As the Texas primary election enters its homestretch, one taxpayer-subsidized institution is praising embattled House Speaker Dade Phelan.
UT Austin president Jay Hartzell announced four winners of the presidential citation earlier this week.
Horns up for this year’s recipients of the Presidential Citation Award! 🤘
– Alumnus @DadePhelan, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
– Alumna Cloteal Davis Haynes, President of UT’s Precursors alumni group
– Alumnus Charles D. Fraser Jr., a pioneer in children’s… pic.twitter.com/fTi2iwqU1I
— Jay Hartzell (@JCHartzell) February 6, 2024
According to the university president’s website, “[t]he Presidential Citation program was established to recognize the extraordinary contributions of individuals who personify the university’s commitment to the task of transforming lives.”
Typically, these awards are granted to innovators in fields such as business or medicine.
Previous winners include former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and legendary Texas Businessman Red McCombs.
Phelan is this year’s only winner without meaningful accomplishments in the private sector. While governmental figures have received it in the past, this is the first time it has been awarded immediately prior to a contested election.
A university press release provides more detail on Phelan:
In 2021, Dade Phelan was elected the 76th speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and is currently serving his fourth term as state representative for House District 21, which covers Orange County, part of Jefferson County and Jasper County. He is a 1998 UT graduate with degrees in government and business. As House speaker, Phelan has worked to restore economic stability after COVID-19 and the February 2021 winter storm, in addition to passing legislation that fully funded public education, expanded rural broadband and telehealth, invested in workforce development programs, and helped to create the Texas University Fund to keep university research competitive and secure tuition reductions.
Phelan also has served as president of the Lower Neches Valley Authority and on boards including the Texas Lyceum, Southeast Texas CASA, Golden Triangle Coastal Conservation Association, the Jefferson Theater, St. Anne Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas. He was named one of the best legislators of the 86th legislative session by Texas Monthly in 2019, Legislative Champion by the Boys and Girls Club of Texas, Most Valuable Legislator by the Texas Association of Community Schools, Fighter for Free Enterprise by the Texas Association of Business, and the 2019 Mental Health Champion by Mental Health America.
Phelan is currently battling two GOP primary challengers for his house district seat—Trump-endorsed David Covey and local businesswoman Alicia Davis.
The University of Texas is overseen by a Board of Regents appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott and confirmed by the Texas Senate.
Concerned Texans may contact the Board of Regents at (512) 499-4402 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.