With over 570,000 living alumni spanning 176 countries, you are hard-pressed not to meet an alum from the University of Texas at Austin. UT Austin alumni show their Lone Star State-sized pride wherever they go. Sporting school colors, working in the community or making their mark in entertainment, law, medicine and other fields, this fierce community takes its alma mater seriously.
But in case you’re wondering how to identify a UT Austin alum, check out this list of 10 ways to spot one:
1. They are not afraid to wear burnt orange in public.
UT Austin made burnt orange, otherwise known as Pantone 159, its official school color in 1967 after toying with various other shades of orange. Before 1967, UT Austin teams sometimes wore a brighter shade of orange and sometimes wore a darker shade of orange. White joins burnt orange to round out the current school colors. Perhaps only Brandon Sanderson and UT Austin fans believe that wearing burnt orange is a fashion statement, but even on non-game days, UT alumni do burnt orange to pay homage to their alma mater.
“In our house, we sort laundry into four parts: 1) white; 2) colors; 3) jeans; and 4) burnt orange,” UT Austin graduate Rick Cinclair admits.
Students and alumni create a sea of burnt orange during football games at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, basketball games in the Moody Center and any other place where two or more Longhorns converge. Passion for the school colors run deep, and many alumni claim to bleed burnt orange. While that may not be the literal case, it’s certainly true that alumni are not afraid to deck out in full burnt orange apparel in support of school athletics and other events.
2. They show their pride with longhorn logos.
The iconic UT Austin longhorn silhouette first appeared in 1961. You know the one. Bull’s head, horns elongated to the sides— no words needed. UT Austin alumni appear in the wild with the logo on bumper stickers traveling down every major highway in the United States, baseball caps topping heads around the globe, coffee cups in offices and cubicles and many more solid surfaces, making it an easily recognizable logo.
3. They can’t help but make a Hook ‘Em sign.
In 1916, a living longhorn steer first appeared to support UT athletes, who already carried the nickname of “Longhorns.” That mascot soon bore the name “Bevo,” and more than a dozen Bevos have represented UT since that time. In homage to the fine steer, UT head cheerleader Harley Clark introduced the hand sign known as the Hook ‘Em sign in 1955 during a pep rally on the eve of a football game against Texas Christian University. The Longhorns lost the game but won a new symbol of pride. Now, when alumni hear “The Eyes of Texas” (the school song) or “Texas Fight” (the school fight song), their fingers fold into the time-honored symbol, seemingly without effort.
“UT alumni are so accustomed to making the Hook ‘Em sign, that they will make that sign instead of a ‘hang ten’ sign or a rock-n-roll salute at a concert,” UT Austin alumna Monique Spillman said. “It just becomes so engrained that you don’t even think about it.”
Much like sightings of the longhorn logo, UT alumni and students flash the Hook ‘Em sign across the world and form the sign on mountainsides in Patagonia, while skydiving in Switzerland or while posing in Old Town Square in Prague. The popular sign also pops up as an emoji in text messages and in online communications. Alumni find many excuses to show the sign, but their favorite opportunity arises during home football games when chanting “Fight” or when the “Eyes of Texas” plays.
4. They donate and support charities.
In 2022, over 100,000 UT supporters donated more than $717 million to the University to fund students and faculty, programs, research and more. In addition to money, Longhorn alumni donate time. Every February, the Texas Exes (the UT Austin former students association) participates in Project Worldwide. All around the globe, UT alumni help with food distribution, youth services, clothing drives, blood drives and many other service projects during the special annual event. The Texas Exes also awards approximately $4 million in student scholarships each year.
5. They cheer on Longhorn Olympians.
Twenty-six UT Austin athletes competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Over the years, 155 Longhorns earned gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games. World-class track and field stars, swimmers, divers, basketball players and more proudly set aside their burnt orange jerseys to do the stars and stripes for the United States. UT alumni strongly support their efforts.
“It always brings such a great sense of pride to see how many Olympians, particularly summer Olympians, are current UT students,” UT Austin alumna Linda Wills said. “They complete on a global level and also stand out in NCAA competitions.”
2020 is not the only year that UT Austin sent a delegation of 26 athletes to the summer Olympics. They also accomplished this feat in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In addition to the athletes competing for the United States, UT Austin also boasts athletes competing for their home countries, such as Venezuelan golfer Jhonattan Vegas and Canadian soccer player Julia Grosso. Alumni can also cheer on Paralympians, such as Paralympian Jen King, a two-time member of the U.S. sled hockey team.
6. They understand what “H-E-Bing” means.
Texans bear a big, soft spot in their hearts for the H-E-B grocery chain, and the H-E-B near the UT campus holds an even more special place for UT Austin alumni. Alumni fondly recall dressing up before going to the H-E-B near campus just in case they see other UT students. Referred to as “H-E-Bing” (sounds like “hee-bing”), a trip to that H-E-B not only serves as an opportunity to buy food, but also to socialize. Thus, the need to dress up. You never knew who you might meet by the oranges.
7. They’ve heard of Plan II.
Plan II is a unique honors program with a four-year interdisciplinary arts and sciences curriculum culminating in its own degree. It requires a separate application process from the general UT Austin admission process. Of approximately 1800 applicants each year, the program enters a freshman class of approximately 175 students. The challenging Plan II program requires students to follow a core curriculum with approximately one-third of the courses limited to Plan II students. The program culminates with a senior thesis based on independent research and writing. It remains one of UT’s best kept secrets, even if it doesn’t mean to be.
8. They celebrate Texas Independence Day.
For those not in the know, March 2 is Texas Independence Day, a day Texans still celebrate despite entry in the union over 175 years ago. UT lights its famous tower orange in honor of the day and celebrates in style. Local chapters of the Texas Exes also host celebrations. In fact, in 1900, the Texas Exes issued the following proclamation: “Whenever two Texas Exes shall meet on March 2, they all shall sit and break bread and pay tribute to the institution that made their education possible.” Local chapters take that admonition to heart and meet each year to celebrate.
9. They won’t pay for their children to attend the University of Oklahoma.
The football rivalry between UT Austin and OU began in 1900 and is so intense that the teams play their annual game in Dallas, Texas, almost exactly halfway between the two schools. Note that this rivalry began before Oklahoma became a state. Such a long rivalry cannot help but bleed over into other aspects of life. Indeed, it does, with alumni-parents from both schools refusing to pay for their children to attend the rival school.
10. They work “Alright, Alright, Alright” into casual conversation.
UT Austin boasts a wide range of notable alumni. Perhaps you’ve heard of astronauts Alan Bean or Robert Crippen. Maybe you’ve used a Dell computer courtesy of Michael Dell’s organization or perhaps played Pokémon Go courtesy of John Hanke’s company. The list of notable alumni flows from politicians to entertainment industry icons to authors to athletes and more. However, it’s a bit hard for alumni to casually drop those names into conversation. One way to boast with just the right amount of flex and the proper notability is to work “Alright, Alright, Alright” into conversation to announce a connection to well-loved alum, Mathew McConaughey.