For The Wonders of Science
By Sheryl E. Taylor
Those who knew Dr. Barry Garrett described him as an advocate for showing young people the wonders of science. The CIA senior scientist and Waco native wanted students to know how fun science could be.
In his memory, the late scientist’s widow funded scholarships to help students realize their dreams through science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM) education. Since 2012, the Barry Garrett Award provides an annual scholarship to student members of the University of Houston Downtown’s Scholars Academy (SA). Since its inception, 19 members have received $2,000 to cover expenses for tuition, books, fees, and/or supplies for an academic semester.
Deserving students are selected by the Scholars Academy Scholarship Selection Committee in consultation with Garrett’s daughter, Erin Mayer, former executive director of Information Technology at UHD.
“In addition to applying his intellectual talents in chemistry, physics and technology, my dad’s life was characterized by compassion, interest and a strong sense of responsibility to give back to society,” said Mayer. He frequently emphasized the value of education and the opportunities. He believed education was the great equalizer, offering everyone in its path a chance to find success and happiness, and to be accountable by sharing the knowledge they gained with others. It really hit home for me and inspired me to make education my life’s work.”
UHD Scholars Academy is a competitive, comprehensive scholarship and mentoring program created to support undergraduate success for students majoring in natural sciences (including pre-health related fields) through hands-on research, peer mentoring, faculty guidance, community outreach and academic accomplishment.
“My brother Ed and I still laugh about the fact that when our friends would visit us, it wasn’t always to see us; they wanted to see our dad! They would run an idea by him or ask for his advice, and it would turn into a long discussion that would bolster their confidence or serve as a catalyst for them to dive into an area of interest,” said Mayer. “We also had grad students stopping in regularly for the same reason. My dad not only made time for people, he was excited to help people work toward their potential. Everyone valued his ability to help them draw out the courage and intellect they needed to tackle issues before them.”
This year’s Barry Garrett Award recipient, Sandra Lopez-Lugo, joined UHD as a transfer student biology major. From a Scholars Academy member to a leadership position as a SA peer mentor, Lopez-Lugo led a biology discipline group and assisted the group’s PhD faculty mentor. She plans to graduate in December.
This scholarship has allowed me to focus my energy and resources in continuing to develop myself academically, she said. "It has also amplified my desire to continue pursuing academic success and become a person of value for my community."
Presently, she is working as a research assistant with Dr. Siddharth Prakash on a community outreach program aimed at providing education and researching genetic causes of bicuspid aortic valves, a congenital heart abnormality at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston's McGovern Medical School.
After graduation this December, Lopez-Lugo's ultimate goal is to become a physician and stay active volunteering in her community at the Houston Homeless Clinic.
Her success at UHD is an example of the University's commitment to the Houston Guided Pathways to Success (Houston GPS) initiative. This multi-institutional partnership fosters collaboration among area colleges and universities with goal of helping students graduate on time with less debt. Additionally, Houston GPS is focused on streamlining the transfer process between local community colleges and universities.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.