Mother and Son Set to Graduate from UHD This Weekend
Renita Gray-Taylor, Anthony Taylor Celebrating Academic Achievements
By Mike Emery
It was a Thanksgiving to remember for Renita Gray-Taylor and son Anthony Taylor.
During a family gathering, Taylor proudly presented everyone with invitations to view his virtual graduation from the University of Houston-Downtown’s Marilyn Davies College of Business.
His mother then presented everyone with a surprise.
“She started handing out invitations for HER graduation celebration,” said Taylor, who will receive his Master of Business Administration this weekend. “I had no idea she was even enrolled at a university.”
“I had kept it a secret,” added Gray-Taylor. “It was a perfect surprise and a memorable holiday moment.”
So, the cat was out of the bag … and the surprise was certainly welcome from family members, especially Taylor.
“I am tremendously proud of my mom,” he said. “She has made countless sacrifices and continues to do so. She is an inspiration to me. She’s proof that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
Gray-Taylor started her degree years ago, but like many professionals, she put it on pause to focus on her career and family. She started college at the University of Houston, but later discovered UHD. It was close to the City of Houston, where she worked as a young adult. She still recalls the moment she discovered UHD – a memory that eventually led her back to the University to complete her studies.
For the past 30 years, Gray-Taylor has worked at Houston Methodist Hospital, which also is in convenient proximity to UHD (just a train ride away from her office). The University's location and its Corporate Communications program (based in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences) have made it a natural fit for her.
“The things I’ve learned in this degree program are perfect for what I do at Houston Methodist Hospital,” said Gray-Taylor, who serves as a Physician Payment Specialist. “Effective communication is an essential part of my role. I’ve obtained knowledge about the most effective ways to communicate and have been able to apply them in my daily interactions with physicians, vendors and colleagues. I’ve not only learned how to communicate, but how to listen. I’ve had a wonderful experience with UHD and am grateful to be receiving my degree.”
Taylor also is grateful for the University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and selected UHD for his MBA with a focus on finance. Thus far, it’s already making a difference in his career. He said that the finance aspect of his degree is complementing his duties as a Human Resources Generalist for Borden Dairy Company.
Gray-Taylor and Taylor are lifelong Houstonians and credit the city with providing both a good home and a solid community base that supports their personal and professional goals. And they are quick to offer kudos to UHD for its flexible class schedules and supportive academic environment. In fact, Gray said her husband Anthony Taylor, Sr. has indicated that he may very well enroll at UHD after hearing about their positive experiences.
But getting a degree is not easy work. Despite the many times, that school, work and life seemed to collide, both mother and son remembered these words:
“It’s never too late … as long as you’re breathing.”
That adage was part of a sermon delivered by Pastor Paul David Landrew from their place of worship Lovingword Fellowship Church, and it resonated with both of them.
“That spoke to me,” Gray-Taylor said. “I’d like to say to anyone who has a dream ... make it a reality. It can be done, and UHD has helped me achieve my dream. Its professors, its advisers, and so many others helped me reach this moment.”
“I agree with those words from our pastor, but I’ll add that if you start something, you need to finish it,” Taylor said. “The rewards of completing your journey...no matter how long it takes...are well well worth it.”
It will certainly be well worth the wait to celebrate on Dec. 19 when their names will be announced during UHD’s 68th Commencement Ceremony. They and other family members will be gathered to view the festivities online.
“We’ll be together,” Gray-Taylor said. “This timed out perfectly. My son officially obtained his degree in May, but due to COVID-19, he is part of this weekend's ceremony. I can’t think of a better way to graduate than with my son at my side.”
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.