UTRGV donors meet students they’ve helped, during annual Endowed Scholarships Luncheon

Donors Florence and Paul Crissman, third and fifth from the left, met with UTRGV students at the Endowed Scholarships Luncheon on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at the University Ballroom on the Edinburg Campus. The event gives scholarship donors a chance to meet the students who have benefitted from their gifts. (UTRGV photo by Paul Chouy)

By Gail Fagan 

EDINBURG, TEXAS – APRIL 19, 2016 – Scholarship donors to The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the recipients of their generosity – current students at the university – were able to share their stories of giving and gratitude, April 19 at the Endowed Scholarship Luncheon, held in the Ballroom on the Edinburg Campus.

The annual event was also held last week on the Brownsville Campus.

“It is a great opportunity for our donors to learn about the impact their gift can make on students and their families, and for the students to thank, in person, the donors who have helped them achieve their dream of obtaining a higher education,” said Dr. Kelly Scrivner Cronin, vice president for Institutional Advancement.

Florence and Paul Crissman, who established The Paul C. and Florence M. Crissman Endowed Scholarship for academically qualified undergraduate students (half of which goes to those in ROTC), were joined at their table by a number of students who had received the scholarship they started years ago. 

Originally from Pennsylvania, the Crissmans first came to the Valley as Winter Texans in 1989. Paul, who is a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War, said he grew up poor and was unable to attend college.

“I want these young people to be able to get a good education,” he said of what motivated their gift. “It’s important to me because I didn’t have that opportunity.”

Stephanie Rodriguez, a pre-med biology major, said she didn’t qualify for a lot of financial aid, so she was grateful for the scholarship the Crissmans established.

“The scholarship helps me meet my tuition needs,” she said. “Without it, I would have had to work, which would add more stress to my busy schedule. I have a 4.0 GPA right now and I want to maintain that. So it is a relief to have someone there as a support system. They are very nice people.”

At the event, UTRGV President Guy Bailey thanked the donors and described the growth the university has seen.

“Our future is even better than our past,” he said.

He described the donors’ gifts as the single most important thing they could do to support the university.

“You are not only helping students to go to school, those students are transforming the Valley. If you look at the growth in the educational level in the Rio Grande Valley over the past decade, it has grown exponentially. It is a tremendous thing that you can do both of those at the same time,” he said.

Drs. Joan and Bruce Reed, both donors and faculty members at UTRGV, remember the struggles they had as graduate students trying to juggle work, caring for children and studying for their advanced degrees.

That challenge motivated them to establish The Joan and Bruce Reed Endowed Scholarship 10 years ago for students pursuing a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling – a field they both had a passion for. Bruce is director and professor in UTRGV’s School of Rehabilitation Services and Counseling

“There is not a lot of financial help available for graduate students, and most of us go to graduate school during those years when we are needing to work, generate income and raising kids. So juggling all that in terms of time and money is very much a challenge,” said Joan, a UTRGV lecturer and director of Learning Framework.

Bruce said they wanted to help others who are facing challenges similar to their own.

“For me to help contribute even in a small way, to be a part of the next generation of professors in my field, is really an exciting thing,” he said.

Hoping to become one of those next generation of professors is Kim Nguyen-Finn, a Ph.D. student in rehabilitation counseling who has received the scholarship the Reeds established.

The single mother, who currently is a lecturer at UTRGV, said receiving the scholarship has given her peace of mind and more time to spend with her daughter. She also said the scholarship helped support a trip to a conference in California, where she will present her research.

Nguyen-Finn, who wants to work in private practice while continuing to be a faculty member, said the Reeds’ gift has motivated her sense of paying it forward.

“One of things I want to do, once I’m done with school, is become a donor myself. I think it is a really good feeling to give back to others, as people have helped you along the way,” she said.

For more information on giving to UTRGV, contact the Division of Institutional Advancement at 956-665-5301 or give@utrgv.edu.

Marci.Caltabiano@UTRGV.edu UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications

Jennifer.McGehee@UTRGV.edu UTRGV Director of Public Relations