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SUMMER COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER
Texas State Comptroller John SharpJohn Sharp, Texas state comptroller, who estimates that since 1991 he has saved Texas taxpayers $8.5 billion and helped avoid a state income tax, will be the speaker at Sam Houston State University's summer commencement Saturday (Aug. 15).
Almost 700 students have applied for degrees to be awarded during two ceremonies in the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum-at 10 a.m. for the Colleges of Education and Applied Science and Criminal Justice and 2 p.m. for the colleges of Business and Arts and Sciences.
Sharp's 1995 welfare reform proposals formed the core of the most sweeping welfare reform effort in Texas history and led to the Family Pathfinders program. This effort links welfare families with local civic clubs, congregations and businesses to supplement state aid with one-on-one, personalized help unlike that provided by government. The goal is to help these individuals get jobs.
Sharp also directed the Lone Star card, a switch from paper food stamp coupons to computerized bank-type cards that reduced fraud and abuse in the federal program. Sharp's Texas School Performance Review is credited with giving school districts tips on how to save almost $350 million while keeping education funds in the classroom.
Sharp created the Texas Tomorrow Fund, a pre-paid college tuition plan that allows families to lock in tomorrow's college costs at about what they would pay today. Some 80,000 families have signed up for the plan.
Sharp also engineered a consolidation of the state's scattered work force development and job training programs into a single agency--the Texas Workforce Commission, whose mission is to prepare young Texans for high-wage, high-skill jobs.
He has also applied his expertise to nearly every area of state government, from saving tax dollars while improving security in the Texas prison system to obtaining the largest benefit increase in Texas history for retired teachers.
The son of an oil field worker and a public school teacher, Sharp grew up in the small farming community of Placedo, on the Gulf Coast, and graduated from Victoria's Bloomington High School in 1968.
He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Texas A&M University in 1972, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets and was elected president of his sophomore class, Student Life chairman, and A&M Student Body president.
Upon graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserves and is a lifetime member of American Legion Post 76 in Austin. Of proud Czech heritage, he is a member of SPJST Lodge 97 in Placedo, belongs to the Founders Lions Club in Austin and the Texas Farm Bureau.
In 1976 Sharp received a master's degree in public administration from Southwest Texas State University, while working full time for the Legislative Budget Board. He has also been a successful small business owner.
He is married to Charlotte Han of Austin. They have a son, Spencer, and a daughter, Victoria. They are active members of St. John Neumann Catholic Church and many community and humanitarian efforts, including airlifts of Jewish families to Israel from the Ukraine and other areas of Russia.
In 1978 Sharp was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from the 40th District in Victoria, and was named "Outstanding Freshman" by Texas Monthly. He won a seat in the Texas Senate in 1982, where he served on the powerful Senate Finance Committee and the Sunset Advisory Committee.
In 1986 Sharp was elected to the Texas Railroad Commission, where he helped reform the state's trucking regulations, improve railroad safety and develop new markets for Texas natural gas.
He was elected state comptroller in 1990 and re-elected in 1994. He has received numerous awards, including the first Texas Quality Award ever presented to a government agency.
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