The Gift That Keeps Giving

For his 50th birthday, Bill Rodriguez asked his friends for something other than standard fare.

Billy Rodriquez

Photo by Sarah Lim

Some people celebrate their 50th birthday with a lavish party or a tropical cruise. Billy Rodriguez, BA ’80, MBA ’00, Life Member, wanted to do something different.

Rodriguez has been a diehard Longhorn since childhood—“There was never any question that I would go to UT,” he said—and as he reflected on a successful career in commercial real estate and finance, he kept thinking about how grateful he was for the many doors his education had opened.

He was already considering legacy giving, but he felt a growing desire to make a more direct impact. “I don’t have kids of my own,” Rodriguez says, “and I know that in this tough economic climate, now more than ever, students need help paying for school.”

Partnering with the Texas Exes on a scholarship was a natural choice for Rodriguez, who was one of the Association’s first student interns. He was also co-chair of the Student Involvement Committee.

So in fall 2008, Rodriguez sent a letter to his friends and family asking them to help to celebrate his 50th birthday by funding a scholarship.

Donations came pouring in, and Rodriguez continued working with the Texas Exes. On his next birthday in 2009, friends and family opened their wallets before he could even ask. “That was one of the most amazing things to me,” Rodriguez says, “that the spirit of giving started to grow on its own.”

The William Blake Rodriguez Challenge Grant Scholarship, which is matched dollar-for-dollar by the Joe and Teresa Lozano Long Challenge Grant Fund, is now awarded yearly to an incoming Hispanic student declaring Plan II—Rodriguez’s own major at UT. He says he wanted to support the unique honors program that was crucial to his success: “Plan II armed me with critical thinking and writing skills that I use daily.”

In fall 2009, Rodriguez met the first recipient, Donald Mendoza, who said the scholarship is helping him focus on pre-med coursework instead of debt. The 2010 recipient, Miguel Rayos-Velazquez, who dreams of working in an ad agency abroad, used his award to buy a computer and textbooks.

Rodriguez’s effort inspired one friend and his siblings to endow a Texas Exes scholarship in honor of their mother, and several friends who attended other universities began looking into similar opportunities at their own alma maters.

The best thing about his unusual birthday gift, says Rodriguez, is that “it just keeps on giving.”

 

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