COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M University presented its three top student awards to Ryan Daniel Byrne of Dallas, Bianca Nicole Manago of Lansing, Kan. and Carly Danielle Hilley of Longview during spring commencement ceremonies.
Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Awards, which include cash gifts of $5,000 each, were presented to Byrne, a psychology graduate who also minored in creative studies, and Manago, who received both philosophy and sociology degrees.
The award honors top students who exemplify the leadership and related traits of the late Gen. Earl Rudder, a World War II hero who served as president of Texas A&M from 1959 until his death in 1970.
The Robert Gates-Muller Family Outstanding Student Award, which also includes a $5,000 gift, was presented to Hilley, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
The award was established through a gift from the Muller Family of Galveston to provide public recognition to the outstanding seniors graduating from Texas A&M who have demonstrated those qualities of leadership, patriotism and courage exemplified by Dr. Robert M. Gates. Gates served as president of the university from 2002 until 2006, when he was named U.S. Secretary of Defense.
The students were presented their awards by Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin during commencement ceremonies Friday (May 13) morning.
Byrne graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average and is known as a strong student leader at Texas A&M. One of his nominators said he strikes a balance between task orientation and people orientation, giving him the ability to relate to the people around him while still staying committed to achieving team goals.
While president of Big Event, the largest student-run service project in the nation, Byrne worked with the Division of Student Affairs information technology staff to create an online system for students and community residents to sign up for Big Event service projects. Another nominator called this a “daunting task considering there were 13,500 student volunteers and about 1,400 job sites.”
Byrne also served as a leader in numerous service and professional organizations, including Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and as a counselor at Fish Camp, a three-day orientation session for new students, and as a Muster host. In the community, he was a mentor working with elementary school children, volunteered in the physical therapy department at St. Joseph Hospital and at the Health For All Clinic and found time to coach the fifth grade flag football team at the Lincoln Center.
Manago graduated with a 3.9 grade point average while carrying a double major. She is a founding member and chair of One Love, a group of more than 70 students who participate in a number of social justice, sustainability and green initiatives at Texas A&M and in the local community.
She also volunteers her time to assist those at risk for suicide, for various local trash clean-up projects and other clean-up projects on Galveston Beach.
Manago is a founding member of One Aggieland, a group of social justice leaders, and was a member of the planning committee for Call Plus Response, an event that raised awareness of and provided practical ways to approach the issue of human trafficking.
“Bianca impressed immediately – even the first day I met her,” one of her professors said in nominating her. “Later on, the students in the class were impressed, and began coming to my office asking me how they could be just like Bianca.” Another professor wrote “Bianca has stood out not only as the best student of her group, but also as one of the best students that I have had in my career.”
Hilley is known for her qualities of fortitude, patriotism and humility. Her nominators say she is devoted to the principles of Texas A&M and has had numerous leadership positions with campus organizations, including serving as vice president of the Memorial Student Center, a member of the Maroon Coats of the Texas A&M Foundation, co-chair of the Liberal Arts Student Council and was a founding member and executive of Freshmen in Liberal Arts Reaching For Excellence program.
She served as an intern for the Lone Star Legal Aid program in Bryan and with the office of Congressman Louie Gohmert in Washington D.C. Gohmert called her “A very impressive young lady.”
Hilley’s awards and honors include selection as a research scholar in the Department of Sociology, the J. Malon Southerland Leader Scholar Award, Buck Weirus Spirit Award and the Texas A&M Academic Excellence Award.
Another nominator said Hilley’s “joy, passion and heart come out in all that she does” while others speak about her character and her “can do” attitude.