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SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society Induction Ceremony

April 12, 2016

Good Afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  It’s always a tremendous honor to be amidst our Veterans.  Let me, at the very outset, thank all of them.  The rights we cherish, the freedoms we enjoy, the democracy we often take for granted, our ability to engage in the open discussions that Universities are known for, our ability to develop new knowledge without constraints and shackles that we see in other countries, are all due to the sacrifice and service of our Veterans, and I’m especially pleased that they have made the University of Texas at Arlington their academic home.

This is especially of import since UT Arlington has a rich military legacy that dates back to 1895.  This tradition is carried forth today though the 3,000 student veterans and their dependents who call UT Arlington their academic home – and these students represent about 8 percent of our Texas-based enrollment. I am so proud of the work that Lisa Thompson, Lisa Goins, Tanya Vittotow and the entire staff have done and continue to do to provide Veterans the support they need as they become members of the Maverick family. 

Since its very inception as the Carlisle Military Academy, UTA has had a strong relationship with our military.  Beyond proudly hosting the Army ROTC program and the Maverick Battalion we take great pride in having over 3,000 self-identified student veterans and their dependents call UTA their academic home – and these students represent about 8 percent of our Texas-based enrollment.  Today, UTA is ranked by Military Times as the top university in Texas for Veterans and the 16th in the nation.  That’s up 20 spots from last year.  The evaluation for this ranking focused on Veterans’ academic success rates, including graduation, retention, persistence and completion rates; and emphasized available services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to military and veteran students and their families.  That ranking means as much to us as the recent Carnegie R-1 designation, since it demonstrates our abiding pride and responsibility to provide for those who served our nation with dedication and distinction.

It is thus a tremendous honor for me to be here today to celebrate the second University of Texas at Arlington Induction Ceremony for the SALUTE National Veterans Honor Society.  Our Veteran students are an integral part of everything we do – from academics to athletics – and many of them add to the wonderful environment of arts and culture that is blossoming on our campus.  It’s a testament to their excellence that over 80 of our students are being inducted today into the Honor Society.  These students meet rigorous academic standards and represent some of our very best.  In addition, many of them serve in leadership positions at the university in their departments, colleges, and student organizations.  In looking at them today – I couldn’t be prouder – they have already distinguished themselves through their dedication and service to the country and now they are distinguishing themselves through academic excellence and will, upon graduation, as alumni carry the standard of UTA as they leave a mark in their chosen professions.  We could all learn a thing or two from each of them. 

To those we honor today – congratulations on your achievements to date and on your induction in the SALUTE National Veterans Honor Society.  This is just one more accomplishment and I know we will hear a lot more about your successes in the years to come. 

It is now my pleasure to introduce a great leader in our community, a distinguished Veteran, and a UTA alumnus. Rep. Kenneth Sheets grew up in Mansfield and attended Mansfield High School. Following graduation, he joined the Marines serving in Fallujah in Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning the Marine Corps Reserve Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal.  After his time in the Marines, he attended UTA and graduated with a degree in Political Science in 2001. In 2010, Representative Sheets was elected to the Texas House of Representatives and has won re-election in 2012 and in 2014. Representative Sheets has been a constant advocate for UTA and higher education in his time at the Capitol and we are proud to have him here with us today.

Please join me in welcoming Rep. Kenneth Sheets.