UTRGV Donors and Scholarship Recipients Meet During Annual Luncheon

By: Kelli Quin

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MARCH 25, 2019 – During the month of March, UTRGV scholarship recipients had the opportunity to meet the generous donors who are investing in their education. Hosted on the Brownsville (3/19/19) and Edinburg (3/21/19) campuses, approximately 215 scholars and donors attended this year’s luncheons.

During his opening remarks at the Brownsville luncheon, Dr. Guy Bailey, UTRGV President, noted that “These students are the leaders of tomorrow – the engineers, the scientists, the musicians – these are the people who make the Valley a great place to live.” 

This year’s theme, “Minds in Bloom,” emphasized the roles of creativity and critical thinking in the progression of intellectual ability. As UTRGV endeavors to provide a well-rounded educational experience for all its students, the goal is for each of them to blossom during their time here.

Adrian David Barrera, a second-year medical student from Rio Grande City, stated, “One thing that I found very motivating – important about my scholarship – is it showed someone is believing in me, someone is willing to invest in me. It was the push that I needed, to keep me motivated.”

Adrian received his undergraduate education in San Antonio but decided to return to the Valley for medical education when the UTRGV School of Medicine opened. “When I realized I would be a part of something that was growing, something new, something that would change the Valley for the better, I decided I have to go there. I have to be a part of that.”

During the luncheon, sophomore mechanical engineering major Fariha Ahmad spoke about her time at UTRGV and the impact donors have had on her education. “So far, my time at UTRGV has taught me that family can be found even at university. I see my UTRGV family everywhere: in the English professors that invite their one engineering student to poetry slams; in the female engineering professors who make every effort for a hijab-wearing girl like me to feel comfortable in materials lab; and in the smile of my dean when he walks amongst his students. Most importantly, I realize that I have found family here in one more way, and that is with you all, the scholarship donors.”

Fariha received scholarship funds to cover her tuition and fees for her first two years of school. “The impact of these scholarships is so very great. I don’t have to worry about the burden of tuition falling on my parents’ shoulders. I can completely dedicate myself to focusing on school.”

Addressing the donors in the room, Fariha concluded, “You all, like my family, have my back. You’ve supported me, and you’ve helped me on my journey to reach my goals.”

Fariha Ahmad, Dr. Kelly Scrivner, Dr. Maggie Hinojosa,  Dr. Ala Qubbaj, and Alicia King

PICTURED ABOVE: Fariha Ahmad (second from right) spoke to her fellow students and donors during the UTRGV Donor Scholarship Luncheon in Brownsville on March 19, 2019. Pictured here with (from left to right) Dr. Kelly Scrivner, UTRGV Vice President for Advancement, Dr. Maggie Hinojosa, UTRGV Vice President for Strategic Enrollment, Dr. Ala Qubbaj, UTRGV Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Alicia King, UTRGV Associate Vice President for Development.

Dr. Herlinda (Linda) Wilkinson attended the luncheon in Brownsville and was able to meet two students who are recipients of the William V. Wilkinson and Greater Texas Foundation scholarship, named in honor of her late husband who was the first chair of the Criminal Justice Department at UTRGV’s legacy institution, the University of Texas at Brownsville. Speaking on the long process of forming an endowment, Dr. Wilkinson stated, “When you see where the money goes, and how it helps students, it’s extremely rewarding.”

Dr. Wilkinson spoke at length about the financial struggles she and her late husband experienced while seeking to obtain higher education. She said it was during an evening walk to the library at Sam Houston State University, where she worked while her husband was pursuing his doctorate, that he stopped her to say, “Someday, when we are able to, we have to set up scholarships so other kids won’t have a hard time like we are going through school.” Making good on that promise, Dr. Wilkinson completed the endowment in her husband’s name in 2012. She has also gone on to form the Herlinda Aguilar Wilkinson Chancellor’s Excellence Endowment and became a founding donor for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine to ensure that those seeking higher education receive the assistance and support they need.

Dr. Herlinda (Linda) Wilkinson and Alicia Reyes

PICTURED ABOVE: Dr. Herlinda (Linda) Wilkinson (left) formed the William V. Wilkinson and Greater Texas Foundation scholarship in honor of her late husband, Dr. William Van Wilkinson. She is pictured here with Alicia Reyes (right), a recipient of the scholarship. Alicia, a Brownsville native, is majoring in criminal justice with a minor in Spanish translation.

After spending time with one the current scholarship recipients, Alicia Reyes from Brownsville, TX, Dr. Wilkinson noted that “We may see something as a problem, but it’s really a blessing… to me, that is why I like coming to this luncheon to meet the students and hear from them. I look forward to it every year.”

Andrea Morrison, a first-year honors biology major, spoke to attendees during the luncheon in Edinburg. As she aspires to become a physician and one day return to the Valley to serve her community, she stressed how vital scholarships have been during her education journey thus far.  “The fact that I will complete my undergraduate career with no debt is one worry less that I will have in my lifetime of a thousand worries, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Dr. Janna Arney, UTRGV Deputy President, addressed donors at the Edinburg luncheon, emphasizing “All of us had help somewhere along the way. All of us were nudged in the right direction. And for all the great accomplishments in our lives, we don’t do those alone. We always had help… Making the dream of higher education a possibility is what you’re here today doing.”

She spoke directly to the students in the room, stating that UTRGV will be there to celebrate their successes while in school and beyond.  “We will always know that we had at least a piece of your future successes, and there will be many to come.”

Speaking again to the donors, Dr. Arney concluded with, “The greatest thing about education is that it doesn’t stop with the student who earned it. It impacts themselves, it impacts their family, their community, the entire region – we all benefit from what you’re giving back today.”

Fariha Ahmad, Dr. Janna Arney, and Andrea Morrison

PICTURED ABOVE: (from left to right) Fariha Ahmad, UTRGV sophomore mechanical engineering major, Dr. Janna Arney, UTRGV Deputy President, and Andrea Morrison, UTRGV first year biology major.

INVESTING IN STUDENT EDUCATION

Gifts to UTRGV enrich the student experience, empower faculty research, and allow us to expand our exceptional academic programs. Only through generous private gifts are we able to deliver a superior learning and teaching environment and make a lasting impact on the students of today and tomorrow.

For more information about investing in student education at UTRGV, contact the Division of Institutional Advancement at (956) 665-5301 or visit https://www.utrgv.edu/institutional-advancement.