The University of Texas at Austin 6/26/2012


Students at The University of Texas at Austin have been changing the world for more than 125 years. One factor that helps attract the best undergraduate and graduate students — regardless of financial circumstances — is endowed scholarships.

What sets endowed scholarships apart from other types of financial assistance? Gifts given as endowments are invested and never spent, so the dividends become scholarship awards year after year. Scholarships from these endowments allow students to concentrate on world-changing research and academics.

In fact, in 2011-2012 alone UT awarded 7,726 separate endowed scholarships and fellowships to students, 1,587 of which were held by graduating students who earned their degrees.

This is the first in a five-part series profiling some of UT’s inspiring endowed scholarship recipients.

When Zuri Garcia needed money to pay her tuition, she went straight to the top.

She walked to the Tower, found President Bill Powers’ office, and asked to see him.

The president wasn’t in, but his staff put her in touch with Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Juan González instead. Her story touched him profoundly.

When Garcia was 13, her mother abandoned her while Garcia was visiting her aunt and uncle in Irving, Texas. Because of that experience Garcia decided the only way she could provide for herself was to get an education. “That’s what is going to afford me a nice home one day,” she says.

Garcia began volunteering at North Lake Community College in Irving, where her aunt worked. She turned professors’ notes into PowerPoint presentations, eventually charging $5 an hour for her services.

Later she found work at Lincoln Technical Institute. It was there, while working as the director of first impressions, that she met Sherry Miller, who was traveling the country in an RV with her husband, Jim. Miller asked Garcia to help her learn some computer skills.

Garcia and Miller’s relationship grew as they met together every week in Miller’s RV for lessons. Garcia had been accepted to UT Austin but had deferred enrollment because she didn’t have the money for a deposit.

Garcia thought she would have to defer again when one day Miller gave her a check for $1,000.

Garcia came to UT with the money, put down her deposit, and knocked on President Powers’ door so she could tell him, “I deserve to be here.”

Dr. Gonzalez didn’t just listen to Garcia’s story. He recommended she be awarded the Margaret Alexander Steiner Endowed Scholarship, which paid for her tuition.

“Scholarships are the only reason I graduated,” she says. “Otherwise there was no way I would have made it.”

Along with endowed scholarships, Garcia was a recipient of a 2011-2012 grant from the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation, which she says, “really helped reinforce what my teaching philosophy has become.”

Garcia graduated in May and will start work as a third-grade teacher in the fall.

“Ten years ago I had no idea I would be eligible for college, much less graduating from such a prestigious one, and even more so that I would receive this amount of support to finish my degree,” she says. “I hope to help other potential students find their way down the college path to excellence.”

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