Inaugural Luncheon Connects Scholars, Donors
By Hayden Bergman
As Dickens makes plain in his “Great Expectations,” meeting one’s benefactor is a revelatory experience filled with drama, an event that clarifies the past and future while grounding all involved in the present. In that novel, the interaction is marked by disappointment. On the contrary, delight, good will, and cheer were on display at UHD’s Inaugural Donor Scholarship Luncheon on April 27, as attendees were treated to a springtime meal while Javier “Jay” Zambrano, Vice President for Advancement and University Relations, presided over the event. President Loren J. Blanchard was also in attendance as scholarship recipients were united with the persons who have, in some way, funded their education and future success.
For the donors, it was a celebration of student achievement, a chance to see the fruits of their investments. For students, the moment in which they match a face with the individuals who are helping them achieve their dreams.
One such student, Ian Scott, Risk Management, Myron Steves Directorship Scholarship recipient, said the validation he feels is “unbelievable. When I was in high school, I would do all the work, but I never believed in my work. To receive a scholarship, it helps me feel better about my abilities and [lets me know] that I can actually achieve something.” For her part, Rheanne Banks, Human Resource Management, Ted Bauer Undergraduate Scholarship recipient, said “financially, mentally, and physically, [the scholarship] has impacted me in a positive way. It takes a burden off of me.”
Mark and Tami Mallett were in attendance with Mrs. Mallett serving as one the luncheon’s featured speakers. The Malletts generously fund three scholarships at UHD: the Mark and Tami Mallett Scholarship, the Mallett Student Teaching Scholarship, and the M. Elizabeth Steen Endowed Scholarship.
During her remarks, Mrs. Mallett said that part of what drew her and her husband to UHD was its focus on first-generation students. Her mother, Elizabeth Steen, was the first in her family to go to college. Speaking poignantly about her mother, Mrs. Mallett said that she and her husband have been “first-hand witnesses to the transformational power of education.” She went on to note the outstanding qualities of UHD scholarship recipients, saying that “the grit and the determination and the intellect of every single scholar that we've met has inspired us to contribute more and more to the University.”
That inspiration is echoed by the recipients of those scholarships. Riley Hardwick, a UHD alumna and scholarship recipient, said that “Money shapes the decisions that we make and the opportunities that we have access to.” With the funds gifted by the donors, however, she said that UHD scholars are “given the freedom to imagine a bigger and bolder future.”
Many donors noted the unique approach UHD takes to gifts, scholarships, and student success, with Mrs. Mallett saying that “[UHD] comes to us with creative ways to make an impact that we wouldn't have thought of ... They're trying to take every barrier out of the way to get people over the finish line to graduation. And that is impressive.”
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.