New endowed scholarships and fellowships
Pamela A. Ackert Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
Pamela and George Ackert
PAMELA ACKERT: “The Steve Hicks School of Social Work is designed to train the very best professionals to help those who need it the most. Upon graduation, these young men and women will join schools and governmental organizations to help others. And, these same young men and women will grow to be the leaders of these organizations over time. With this scholarship, we hope to help a promising young student turn into a world-class social worker by reducing the cost of their tuition, which will relieve the financial burden on them when they graduate.”
GEORGE ACKERT: ““Not only does this scholarship help needy and deserving social work students, it also honors Steve [Hicks] and his family for their contribution.”
Rosalie and Robert Ambrosino Endowed Fellowship in Social Work
Drs. Rosalie and Robert Ambrosino
Andy and Stacey Cernicky Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
Andy and Stacey Cernicky
Neither Andrew nor Stacey Cernicky attended UT Austin but they understand the positive impact that high quality college education can make in our communities. They also know that the Steve Hicks School of Social Work is uniquely qualified to make a difference in Texas, in our nation, and beyond.
They hope that this endowment will help social work students achieve their dreams and become community leaders committed to make this world a better place for everyone. Their advice to these students is “learn and expand your viewpoint, embrace different cultures, build strong relationships with your peers, challenge professors with your thoughts and ideas, and be the social worker you would want to have if you needed one yourself.”
Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation
Theresa and Martin Cole Endowed Scholarship
Theresa and Martin Cole
Sally and Tom Dunning Endowed Forty Acres Scholarship
Sally and Tom Dunning
TOM DUNNING: “We began our journey with social workers over 40 years ago, when we were adopting our daughter. Social workers were wonderful and caring in assisting us from the first day. As a board member of the Texas Department of Human Services, I saw firsthand the positive impact they made on the lives of children and adults in Texas. Later, when I was the Homeless Czar of the City of Dallas, I worked closely with a wonderful social worker. More recently, I have seen the positive results of having social workers meet with the most disruptive students in both middle and high school.
“We truly believe that social workers are the glue that holds our society together, and hope that our scholarship will encourage the best and brightest high school graduates to come to the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.”
John and Katherine Ehrle Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
John and Katherine Ehrle
Cynthia and Christina Franklin Endowed Fellowship in Solution Focused Brief Therapy
Cynthia and Jim Franklin
CYNTHIA FRANKLIN: “I have been in the faculty of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work for more than 25 years. I have witnessed the growth of the school and it just keeps getting better!
“My students and colleagues have given so much to me professionally and personally. It has been a blessing in my life and it has made me think how to give back. The matching challenge and the chance to stretch my dollars definitely prompted me to give sooner.
“I hope my gift will help students prepare themselves to practice and do research on solution focused brief therapy. I have seen this therapy make positive change in the lives of so many at-risk students during my career that I want to contribute to pass this social work practice to the next generation.”
Kara and Jay Hartzell Endowed Fellowship
Kara and Jay Hartzell
Patrick Hefferan Memorial Endowed Fellowship in Social Work
ANNE SHOTTON: “I’ve used the course work and the values-based perspective from my graduate education in social work in each of the positions I held during forty years of employment — I’ve worked with Medicaid programs in Texas, Minnesota and North Carolina. My interest in public health care programs began in fact with my field assignment at the Austin Health Department.
“This endowment was a way to honor Patrick, and it continues his commitment to donate to educational programs and human service organizations. I hope that the recipients will be able to attend graduate school without incurring much debt. I wanted to replace some of the federal and state scholarships that were available to my friends and me when we were in school, but that are no longer funded.”
Mindy Hildebrand Endowed Scholarship
Sherry Miller Melecki Endowed Graduate Fellowship
Sherry and Tom Melecki
Sherry Melecki interacts daily with doctoral students through her job as graduate program coordinator at the Steve Hicks School. Since 2008, when she started, she has helped shepherd 94 doctoral students towards graduation.
