Top Scholarship Stories of 2012

The Texas Exes’ scholarships program awards nearly $2 million  annually to more than 600 UT students. Those statistics are impressive, but even more powerful are the stories: from the hardworking students who couldn’t attend college otherwise, to the donors who forge friendships with their recipients, to the volunteers who sift through applications. Here are 10 of our favorites.

All in the Family: The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship

It felt more like a family reunion than a formal endowment. On a sunny October day, Carlos Zaffirini Jr. presented his mother, longtime Texas senator and UT supporter Judith Zaffirini, with a gift that will never stop growing: a Texas Exes scholarship in her honor.

Carlos, BBA ’03, JD ’06, Life Member, told a crowd of prominent Longhorns at the scholarship’s unveiling that his mother nearly dropped out of UT because of financial difficulties, even while achieving a nearly perfect GPA—but was saved by a friend’s generosity. The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship—which UT president Bill Powers called “an expression of love”—will help South Texas students think less about tuition bills and more about their futures.

“I’m impressed and grateful,” Zaffirini, BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member, said in her remarks. And even though the room was packed, it was clear she was talking to only one person. —Andrew Roush


A Leader’s Legacy

The U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s was a tough place for a young black man who dreamed of an architecture career, but John Saunders Chase, MAr ’52, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, broke down every barrier he encountered. In 1950, he became the first African American to enroll at UT. Not long after, he became the first licensed black architect in Texas and the first African American appointed to the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts.

Chase died at age 87 on March 29. To honor him, the Texas Exes Black Alumni Network has established the John S. Chase Legacy Scholarship for outstanding African-American students.

The honor is especially fitting because the Texas Exes was home to yet another of Chase’s many firsts: He was the first African American to serve as president of the organization.

John and his wife, Drucie Rucker Chase, were married for 61 years. “The scholarship would mean a lot to him,” Drucie says. “I hope it will help another student accomplish his dream.” —Dorothy Guerrero


Forty Acres Society Encourages Younger Donors

The crowd was rapt as Carlos Brown told moving tales from his time as a U.S. Navy trauma surgeon in Iraq. Brown, BA ’89, Life Member, opened up about the heartache of leaving his family in Texas to treat wounded soldiers in one of the world’s most dangerous places.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” recalls Dennis McWilliams, BS ’93, Life Member,  a Texas Exes board member and society co-founder.

The powerful lecture could’ve been a TED talk—but it wasn’t. It was a gathering of the new Forty Acres Society, one of UT’s latest and greatest philanthropic networks.

The intellectually oriented group is filling a niche, says McWilliams. “We wanted a way for busy, mid-career professionals to give back,” he explains. “And it’s already a great funnel for alumni leadership.”

Each member of the Forty Acres Society donates a minimum of $1,000 annually, supporting the Forty Acres Scholars Program. In return, they get heavy-hitting arts and cultural programming and a close-knit social group. Next the society hopes to expand across Texas. —Rose Cahalan


“Sunflower Lady” Susana Alemán Endows Challenge Grant

Every May for 22 years, former UT Law assistant dean for student affairs Susana Alemán gathered more than 400 sunflowers from the Texas countryside for the law school’s Sunflower Ceremony. It’s a century-old graduation tradition in which each new alumnus is given a sunflower. Alemán’s dedication to the ritual earned her the title of “Sunflower Lady.”

In July, this longtime campus booster gave back in an even bigger way: by endowing the Alemán-Wilson Challenge Grant Scholarship. The award will support Mexican-American students from South Texas studying in the College of Education—and to Alemán, who’s been saving up for the endowment since graduation, it couldn’t be sweeter. “I’m not rich, but it can be done,” she says. “Everyone can contribute in some way.” —Rose Cahalan


Rio Grande Valley Scholars Program Announced

When it comes to academics, Alejandra Guerrero lets nothing get in her way. Even if it means a few bug bites.

This fall, the freshman biochemistry major was working on a research project through UT’s acclaimed Freshman Research Initiative, studying natural insect repellants. The experiment required live mosquitoes, which Guerrero and her teammates ordered from a science supply company. But as so often happens in science, things didn’t go according to plan: the mosquitoes died.

So Guerrero improvised a solution. “We used ourselves as bait,” she laughs. She and her teammates went to a buggy spot on campus, waited for mosquitoes to bite, and then captured them with a special tube. Problem solved.

Such resourcefulness is nothing new for a first-generation college student who’s fought hard her whole life to make it to the Forty Acres. Growing up in the border town of Roma, Texas, Guerrero says Austin couldn’t have seemed farther away. “We didn’t even have a Walmart,” she says. “But we did have a really strong sense of community.”

