible for him to finally return to The University of Texas at Austin for that long-awaited degree. He petitioned to have the classes from his first year at Tulane count toward his biology degree, and this easily gave him the 120 credit hours needed to graduate.

However, the Texas State Legislature mandates that all students must take two government courses to graduate. So this past March, Dr. Votteler put pen to paper in a series of essay tests. Through a combination of life experience, intelligence and study of the basics, he placed out of both government courses, gaining all of the requirements needed for a degree.

This May, 60 years after prematurely leaving The University of Texas at Austin, Votteler returns to walk across the stage and finally receive his Bachelor of Arts degree in biology.

Heather Zidow was born in Plano, TX and attended high school at Plano West Senior High School. She is majoring in Honors Biology and is a member of the Dean's Scholars Honors Program. At UT, she has participated in neurobiology research, assistant taught a rhetoric class, and served on the boards of Texas Hillel and the White Rose Society. During college, she has also participated in a summer research program at NYU School of Medicine and a study abroad program in Cadiz, Spain. Among her many honors she has received UT's Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship, UT's Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and Hillel International's Student Exemplar of Excellence Award. Next year she will be studying medicine Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
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