“It is exciting to see the students come in, so full of ideas and energy. They go through several developmental processes as PhD students—like asking themselves ‘what have I done!’ in the first semester or having impostor syndrome— and I find a lot of satisfaction in being there for them.”
Melecki always knew that she wanted to leave something that stayed beyond her time on Earth, but she was not sure what shape it would take. This past December, when she was making her yearly donation to the school, she realized that the Steve Hicks Matching Challenge was still open.
“I thought, this is what I should do!” Melecki said, of her wish to establish an endowment to benefit doctoral students. “I was on break and could not wait to come back in January, because I was ready to get this done.”
Andrew Pickett Mobley Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Social Work
Holly and John Scofield
HOLLY SCOFIELD: “Becoming a social worker has changed my life for the better in more ways than I can count. I am so proud to be a member of this profession, and I want to encourage others to choose this field.
“My husband and I wanted to endow a Presidential Fellowship in memory of my son, Andrew, as we know that he’d be very proud to be a part of supporting social workers in their desire to make the world a better place.
“Steve Hicks’ extremely generous matching gift will allow Andrew’s fellowship to have double the impact on changing the lives of new social workers, and we are so very grateful to him.”
Leslie and John David Moritz Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
Leslie and John David Moritz
The moment Leslie and John David Moritz learned of the Steve Hicks Matching Challenge, they knew it was time for their family to do its part.
“This very generous challenge leverages new funding to enhance educational opportunities for more students in pursuit of a degree in social work. We need more educated professionals working for social change. We consider this endowment an investment in our collective future,” they said.
Their advice to social work students? “Embrace this remarkable educational opportunity in a nationally recognized social work program: study hard, get your degree, and then go make a difference in this world. Help as many people as you can.”
Barbara B. Munford Endowed Graduate Fellowship
The Honorable Elliott Naishtat Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Social Work
As a young VISTA volunteer, Elliott Naishtat (MSSW ’72) learned to combat poverty through grassroots organizing. When he joined the UT Austin graduate program in social work, his field placement revealed another arena for addressing the needs of vulnerable populations: the
Texas Legislature. As a member of the Texas House of Representatives (1991–2017), Elliott was an unrelenting advocate for health and human services.
Elliott hopes this endowment will help deserving students majoring in areas such as social policy and community organizing pay for their education. His advice to these students? “Never forget that the Declaration of Purpose of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which authorized the creation of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, was ‘to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation.’ There is still a lot of work to be done.”
Social Work Endowed Presidential Scholarship
Mary Jane and Ralph Spence Graduate Fellowship in Social Work
Louise and Guy Griffeth
Utley Education Foundation Endowed Scholarship in Mental Health
Through her involvement with the Mental Health Association in Texas, Ann K. Utley saw the need for well-trained, passionate social workers that can provide services to individuals with mental illnesses.
“Steve Hicks has been a long-time friend. When he committed to invest in social work students at UT Austin, the board of the Utley Education Foundation wanted to honor this commitment and help support students dedicated to the field of mental health and mental illness,” Utley said.
Utley hopes that the students benefiting from this endowment will help individuals with mental illnesses live joyful, fulfilling, and productive lives. Her advice to students is, “Be a mentor to those you serve and allow them to be a mentor to you.”
Betty Louise Vesowate Endowed Scholarship
James W. and Carla S. Vick Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
Carla and James Vick
Jim and Carla Vick are passionate about UT Austin programs focusing on social policy and responsibility. Moreover, through her job as an elementary school teacher, Carla is well aware of the need for social services that support children and families. For both reasons, the Vicks were very excited when they learned about the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.
“It was easy to make the decision of establishing this endowment,” they said. “The school’s mission aligns with our goal of supporting the education of the future leaders of our communities, corporations and country. We want to help pay for the education of talented individuals who can support the growing challenges that our society faces today and in the future.”
Rad and Ashley Weaver Endowed Scholarship
Ashley and Rad Weaver
Luis A. and Mercedes Zayas Family Endowed Fellowship in Social Work
Luis H. Zayas
LUIS H. ZAYAS: “The school now named after Mr. Steve Hicks represents opportunity. Opportunity for young people who would not have been able to afford their education and who now can obtain their Master of Social Work and pursue a life of helping others.
