Twelve Aggies – four of them from North Texas – have been selected as the 2020 recipients of the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University, the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Area alumni include Dr. C. M. Cocanougher ’53 of Decatur; Weldon Jaynes ’54 of Arlington; Mike Hernandez III ’83 of Fort Worth; and Charean Williams ’86 of Arlington.
Others honored: Lt. Gen. Randolph W. House ’67 of College Station; R. Sam Torn ’70 of Houston; John D. White ’70 of College Station;; Dr. R. Bowen Loftin ’71 of Bryan; Carol E. Jordan ’80 of Lexington, Kentucky; Willie T. Langston II ’81 of Houston; Tim Leach ’82 of Midland; and Thomas J. Saylak ’82 of Scarsdale, New York.
Since the inception of the award in 1962, only 303 of Texas A&M’s 527,000 former students have been recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Awarded jointly by Texas A&M and The Association of Former Students, this honor recognizes those Aggies who have achieved excellence in their chosen professions and made meaningful contributions to Texas A&M University and their local communities, the university said.
“We are proud of these wonderful former students and all of their accomplishments and contributions,” said Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young. “They are all deserving of the highest honor bestowed upon our alumni. We look forward to joining The Association in recognizing their achievements.”
Mike Hernandez III ’83 is the owner and CEO of D&M Leasing, one of 2019’s Top 100 Places to Work rated by the Dallas Morning News, among the Fort Worth Business Press’ Top 5 privately-held companies and Dealer Rater’s Top Leasing Company in America.
He founded the Brownsville Scholars Program at A&M and is president and founder of the Hernandez Foundation, which has provided significant support to schools and scholarships, and has supported ventures that boost opportunities in Cameron County.
In 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed him as a member of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents. He was recognized as one of Fort Worth’s top CEOs in 2014; in 2016, he was named Brownsville’s “Person of the Year” and in 2017, he was Rio Grande Valley’s Citizen of the Year, Honorable Mention. He is a member of the advisory committee for A&M’s McAllen campus and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s advisory committee on workforce training.
Charean Williams ’86 became the first woman to enter the writers’ wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 when her peers voted her the 50th recipient of the Dick McCann Award for a long and distinguished career covering professional football. The 2020 season is her 27th covering the NFL, including more than a decade as a Dallas Cowboys beat reporter.
She became the first female Pro Football Hall of Fame selector in 2007 and the first female president of the Pro Football Writers of America in 2009. She has reported on the NFL for the Orlando Sentinel, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and currently NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk website.
She has covered 26 Super Bowls and seven Olympic Games. Williams serves on the board of the Pro Football Writers, frequently returns to A&M to speak to journalism students and Battalion staffers, and is an adjunct professor in SMU’s sport management program.
Weldon Jaynes ’54 was chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of Priester Supply Co., which he spent more than 40 years building into a prominent southwest U.S. regional distributor for electric and gas utilities. He also created Repcom International, a national telecommunication company. He is a past president (now called chair) and trustee of the 12th Man Foundation who helped start its Major Gifts Department, a recipient of its E. King Gill award and member of its Diamond Champions Council. He has created the Mr. and Mrs. L. Weldon Jaynes ’54 Sul Ross Scholarship, the Weldon Jaynes ’54 Presidential Endowed Scholarship and a Corps scholarship. Jaynes is an A&M Lettermen’s Association Hall of Honor inductee and a past director of the Fort Worth A&M Club. He and wife Judy give time and support to Trinity United Methodist and First Baptist Church in Arlington, Mission Arlington and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Dr. C. M. Cocanougher ’53 built a successful veterinary practice in Wise County and served as a Decatur City Council member and civic leader who helped draw employment to the area during a downturn, supported the hospital system and gave decades of scholarships to high school and A&M students; he and wife Jo Ann endowed 10 A&M veterinary school scholarships.
He was named an Outstanding Alumnus of A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and 1985’s Citizen of the Year in Decatur.
He served in the U.S. Air Force as a captain and base veterinarian. He served as president and rodeo secretary of the Wise County Sheriff’s Posse, president of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, officer of the Decatur Rotary Club and charter member and chairman of the Wise County American Heart Association chapter. He also served on the Texas Veterinary Medical Association board of directors.
The recipients learned of their honor via surprise announcements from university and Association representatives, including Young, The Association of Former Students’ 2020 Chair of the Board Cathy Mann ’92, Association President and CEO Porter S. Garner III ’79, Texas A&M Foundation President Tyson Voelkel ’96, 12th Man Foundation President Travis Dabney ’96, and a Ross Volunteer, the university said.
The Association of Former Students is honoring the 2020 recipients in the July-August 2020 issue of its Texas Aggie magazine.
– FWBP Staff