Over the years, the Texas Exes has planned activities to bring Texas Exes scholars together and develop among them a nurturing and collegial atmosphere at the University—a home away from home.
That’s exactly what the scholarship program proved to be 11 years ago, when the Texas Exes held its annual Texas Excellence Awards dinner amid the national crisis of the 9/11 attacks. Despite the terror of the day’s events, the scholars gathered to console the other members of their “extended Texas family.” That atmosphere of fellowship and support remained true this week at a dinner to celebrate the end of the era that was the Texas Excellence Awards scholarship program.
Warmth and nostalgia filled the Alumni Center as about 140 scholars, alumni, donors, and friends reminisced together. The dinner honored the last eight recipients of the Texas Excellence Awards and welcomed the 24 recipients of the new Forty Acres Scholars program.
“Of all the scholarship dinners we do, this one is really special,” said Jim Boon, former executive director of the Texas Exes. “We have gotten to know the recipients over the last four years, and they feel like family. To me, it feels like a reunion being here with them again.”
Eleanor Moore, former director of scholarships and donor relations, spent 25 years working to administer Texas Exes scholarships to more than 14,000 recipients. She spoke about the transformative effects Mike Myers and the late Lowell Lebermann, the first two donors to endow the TEA awards, had on the scholarship recipients.
“Lowell and Mike worked to help the students bond with each other, enrich their college experience, and help them appreciate all that the state has to offer,” Moore said. “None of this would have been possible without their generosity and vision.”
To recognize Lebermann’s and Myers’ impact on the scholarship program, it was announced that a special plaque would be hung in the Alumni Center’s Hall of Honor.
Back in the early ’80s, the Texas Exes conceived the prestigious scholarship program to bring the brightest high school students to the University. Applicants had to be in the top 5 percent of their graduating class. Many of them were so high-caliber they originally considered Texas only as a backup school, but each inevitably found their way to the Forty Acres.
As a tradition, the seniors and last class of Texas Exes scholars were welcomed to the stage to share how the award made a difference in each of their lives. Joseph Washington, a senior Texas Exes scholar, ended the series of speeches with a Winston Churchill quote to ease the fears of all the graduating seniors.
“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts,” Washington quoted. Read his reflection (from the Alcalde‘s September|October issue) on how the Texas Exes have shaped his world here.
Photos by Andrew Alden Miller