“With this endowment, I hope that young people who are the first generation in their families to attend college can also aspire to earn a Master of Social Work. I think I was a social worker from the earliest days that I can remember. I was always concerned with the vulnerable, those less fortunate than me, and those who are in some way victims of discrimination and marginalization. My parents always supported me and my interests, and I wanted to honor their memory by naming the endowment after them. My father, especially, always reminded me of how important a college education was. It is a tribute to him that I accomplished as much as I have.”
Contributions to existing endowed scholarships and fellowships
Susan McCartney Finnegan Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Social Work
Susan and Bill Finnegan
Susan and her family experienced firsthand “the importance of professions like social work” in 2004 when the couple’s oldest son, Nick, died in a car accident right before he was to begin his freshman year at UT.
“Our family was helped in our healing process by many wonderful and dedicated counselors,” Susan said. “My hope is that this endowment will help students obtain an education and pursue a career in social work so that they can help others.”
John and Jennifer Gates Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
John and Jennifer Gates
John and Jennifer Gates have been committed to their communities for a long time but according to John (MBA ‘89), “you can always do more.”
When their youngest daughter, Jordan, chose social work as her career path, they were thrilled. “UT has meant a lot to us as a family and the School of Social work has been a big part of that,” John says.
When asked why they created this endowment, they answer that social workers are critical to filling gaps that philanthropy and systems sometimes can’t.
“There are billions of people in the world that need help…that’s a lot of work and we might as well get started! With this scholarship, I’d like to think there is one more social worker every four years than there might have otherwise have been. We can never have enough of them. I love the tagline ‘What Starts Here Changes the World,’ and we want to be a part of that.”
The Adele Lorusso Memorial Scholarship Fund &
Sheral Trousdale Skinner Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Social Work
“I met Adele in graduate school in 1980. She and I became friends often exchanging stories of our own struggles and life experiences. We had grown up differently but were both only children and perhaps that gave us a unique perspective on our field and ourselves. We also formed friendships with a small group within our social work graduate class. We continued our friendship with each other and others in our group after graduation in 1982. In 1989, Adele passed away after a rapidly moving cancer took her young life. She left behind a husband and two year old son. She had become Director of Social Services at St. David’s Hospital. Medical social work had become her career and she dedicated herself to her job. She was well regarded and liked in her position. After her death, another friend, Annie Livingston, and I solicited funds to start a scholarship in Adele’s name. My father funded the remaining balance that allowed the scholarship to be completely endowed.”
Leon and Julie Stone Payne Family Endowed Scholarship in Social Work
Julie and Leon Payne
JULIE PAYNE: “When we learned that creating an endowment was so affordable, in terms of other institutions, and that we had several years to pay it off, we jumped at the opportunity. Most endowments are ridiculously expensive to create, and the School of Social Work Endowment was very reasonable. We also could not pass up the matching opportunity with the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and increased our commitment. We know that Dean Zayas and the faculty, staff, and development personnel are making the most of our money to grow the School and graduate an educated and motivated workforce of Social Workers.”
THE PAYNES: “Our endowment is a small way that we can give back to the great University of Texas and to help all the social workers who start out making such little money, like Julie did, and hopefully ease their burden of worrying about making rent, like Julie did, when she was making just above the poverty line while at her first social work job. Our world needs more social workers and every one of us benefits from the work that social workers do. It is not an easy or glamourous profession but one that is vital to our society. When Laura Turner sent a picture of one of the students in her cap and gown who had benefited from our small gift, I cried. It was so real and so meaningful.”
