Awards Recognize Support on Issues Ranging from Science Education to Religious Freedom

October 3, 2012

The Texas Freedom Network this month will honor Austin businessman and entrepreneur Matt Winkler as well as youth leaders from universities across Texas for their extraordinary leadership in support of public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.

Winkler will receive TFN’s Walking the Walk Award on October 21 at the organization’s 17th annual “Epic Evening” celebration.Youth leaders from nine university campuses in Texas will receive the Samantha Smoot Activist Award. The event will take place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Austin.

A biotech pioneer, Winkler founded Ambion, a molecularbiology “tools” company in 1989. He sold that company in 2004 and founded Asuragen. That company focuses on developing the diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities of microRNAs, which have exciting possibilities for the early detection and treatment of cancer. In 2008 Asuragen spun out MirnaTherapeutics to focus on microRNA cancer therapeutics. Their first drug, for liver cancer, will be in human Phase I clinical trials in the first quarter of2013.

TFN is honoring Winkler because he has been a strong advocate for science education, speaking out publicly at the State Board of Education and elsewhere against efforts to dumb down instruction on evolution in public schools, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

“As a scientist and business leader, Matt understands firsthand the need for quality education in Texas to ensure a strong workforce and to attract new business and industry to our state,” Miller said. “But Matt goes beyond just understanding this critical issue. He places himself on the front lines, whether as a citizen lobbying elected leaders or speaking out publicly as a strong advocate for ensuring that Texas kids get an education based on 21st-century science, not personal and political agendas.”

The Walking the Walk Award honors individuals with a history of championing the work of the Texas Freedom Network and our efforts in support of religious, individual liberties and quality public education.

Youth receiving the Samantha Smoot Activist Award are members of nine TFN student chapters at Texas universities. These student leaders have worked over the past year to advocate for sex education in public schools, bring change to the State Board of Education and register thousands of eligible voters for the 2012 elections.

“We are awed by the energy and enthusiasm these student leaders bring to their work for a better Texas,” Miller said.”Together they are mobilizing activists in communities across the state in support of responsible sex education and a state board that keeps personal and political agendas out of our public school classrooms.”

TFN presents the Samantha Smoot Activist Award each year to individuals who exemplify the organization’s mission and work to change the political landscape through grassroots advocacy.


The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, individual liberties and strong public schools.