That sense of community is the reason Guerrero is a UT student. She’s the first recipient of the Rio Grande Valley Scholars Program, which aims to bring talented, deserving Valley students to Austin. When the Alcalde last wrote about this program, it was in its infancy. Today, it’s changed Guerrero’s life. Now her sights are set on a medical career.

“I wouldn’t be in college without the scholarship,” she says. “It was my dream come true.” Her father, a teacher’s aide, took on extra work last summer as a migrant farmworker to support her education—but the added income wasn’t enough. With the $10,000 renewable scholarship, Guerrero can concentrate on hitting the books. —Rose Cahalan


Last Class of Texas Exes Scholars Prepares for Graduation

Their résumés read like those of seasoned professionals twice their age, but these are three of the eight members of the Texas Exes Scholars’ Class of 2013: A cancer researcher studying new chemotherapy methods, a philanthropist who has raised more than $65,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and an international-relations expert who traveled to Seoul to study the burgeoning South Korean music industry.

Among them is Jessica Schuck, an aspiring speech-language pathologist who formed a close friendship with her scholarship donor, Sally Mandell. Despite a 50-year age difference, the pair loves going to art shows and the theater. “She’s investing in me, counting on me to achieve a lot,” Schuck says.

When the scholars cross the graduation stage this May, they’ll mark the end of an era. Their scholarship—previously the Texas Exes’ most elite—has evolved into the Forty Acres Scholars Program. But the program’s legacy will live on in the hundreds of alumni whose lives it has shaped. “It’s way more than a scholarship,” says recipient Jim SanMarco. “There’s always somebody who cares.” —Rose Cahalan


Second Class of Forty Acres Scholars Chosen

When Texas Exes staffers and UT alumni began creating UT’s first-ever full-ride, merit-based scholarship, their goal seemed so audacious that some questioned whether it was even possible. Today, 24 of the nation’s most elite students walk the campus as Forty Acres Scholars—living proof that Texas can compete for the best of the best.

More than 900 of the nation’s top high school students applied for the second class of the Forty Acres Scholarship, and 14 made it in. They hail from as near as Austin and as far as New York City, and they turned down Ivy League schools to choose UT.

They’re all under age 20, and yet their cohort already includes entrepreneurs and inventors, researchers and volunteers. Amy Enrione, from Brooklyn, holds a provisional patent for a new type of watch. Cole Paxson, from Tyler, Texas, owns a successful salsa company.

Watch out, world—these Longhorns are on the rise. —Rose Cahalan


Texas Exes Awards $749,625 to 307 Students

Named scholarships are established in honor of loved ones, often to honor a friend’s memory or even celebrate a marriage. Seven brand-new scholarships were awarded this year, bringing the grand total to 235 named Texas Exes scholarships.

Recipients and donors are only two parts of the scholarship equation: more than 200 volunteers sift through thousands of applications each year, and their hard work did not go unnoticed. “Each part of our team is vital,” said former U.S. ambassador Pam Willeford, BA ’72, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna. “Our donors give so we can continue to transform lives for the benefit of society.” —Jack McBee


Scholarships Get Streamlined

Even the most organized student is awash in a sea of scholarship paperwork. With thousands of possible scholarships—each with its own application—it’s a wonder anyone can keep it all straight.

Thankfully, the Texas Exes just made it all a little easier. This year the association—in partnership with UT—unveiled a vastly simplified system: starting in fall 2013, every UT applicant will automatically be considered for all Texas Exes scholarships. Previously, students had to submit separate applications.

“We were making students jump through too many hoops,” says Texas Exes vice president of scholarships and development Lori Bolding. “If they didn’t find us on their own, they missed out. Now we’re finding them.”

The new system is also completely digital, saving countless reams of paper and headaches for staff and students alike. While criteria won’t change—alumni volunteers will help select applicants just as before—Bolding says the new method will boost the program’s power.

For example, not all Llano, Texas-area students know about the Roger Beasley Scholarship for Llano grads, but now they’ll automatically be in the running.  “This transforms our program’s reach in a big way,” Bolding says. —Rose Cahalan

Chapters Award $499,095 to 336 Students

The Texas Exes’ 128 alumni chapters and networks know how to cheer on the Longhorns. From Dallas to Alaska to London, they hold hundreds of watch parties and tailgates each year.

But while our chapters love to root for Texas, they’re equally fanatic about students. Just as sports fans provide the support teams need to dig deep and win games, so too do our chapters rally around local UT students in a big way.

How big? Nearly $500,000 annually, for starters. That’s how much 75 chapters awarded to 336 students at the Chapter Scholarships Dinner on Aug. 30. And as the Chapter Advisory Board chair, Jeff Duchin, BBA ’98, Life Member, said at the dinner: “They’re not simply giving money. They’re establishing a connection between students and the chapters that will be ready and waiting for them come graduation.” —Rose Cahalan


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