Black History Month: Recognizing Black Distinguished Alumni

Alumni Impact

Emma Carberry | February 4, 2020

In celebration of Black History Month, Texas State recognizes the achievements of its Black Distinguished Alumni. These alumni have achieved prominence and made a significant impact on the lives of others through their professions, accomplishments, affiliations and service to society.

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Thomas Carter, 1992 Distinguished Alumnus

Thomas Carter grew up in Smithville, TX and completed his B.F.A. in theatre in 1974. He is a three-time Emmy-winning director, actor and producer. In 1984, he received a Directors’ Guild Award for his work on “Hill Street Blues,” and in 1997, he received the George Foster Peabody Award for the television film Don King: Only in America.

Since becoming a distinguished alumnus, Carter has directed the well-known films Save the Last Dance, Coach Carter, and When the Game Stands Tall. He has also directed the pilot episode of “Miami Vice,” along with episodes of the popular television shows “Damages,” “Shades of Blue,” “Elementary,” “New Amsterdam,” and the 2016 “Roots” mini-series. Since 2018, he has served as the sole director of the Facebook Watch original series “Five Points,” on which he also serves as an executive producer.

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Marcellus W. Alexander, Jr., 1994 Distinguished Alumnus

Born in Austin, TX, Marcellus Alexander earned a B.S. in speech and journalism in 1973, after which he worked as the vice president and general manager at local television stations in Detroit, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Alexander was named Executive Vice President of Television for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in 2002 and president of the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation in 2004. He has been a member of the National Association of Black Journalists since 1987 and has been involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations during his time in the industry. Additionally, Alexander has served on the boards of several organizations, including the Board of Directors for the Scripps broadcast company.

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Charles Austin, 1996 Distinguished Alumnus

Charles Austin grew up in Van Vleck, TX and graduated from Texas State with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1991. During his senior year at Texas State, he won the NCAA Outdoor Championship and was the number one college high jumper in the U.S.

Austin competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics, where he won the gold medal with a men’s high jump that set an Olympic record. In addition to his Olympic success, he has also earned gold medals at the 1991 World Championship, the 1997 World Indoor Championship, and the 1998 World Cup Championship. Austin was inducted into the Texas State “T” Association Hall of Honor in 2002 and the United States Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2002, he opened So High Sports and Fitness in San Marcos.

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Eugene Lee, 1997 Distinguished Alumnus

Eugene Lee graduated from Texas State in 1974 with a B.F.A. in theatre. As a senior at Texas State, Lee was a cast member of a command performance of “A Raisin in the Sun,” for fellow alumnus President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Since then, he has appeared in a variety of stage, film and television performances. His television credits include “Quantum Leap,” “NYPD Blue,” “American Crime,” “Without a Trace,” “Touched by an Angel,” and “Fraiser.” Lee has performed on stages across the United States and the globe, including lead roles in the Broadway shows American Son and Gem of the Ocean. In 2019, he won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for his performance in Two Trains Running. Lee keeps strong ties with Texas State, serving as Artist in Residence and Artistic Director of the university’s Black and Latino Playwrights Conference.

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James E. Polk, 2000 Distinguished Alumnus

James E. Polk grew up in Corpus Christi, TX and earned his master’s degree in music at Texas State University in 1991.

For ten years, Polk wrote, arranged, and conducted for the Ray Charles Orchestra. Two of the songs he wrote for Ray Charles were nominated for Grammy awards. He was a lecturer of music history and jazz studies at Texas State from 1990 to 1996 and was named a Professor Emeritus of jazz studies in the School of Music in 2007. Polk currently lives in Austin, where he gives back to the community through his involvement in the Austin Jazz Workshop and his Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts and Technology. Polk was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Austin Jazz Society Hall of Fame in 2016.

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Herman Chinery-Hesse, 2006 Distinguished Alumnus

Herman Chinery-Hesse grew up in Cape Coast, Ghana and graduated from Texas State with a B.S. in technology in 1988. While at Texas State, he realized the potential technology had to bring new opportunities to Africa if it were utilized properly. Shortly after he graduated, he returned to Ghana and started developing software out of his bedroom in his parents’ house.

As his endeavor grew, it developed into the leading software company in West Africa, theSOFTtribe, where he now serves as executive chairman. In the decades since, Chinery-Hesse has developed accounting and payroll programs for large Ghanaian corporations, as well as a web mall that allowed people to find African products online and buy them directly from local merchants. Dubbed the “Bill Gates of Africa,” Chinery-Hesse has been a visiting speaker at several prestigious universities and has also spoken at the TEDGlobal Conference in 2007 and the TEDxEuston Conference in 2012.

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Dr. Paul Phillips III, 2012 Distinguished Alumnus

A Fredericksburg, TX native, Dr. Paul Phillips III received his bachelor’s degree in education from Texas State in 1977, after which he earned his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Texas Health Science Center. He has practiced orthopedics in Texas for 25 years.

Phillips is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and has served in Germany, Iraq, Haiti and Afghanistan during ten deployments. He earned the Army Achievement Medal and the Army Commendation Medal for Operation Enduring Freedom and was named 807th Medical Brigade Major of the Year in 2002. In addition to practicing at Hill Country Memorial Hospital, he is also the chief of Professional Services with the 228th Combat Support Hospital at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. Phillips is still closely tied to Texas State; as a former Bobcat linebacker, he was inducted into the “T” Association Hall of Honor in 2007, and he currently sits on the Texas State University Development Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

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Kenneth Huewitt, 2017 Distinguished Alumnus

Kenneth Huewitt graduated from Texas State in 1985 with a B.B.A in accounting. While at Texas State, he was a member of the back-to-back National Championship football teams in 1981 and 1982 and was inducted into the “T” Association Hall of Honor in 2007.

Huewitt currently serves as the vice president of finance and administration and chief financial officer for Texas Southern University (TSU). He joined TSU after 15 years with Houston ISD, where he rose through the ranks from controller to deputy superintendent and chief financial officer. In 2015, he was honored as the Council of the Great Cities Schools Chief Financial Officer of the Year. He has stayed invested in Texas State and has served as chairman of the Texas State Development Foundation Board, president of the Alumni Association Board and a member of the T-Association Board. 

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922