Dr. Sallie V. Sheppard '65 of Austin, Texas, and Clarence Sasser '73 of Rosharon, Texas, are among 12 Aggies selected to receive the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University.

Sheppard, one of the first women to graduate from Texas A&M and later hold a top-tier administrative position there, received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Texas A&M, while Sasser, who served as an Army medic in Vietnam and was celebrated last fall as Texas A&M's eighth Medal of Honor recipient, studied chemistry at Texas A&M and will be recognized Friday (May 9) with an honorary doctorate.

Since the Distinguished Alumnus Award's inception in 1962, only 237 of Texas A&M's 410,000 former students have been recognized with the prestigious honor, bestowed jointly by the university and The Association of Former Students to recognize Aggies who have achieved excellence in their chosen professions and made meaningful contributions to Texas A&M University and their local communities.

"Texas A&M is one of the nation's great, public land-grant institutions in large part because of the contributions these outstanding Aggies have made to their professions, their communities and their alma mater," said Texas A&M Interim President Dr. Mark Hussey '79.

Sheppard, who worked at NASA on simulations of the on-board Apollo computer for the lunar landing expeditions, earned her Ph.D in computer science at the University of Pittsburg before returning to Texas A&M, rising through the ranks to professor of computer science and associate provost. During her 20-year Texas A&M career, she received two Distinguished Achievement Awards from The Association of Former Students, one in 1985 for teaching and one in 1998 for administration. In 1995 she was appointed interim executive vice president and provost, making her the first female top-ranking administrator at Texas A&M, a milestone she would also achieve at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. She also helped create the Women's Faculty Network at Texas A&M. Together with her husband, Leland Blank, she has funded a President's Endowed Scholarship at Texas A&M. A 2009 inductee into the College of Science's Academy of Distinguished Former Students, Sheppard also is the recipient of an IEEE Third Millennium Award for Outstanding Achievements and Contributions.

Sasser received the Medal of Honor -- the U.S military's highest decoration -- in 1969 for his heroic actions in Dinh Tuong Province, Republic of Vietnam on Jan. 10, 1968 while serving as an Army medic on a reconnaissance mission. Without hesitation, Sasser ran through a hail of enemy fire to help evacuate soldiers wounded in a helicopter crash in a flooded rice paddy. After helping one man to safety, he was wounded in the left shoulder. Refusing medical attention, he ran through a barrage of weapons fire to aid casualties and, after treating them, continued to search for fellow soldiers despite running out of supplies and sustaining wounds in both legs. When his military commitment was finished, he enrolled in Texas A&M with a scholarship personally offered by the late Gen. Earl Rudder '32, who was then president of the university. Like some of the other Aggie recipients of the Medal of Honor, he did not graduate but says he is "an Aggie at heart -- always have been and always will be." Sasser worked for an oil refinery and later for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A scholarship at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center has been established in his honor.

Sheppard, Sasser and the other 10 recipients learned of their honor when surprised in their places of business and other locations by a group of university and Association representatives, including Hussey, The Association of Former Students' 2014 Chair of the Board of Directors Kathleen Gibson '81, Association President and CEO Porter S. Garner III '79, a Ross Volunteer, along with Reveille VIII and her handler.

"While our outstanding 2014 Distinguished Alumni represent a broad set of backgrounds and experiences, they all share a common love and appreciation for Texas A&M," Gibson said. "They well represent and actively live our core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service."

Garner echoed the sentiments of Hussey and Gibson and offered his congratulations on behalf of the Aggie Network.

"The Aggies selected as Distinguished Alumni represent the highest levels of achievement and service within the Aggie Network," Garner said. "In the 52 years this award has been presented, it has been bestowed upon less than one-tenth of one percent of our former students."

The Association of Former Students will further honor all recipients of this award during its annual Distinguished Alumni Gala on Oct. 10. In addition, the 2014 recipients will be recognized during the Texas A&M football game against Ole Miss on Oct. 11.

Nominations for the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award will be accepted beginning May 1 through Oct. 1.

The Association of Former Students, established in 1879, is the official alumni organization of Texas A&M University. The Association connects the nearly 650,000 members of the worldwide Aggie Network with each other and the university, and provides $10.6 million a year in impact to university scholarships, awards, activities and enrichment for students, faculty, staff and former students.

For more information about the Distinguished Alumnus Award or The Association, visit www.AggieNetwork.com/DistinguishedAlumni/.


Contact: Kathryn Greenwade, KGreenwade88@aggienetwork.com

Hutchins Shana

  • Sallie V. Sheppard '65

  • Clarence Sasser '73

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