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Texas State presents Sally, Bill Wittliff with honorary doctorates

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
May 10, 2014

Sally and Bill Wittliff

Sally and Bill Wittliff

Sally and Bill were presented honorary doctoral degrees by Texas State University Saturday, May 10, making them the 14th and 15th individuals to be so honored by the university.

Their degrees, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, were awarded during the 10 a.m. College of Liberal Arts commencement ceremony.

Sally Wittliff is an Austin attorney with a general practice. Born in New York, NY, she spent most of her childhood in Washington, D.C., moved to San Antonio during her high school year, and has been in Texas ever since. She is a member of many civic organizations, a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, and a member of the Austin Bar Association Foundation.

Bill Wittliff is a distinguished writer, film producer, and photographer whose images have been published in three monographs as well as in A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove (2012). As a screenwriter and producer, his credits include The Black Stallion, Legends of the Fall, The Perfect Storm and Lonesome Dove, among others.

In 1986, Sally and Bill co-founded the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. The couple raised half of the funding and personally provided the other half that permitted Texas State to acquire a 1555 edition of Cabeza de Vaca’s La relación y comentarios, one of the rarest books in the world and the single most prized possession of the university’s Albert B. Alkek Library.

In addition to their gifts to the Wittliff Collections, including rare and unique archival items, thousands of photographic prints and negatives, and extensive literary papers and artifacts, Sally and Bill have sought out and purchased important materials they then donated to the Collections. Sally and Bill have also continued their ongoing efforts to convince leading artists of Texas and the Southwest to place their papers and materials at the Wittliff Collections. Through these efforts, the Wittliff Collections now includes pieces from writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Sam Shepard, Larry McMurtry, Stephen Harrigan, Larry L. King, Beverly Lowry and Bud Shrake; photographers such as Kate Breakey Keith Carter, Graciela Iturbide and Russell Lee; and songwriters such as Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker. In the years since its founding, the Wittliff Collections has become an internationally recognized repository.

The Wittliffs are also responsible for two important and inspiring statues on the Texas State campus: one honoring the writer John Graves at the Wittliff Collections, and the Vaquero statue on Old Main Plaza, which pays homage to the important enduring Hispanic culture in Texas. Sally and Bill Wittliff have been true partners in a remarkable success story.

Texas State awarded its first honorary doctorate in 1962, when the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, was conferred upon Lyndon Baines Johnson. At the time, Johnson was vice president of the United States, and had already served as a United States representative and a United States senator. He would go on to serve as president of the United States, the only president to have graduated from a Texas university. Johnson graduated from Texas State in 1930.