University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) students of all backgrounds have major opportunities to reach educational and career goals. Accomplished University alumni assist in this mission through financial contributions and leadership opportunities.
The first generation student
For Miriam Morales, attending UHD was a life-changing experience. Like many UHD students, Morales was the first person in her family to go to and graduate from college. She lacked guidance, but not ambition.
“The UHD environment was like a big family,” she said. “I received the attention and support I needed to be a successful student. I love this University.”
Morales’ positive UHD experience instilled the desire to support various outreach and academic endeavors across campus. She is a member of the Alumni Council, supports the UHD Scholars Academy—from which she was one of the first graduates—assisted in crafting the new Master of Science in Data Analytics degree, and recently established the Miriam Morales Endowment.
“I enjoy being involved, from speaking at fundraising events to helping the University grow the field of data analytics,” Morales said. “But now I’m in a place professionally where I can give more than just my time. That’s why I wanted to create this endowment for future students.”
Endowments enable alumni to target their investments. Morales stipulated both full- and part-time students be eligible for her scholarship.
“I had a job while attending UHD, so I was taking classes part time,” she explained. “Many of the scholarships I was interested in were only available to full-time students. I know that some people can only attend school part time because they have families and jobs, but they deserve the opportunity to earn a scholarship, too.”
Today, Morales is the Director of Strategic Analytics with Memorial Hermann Health System, using clinical data to improve patient outcomes and physician performance as compared to national benchmarks.
“I’m lucky that my job gives me the flexibility to attend events at UHD and participate in outreach efforts,” she said. “Alumni participation doesn’t always mean financial support, so I encourage all alumni to give this wonderful University their time and talent.”
The loving memorial
Frank Garcia, a longtime UPS employee who earned a bachelor’s degree from UHD later in life, shares Morales’ sentiments. Garcia retired from UPS after 25 years and wanted to stay in touch with his community and his alma mater.
“It’s important to me to give back to causes that I believe in,” Garcia said. “Earning my degree was always a goal of mine, and I’m grateful that UHD gave me the opportunity as an older, working student.”
At the University, Garcia is involved with the Alumni Council, serves as a volunteer at Cap and Gown Receptions and Freshman Convocation. He recently established the Enrique B. Garcia Endowment in honor of his late brother.
“My brother was a very humble and intelligent person who also believed in the importance of education,” he said. “I wanted to honor him while also providing a financial opportunity that could change the life of a UHD student.”
Garcia graduated from UHD in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. His directed endowment benefits College of Business students.
“I volunteer and participate because I believe it’s the right thing to do,” Garcia explained. “Having the opportunity to finish my degree was an outstanding thing, and it has paid dividends. I’m happy to share my insight and success with future generations.”
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bill Burnash earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from UHD following time served in the Marine One Helicopter Squadron. He later earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.
Today, Burnash is the president and owner of Pioneer Freight, a Houston-based transportation company, and serves as a supply corps officer in the United States Navy Reserve. In his spare time, he volunteers by representing UHD at alumni and campus events.
“I’m very proud of UHD,” he said. “I look forward to the University’s continued growth as a top provider of quality education in the region.”
According to Burnash, alumni involvement is important to the overall success of the institution and he is humbled and happy to give back.
“I’m more than satisfied with where my life has lead me and I want to see others reap those same rewards,” he explained. “I want to see UHD well represented.”
Burnash established the Military in Business Scholarship Endowment. This fund provides financial assistance for students who are military personnel—active, reserve or veteran—and working full time.
“I have the deepest respect for our country’s military and want to assist those who need it, earn an education,” he said.
By donating their time and money, Burnash, Morales and Garcia represent the future of UHD: compassionate alumni who are paving the way with stewardship, leadership and volunteerism—helping ensure UHD students reach their educational and career goals, one scholarship at a time.