If you ask Susana Alemán about her commitment to The University of Texas, she’ll tell you about the sunflowers.
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Alemán, BS ’75, MEd ’78, JD ’84, Life Member, worked from 1984 to 2006 as the assistant dean for student affairs at the UT School of Law. Each May for those 22 years, Alemán took to the fields of the Hill Country to gather more than 400 sunflowers for the law school’s Sunflower Ceremony, a century-old graduation tradition in which each new alumnus is given a sunflower.
“Most sunflowers don’t bloom until June,” says Alemán, “so this was no easy task.” She remembers driving as far as Pleasanton—110 miles from Austin—in search of the flowers.
“I’m not sure everything I did was entirely legal,” Alemán laughs, recalling picking sunflowers along country roads. One year, a state trooper pulled over along the highway to question her. “You can’t do this,” she remembers him saying, not unkindly. “It’s too dangerous.”
But Alemán told the officer, “You don’t understand.”
It’s true that Alemán’s love for the University might initially be hard for an outsider to understand. Her license plate reads LAWHRN (“Law ‘Horn”); she regularly wears three kinds of burnt-orange jewelry; and she’s long been a mover and shaker in the Texas Exes Austin Chapter, the Texas Exes Scholarship Committee, and the Hispanic Alumni Network.
This morning, in a small ceremony at the Alumni Center, Alemán made her biggest commitment to UT yet: she formally endowed the new Alemán-Wilson Challenge Grant Scholarship. The scholarship will support Mexican-American students from South Texas who are studying in the College of Education.
July 17 bears special significance for Alemán: not only is it her birthday, it’s also the 40th anniversary of the day she arrived at UT from the South Texas town of Falfurrias: July 17, 1972.
After earning her undergraduate degree in just two and a half years, Alemán selected the Life Member number #17,772. And not long after that, she began saving for the scholarship. She says she was inspired to give back in honor of her parents, her sister, and an uncle, who all provided vital support toward her own UT education.
“My mother always said, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ Alemán says. “I really believe that. I’m not rich, but it can be done. Everyone can contribute in some way.”
Event photos by Brett Bowlin; featured photo via Flickr Creative Commons