Ruth J. Rubio and L. V. Sclerandi, Jr. Endowment
Ruth Rubio and Larry Sclerandi
RUTH RUBIO: “You know the old phrase ‘we stand on other people’s shoulders?’ We want to be those shoulders for someone. This fellowship gives us the opportunity to make an impact on other people’s lives and promote the ideal of community we believe in. I want to offer an opportunity to families that may be in a position I have been in, where the children are the first generation to attend a university. I benefitted from a scholarship while attending the School of Social Work’s graduate program and feel very fortunate for that. I also feel a responsibility to pay back and support the next generation of students so that they may have the same opportunities that I did. Not too long ago, we received a wonderful letter from the first recipient of the scholarship, telling us about his work, interests, and appreciation for the help we gave him. This letter really sent me over the edge, it made me feel like this is working!”
LARRY SCLERANDI, JR.: “Ruth teaching at the School of Social Work opened up my eyes to the need in our society. I’ve always had a humanitarian streak, but Ruth’s work has definitely enhanced it. I have seen her students placed in communities where there exists a lot of inequality, and that has left a really strong impression on me. Ruth and I are the first generation in our family to graduate from a university, so we both value education. Both of our children have been recipients of scholarships, and we have instilled in them the value of giving back to the community. Last year we went to visit our daughter in San Diego, where she was volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. My daughter had the idea that we could all volunteer together during our visit, and so Ruth, my daughter, and I drove outside of San Diego and helped with the construction of a house. It was great! There’s a lot of need in our society. Starting a fellowship through the School of Social Work is a great way for us to help out.”
Judge Pat Shelton and Family: Elizabeth, Hayley, Ian and David Scott Shelton Endowed Presidential Scholarship
JUDGE PAT SHELTON: “As judge, I can’t leave the courtroom and do field work. I relied on social workers, who bring their hands-on experience to these cases: they go to where people live, where the action is, they do the leg work. They obviously play a crucial part in looking at the best interest of the child, but they also educate folks at a hearing, including the judge. We see the benefits of social work everyday at the courthouse, in little and large ways.”
His experience in the courtroom inspired Judge Shelton to support the School of Social Work, first giving annual scholarships and then underwriting an annual training for Child Protective Service social workers. After learning about the growing collaboration between social work and the new Dell Medical School, Judge Shelton decided to establish an endowed fellowship for students interested in medical social work.
JUDGE PAT SHELTON: “With the cost of education today, I thought that an endowment to help defray some of that cost for social work students, every year, was the logical way to help. It is an honor to recognize the special people who give their professional lives to such worthy and consequential causes.”
Jeanne and Terry Starzel Endowed Presidential Fellowship
Jeanne and Terry Startzel
TERRY STARTZEL: “I am a proud social work graduate from UT Austin who received the Charles Laughton Endowed Presidential Scholarship, an honor that I cherish to this day.
“Social Work is such a vital profession, perhaps more so now than ever before. We hope our gift, in some small part, will help the next generation of social work students complete their education and graduate to become the advocates and voice for those in need.
“I want to thank the faculty and staff at the School of Social Work with all my heart for the support and opportunities that were provided to me while I was a student. We hope our gift, in some small part, will help the next generation of social workers become the advocates for and voice of those in need.”
The Dianne and Les White Scholarship
Dianne and Les White
THE WHITES: “Early in our lives, mental health became an interest and then a passion. We saw the pervasive nature of mental health problems, and we saw the stigma, the scarcity of help and the hopelessness. We were doing volunteer work at Mental Health America where we met an intern who was a master’s candidate at SSW. The director of MHA had attended grad school at SSW. These two were inspirational and, in a passive way, exposed us to the School of Social Work.
We set out to learn more about the School and soon we concluded that we knew enough. This is where we wanted to pitch in.
Establishing this scholarship has given us boundless, profound, and lasting satisfaction.”
Darren Zeller Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Social Work
The funds were contributed by the family and friends of Mr. Darren Zeller to provide scholarship funds to students enrolled in the School of Social Work interested in serving U.S. military personnel (both active and retired) and their family members. Mr. Zeller served in the USMC for five years from 2003 to 2008. Upon Mr. Zeller’s return home from service he, like many others in the military services, dealt with the effects of PTSD. This endowment was established in his memory to educate social workers regarding the particular needs of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.