Fifty Years Later, Longhorn Siblings Gift Their Mom a Class Ring

Despite the nasty weather, sisters Christina Stock and Jodi Lowther couldn’t stop grinning on their drive from Dallas to Austin this past Friday afternoon. “We just kept turning to each other and saying eeee!” Stock says.

Stock, BA ’05, Lowther, BA ’91, and their brother, Paul Sparks, were back on the Forty Acres this past weekend to celebrate their mother Nora Brandon’s 74th birthday. The siblings also had an ulterior motive: they were going to surprise their mother with a class ring, more than 50 years after her graduation.

“This is her first birthday since our grandmother died in June,” explains Stock. “We wanted to do something that would blow her mind.”

A first-generation college student, Brandon, BA ’67, Life Member, grew up in government housing in Laredo, speaking Spanish as her first language.

“They just lived a really hard life,” Stock says. “My mom, for whatever reason, felt there was more to life than what she was surrounded with. She got it in her head she was going to go to college.”

After attending San Antonio College for two years, Brandon transferred to UT and graduated in 1967 from the College of Natural Sciences. She went on to raise three children who all earned multiple higher education degrees—Lowther is a PhD neuropsychologist; Stock is working toward a PhD in music therapy; and Sparks is an award-winning graphic artist.

“All of us our experts in our field,” Stock says. “And it started with her. She changed the trajectory of our family in one generation, because of her motivation and her curiosity”

Brandon was always present during their childhood, Lowther says, despite their mother working multiple jobs, and she was always clear about the path she had carved out for her children and expected them to take.

“It wasn’t an ‘Are you going to college?’” Lowther laughs, “it was ‘You’re going to college … and you’re gonna go to UT.’”

For Stock’s graduation, Brandon bought her a class ring. “It stuck with me that she never got her own,” Stock says. “I’ve always wanted to pay it back.” And that’s exactly what she and her siblings did before the Texas vs. TCU football game on Saturday.

Amid a sea of burnt-orange tailgaters at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, more than 20 of Brandon’s family and friends gathered around the Bevo statue as Texas Exes Executive Director Chuck Harris, BBA ’86, Life Member, surprised an emotional Brandon with her own official class ring, bought by her three children, and inscribed with two words: thank you.

“Even before she knew what her life’s path was going to be,” Stock says, “she wanted better for her family. We just wanted a physical reminder of that—a thank you for having that vision.”

Her children are hoping the ring will have her thinking about her future, too. After promising their grandmother she would never be in a nursing home, Brandon spent the past ten years as her primary caretaker. “It was a tremendous amount of sacrifice on her part,” says Stock. “This whole weekend is about her taking her place has matriarch in this family.”

Brandon typically watches home football games from the comfort of the Alumni Center. But on Saturday, as she wiped tears and admired her new piece of jewelry, she was set on heading into the stadium.

“Well actually,” she laughed, “I think I’m gonna go! Everybody’s been giving me tickets!”


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