By Cynthia Gonzales
The Norcross’ weren’t really encouraged to continue their education beyond high school. When it was time for college, UHD Alums Jay and Zoe Norcross took two different paths.
In 1974, Zoe enrolled in Bryman College, a vocational school where she studied to be a dental assistant. Jay enrolled in another Texas university, but only stayed a semester.
“It was the socially acceptable thing to do, but I wasn’t emotionally ready for it,” Jay recalls. “I went one semester. I came back home and went to work.”
Growing up in Dayton, Texas, the family eventually made their way to Houston, where their parents operated two small grocery stores.
Ironically, their sibling rivalry didn’t surface until, as adults, they decided to attend the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD).
After the death of their mother in 2012, Zoe decided to enroll full time at UHD to complete the 30 hours she needed to graduate.
“When they evaluated my credits, I only lost three credits among all the credits I had previously earned,” Zoe said. “I was told that no one ever comes in and only loses three credits.”
Jay didn’t realized his big sis was in school until he received an invitation to her graduation in 2013.
“All of a sudden, she was graduating from UHD,” Jay said. “My wife and I went to her graduation, and that’s when I said to myself … if she can finish, I can finish.”
It was then Jay set two goals for himself. The first was to complete his bachelor’s degree faster than Zoe. The second one was to earn a higher GPA.
“She never told me her GPA, but I figured if I ended up with a 4.0, I would do better than her,” he said.
Zoe, laughing at her brother, chimes in.
“He surpassed me,” she added. “When you’ve pursued a goal for 13 years, you really don’t worry as much about your GPA, just as long as you graduate.”
Both siblings earned Bachelor of Science degrees in interdisciplinary studies, with Jay graduating in fall 2017— completing his degree in four years.
Jay has spent nearly 20 years working abroad in the oil and gas industry. Presently, he is president of Kiewit OGC Engineering. Zoe works in the Family-Based Safety Services area of Child Protective Services, a position she’s held for the past five years.
Now, the Norcross’ are in graduate school. Zoe is working on a master’s in criminology at the University of Wisconsin- Platteville, and Jay is enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin, working on his master’s in human dimensions of organizations.
Jay admits that he wants to make it to the finish line before his sister. “Oh, he’s going to beat me,” Zoe laughs. “I’m not in a hurry.”
(Reprinted from the latest edition of UHD Magazine available on campus and online.)
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.