To honor those that contribute to independent higher education in Texas, ICUT on occassion presents awards to highlight the accomplishments of deserving individuals. 

The Robert D. Hunter Founders Award


First presented in 1990, the Founders Award has always represented the highest honor ICUT can confer, with the name recalling the small group of visionary college presents that filed Articles of Incorporation creating this association in 1965. Early association activities relied heavily on the volunteered time and energy of member institution presidents. To assist in accomplishing ICUT's first major legislative goal - passage of the Tuition Equalization Grant (TEG) program in 1971 - the president of Abilene Christian University, Dr. John Stevens, appointed a member of ACU's development staff to coordinate lobbying activities. That volunteered individual was Dr. Robert D. Hunter, who succeeded in establishing the TEG program and went on to serve the association honorably as ICUT's part-time executive vice president. 

To honor Dr. Hunter's legacy, the ICUT Board of Directors voted in 2017 to rename the Founders Award in his honor, thereby creating the Robert D. Hunter Founders Award. 

Award Criteria

The Robert D. Hunter Founders Award recognizes individuals who demonstrate the same vision and commitment to independent higher education as those who founded the association more than 50 years ago. To be eligible for the award, a candidate must:

  • Make significant contributions to the advancement of independent higher education in Texas over a significant perioud of time (benefitting more than a single institution), or make such a substantial contribution to a particular institution that they exemplifiy the standard for trusteeship, philanthropy or service for which all should strive;
  • Play an important role in enabling independent institutions to compete effectively with state-supported institutions and remain healthy and viable contributors to Texas higher education; and
  • Raise the visibility of independent institutions among opion leaders in the state or nation. 

The ICUT Board of Directors presents the award only when merited. Persons currently serving as chief executive officers of ICUT institutions are not eligible to recieve the award. Under current Texas Ethics laws, Texas-elected officials currently holding office are prohibited from accepting the award. 

Past 10 Recipients

  • Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott (2017)
  • Carol L. McDonald (2014)
  • The Honorable Edmund Kuempel (2013)
  • Dr. Gary Price (2012)
  • Dr. David Warren (2010)
  • The Honorable Robert D. Hunter (2007)
  • Mr. Will D. Davis (2006) 
  • Mr. Robert J. Wright (2005)
  • Mr. Robert T. Priddy (2005)
  • The Honorable Bill Ratliff (2004)

The Carol L. McDonald Public Service Award


This award is ICUT's newest honor, named in honor of the association's first full-time president, Carol L. McDonald, who dedicated herself to public service thoughout her career. Before her time as ICUT president, Ms. McDonald sesrved in the office of Texas Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, and worked at the National Institute for Public Administration in Kuala Lumpur as well as the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C. She began her tenure as ICUT president in 1982, leading the association through a period of growth and expansion and working tirelessly to preserve and increase funding for the TEG program. Ms. McDonald worked tirelessly in support of independent higher education in Texas, leading the charge on a number of legislative priorities in her 32 years as president before her retirement in 2014.  

To honor her decades of public service and dedication, the ICUT Board of Directors approved the creation of the Carol L. McDonald Public Service Award in 2017. 

Award Criteria

Public service is inextricably linked to ICUT's mission of sustaining and advancing independent, nonprofit higher education in Texas. Employees at ICUT member institutions are actively engaged in public service in multiple local, regional and global settings. Each year, the Carol L. McDonald Public Service Award will recognize and honor one such ICUT academic or staff employee who has demonstrated outstanding public service beyond the scope of their job and/or teaching requirements. Nominees will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Scope - demonstrates a devotion to student-centered success through classroom instruction and public service involvement;
  • Effort - demonstrates a commitment to public service that is beyond the scope of the nominee's job and/or teaching requirements; and
  • Impact - demonstrates that their public service accomplishments have resulted in long-term benefits to students and to local, state and/or national communities at-large. 

This award will be presented after consideration of nominations by the ICUT Board of Directors. Nominees must be academic or staff employees of an ICUT member institution at the time of nomination. 

Past 10 Recipients

  • Rochonda Farmer-Neal (2019)
  • Dr. Ricardo E. Rodriguez (2018)
  • Carol L. McDonald (2017)