Texas Tech University

Outstanding Alumni


The Outstanding Alumni Award was created to recognize alumni who have achieved a certain level of professionalism, won other awards in their area of expertise, achieved a high level of position within their careers, and who have sustained their success over a lengthy period of time. Alumni must have graduated from the College of Media & Communication at least 10 years ago. Up to three winners are chosen by a Selection Committee consisting of the Dean's Executive Committee and the President and VP of the National Advisory Board. 

2024 Award Winners

David Counts

David Counts 
United States District Judge 
Midland/Odessa and Pecos Division 
Western District of Texas

2024 Outstanding Alumni Award 

A state and federal prosecutor for much of his first 23 years of law practice in Austin and San Antonio, in July 2009 David Counts was appointed to serve as U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Midland/Odessa Division of the Western District of Texas. In January 2018, he was appointed by the President as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas, presiding over federal civil and criminal matters in the Midland/Odessa and Pecos Divisions, as well as other legal controversies throughout the Western District.

Judge Counts, a native of Knox City, Texas, earned his Bachelor's Degree from Texas Tech University where he was a proud member of the Texas Tech Saddle Tramps, and his Juris Doctor from St. Mary's University School of Law. He is a past recipient of the Director's Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant United States Attorney, presented by the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and the James H. DeAtley Award for complex litigation, along with numerous other awards and recognitions. While sitting as a federal magistrate judge, Judge Counts was a 2014 recipient of the Defender of Justice Award for his efforts in establishing the Midland County Veterans Court.

Judge Counts is a second-generation member of the Texas Army National Guard, having served from 1989 until his retirement in 2019 at the rank of Colonel. Colonel Counts was the longest-serving State Judge Advocate in the history of the Texas Military Forces, overseeing judge advocate personnel and the deployment of legal services in the Texas National Guard at home and abroad. Colonel Counts deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2005, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. In addition to numerous other military awards, he is a 2-time recipient of the Legion of Merit, and culminated his service as a Citizen Soldier of 30 years with the Texas Superior Service Medal. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College and is a past chair of the Military Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

David's wife of 39 years is the former Jill Crutchfield, a fellow Texas Tech graduate who was a 4-year letter winner and 2-year Captain of the Texas Tech Lady Raiders tennis team. Jill and David have three adult children, Jennifer, Sarah and Matthew, and eight grandchildren (so far!).

Russell Lowery-Hart 

Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart 
Austin Community College District

2024 Outstanding Alumni Award 

Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart will serve as the ninth Chancellor for Austin Community College District. Russell's leadership is centered around the concept of–– LOVE, with a dedicated focus on enhancing student success through systemic and cultural transformation.

As he prefers to be called, Russell previously served as president of Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas, from 2014 to 2023 before beginning his tenure as ACC Chancellor. He also served as vice president of academic affairs for Amarillo College.

Under his leadership, Amarillo College was named co-winner of the prestigious 2023 Aspen Prize, a Community College Excellence award. The award recognizes community colleges demonstrating high-quality and equitable outcomes for students. Other accolades under his leadership include:

• 2021 Top Five Institution and Rising Star for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

• Leah Meyer Austin Award for Achieving the Dream

• Bellwether Award

• Membership in the inaugural class of the Aspen Institute Presidential Fellowship

• Recognition from the American Association of Community Colleges

Russell received a bachelor's degree in speech communication and rhetoric from West Texas State University, a master's degree in communication studies from Texas Tech University, and a doctorate in interpersonal communication (with an emphasis on gender and diversity) from Ohio University. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Kody Hodge Foundation.

Russell and his wife of almost 30 years share three children.

T.J. Turner 

T.J. Turner 
Cain & Skarnulis PLLC

2024 Outstanding Alumni Award 

T.J. Turner is a partner in the Austin law firm of Cain & Skarnulis PLLC where his practice focuses on business litigation. He has previously served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas, as Assistant General Counsel in the Office of the Governor, and as a Briefing Attorney at the Eleventh Court of Appeals.

Mr. Turner is a proud graduate of Texas Tech University, where he earned a bachelor of arts in Public Relations, and Baylor University School of Law, where he earned his juris doctorate. At Texas Tech, Mr. Turner was elected to three terms as a student senator, serving as chair of the Public Relations Committee, and was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, where he served as International Vice President, Chapter President, and Fall 1996 Pledge Class President.

From 2012 to 2021, Mr. Turner served two terms as Texas Real Estate Commissioner. T.J. is also involved with the Austin chapter of the Texas Tech University Alumni Association, I Live Here, I Give Here, the Flatwater Foundation, and First United Methodist Church of Austin. Mr. Turner resides in Austin with his wife, Jamie, and their two children, Cameron and Eliza.

Read about 2024 Hall of Fame Award Winner Mack Owen

Mack Owen


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Note that if someone does not win, she or he will be automatically renominated on next year's ballot (up to 3 years).

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