From White House to Hollywood, Bobcats are in good company
By Callie Gordon, ’12
It’s likely that before you ever shout the words “Eat ‘em up, Cats!” you know that Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th president of the United States, graduated from Texas State University. We’re proud of LBJ and the fact that he was the only U.S. president to graduate from a Texas university.
But as much as Texas State is proud of our most distinguished alumnus, it’s important to know that some other big names have also navigated the hills of campus. Many professional athletes, actors and internationally known musicians and writers claim Texas State as their alma mater.
George Strait is the unofficial second favorite Texas State alumnus. He got his roots here as a performer at San Marcos’ own Cheatham Street Warehouse. He holds more awards than any other country singer: a Grammy, two all-time records for the American Country Music Awards (19 wins and 81 nominations over the course of his career) and the highest number of best-selling, gold and platinum albums. He is only two albums away from having the most gold and platinum albums in music history, right behind Elvis and The Beatles. He also holds the world record for number-one singles — among all genres — with 59 hits as of 2012.
Grupo Fantasma, the 11-piece Latin-funk orchestra, features four Texas State alumni: Josh Levy, Kino Esparza, Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes and Gilbert Elorreaga. The band formed in 2000, merging two Austin bands — The Blue Noise Band and The Blimp. In 2011, Grupo Fantasma took home a Grammy for the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album for “El Existential.”
Paul Goldschmidt plays first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Before being called up last August, Goldschmidt was named USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2011. Goldschmidt says that going to Texas State was “one of the best decisions (he) ever made.”
Charles Austin is the 1996 Olympic gold medalist for high jump and a three-time Olympian for track and field. He graduated from Texas State in 1991 with a degree in business administration and competed in the Olympics the following year. He holds the current American high jump record at 7 feet, 10 1/2 inches, as well as the Olympic high jump record at 7 feet, 10 inches.
Bill Paxton is a born-and-raised Texan who pursued a career in acting after attending Texas State. Paxton can be seen in several ’90s classics — Titanic, Apollo 13, Mighty Joe Young and Twister — and more recently in HBO’s “Big Love” and the History Channel’s “Hatfields & McCoys,” which aired in 2012.
Powers Boothe developed his career as an undergrad at Texas State, where he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha. After graduating from Texas State in 1970 with a bachelor of fine arts, he went on to pursue a master of fine arts at Southern Methodist University. In 1980, he won an Emmy for his portrayal of Jim Jones in Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. He is more recently known for his work in the series “24” as Vice President Noah Daniels. This year, Boothe can be seen in The Avengers and the History Channel’s “Hatfields & McCoys” alongside fellow alumnus Bill Paxton.
Tomás Rivera earned his English degree from Texas State in 1958. His parents were migrant workers and he also worked as a migrant laborer until enrolling in college. Through his own educational experience, he became an advocate for the upward mobility of Mexican-Americans through education. He was an author, poet, professor and chancellor of the University of California, Riverside. His most notable work is …y no se lo tragó la tierra, which has been translated as both This Migrant Earth and …and the Earth Did Not Devour Him. Here on campus, the street that houses Jackson Hall and the LBJ Student Center is named after Rivera. The university gives the annual Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award in his honor.
Scott Blackwood graduated from Texas State with a master of fine arts in creative writing and is currently the director of the MFA program at Roosevelt University in Chicago. His best-known work is the novel We Agreed to Meet Just Here, which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Prize and Texas Institute of Letters Award. In 2011, he also received a prestigious Whiting Writers’ Award.
See also: Heloise (Ponce Cruse)
Learn about other famous Texas State alumni on the Texas State Pride website. Read about Texas State grads in many fields through our Alumni Profiles. Know of an alumnus we should write about? Leave your suggestions in the comments section or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.