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Blackwell-Simmons

Paying It Forward

Elizabeth Lepe believes there is no higher calling than to serve others in need. When she completes her master’s degree, the social work graduate student plans to help those with mental health problems.

Alumni Association

Elizabeth Lepe, left, with Thomas Simmons.

Lepe’s career goals received a boost when she was one of three recipients of the Simmons-Blackwell Endowed Scholarship for the 2011-12 academic year. Established by longtime Alumni Association supporters Thomas Simmons ’72 and Linda Blackwell Simmons ’77, the scholarship benefits first-generation college students.

A native of Mexico and the first in her family to attend college, Lepe was so appreciative that she gave the Simmonses a gift at the annual dinner honoring Alumni Association scholarship recipients.

“I just wanted them to know how much their support means to me,” she says. “Because they cared enough to give back, I will be able to fulfill my dreams of assisting people with mental illnesses.”

The Simmonses were moved to create their scholarship by friends and fellow UT Arlington supporters. But it’s the ongoing connection with students that keeps the couple knitted to their alma mater.

“I told Elizabeth, ‘You are so deserving,’ and she said, ‘I’m just a reflection of you,’ ” Thomas Simmons says. “That was very rewarding.”

The independent, nonprofit UT Arlington Alumni Association supports 31 scholarships, including the Simmons-Blackwell award. In fall 2011 the association announced a major gift that will increase the University’s endowment by more than $2 million. The gift means that $1 million previously held by the association for scholarship support will double through the University’s Maverick Match program, which leverages natural gas royalties to encourage new endowments and greater philanthropic support.

“This gift reflects the deep commitment our alumni have to ensuring that UT Arlington ranks among the best in the world in supporting our students,” says Lora J. Malone, the association’s executive director. “It signals that our Alumni Association members are aligned with the strategic mission of the University.”

The association dates to 1920 and has long focused on connecting alumni with their alma mater while supporting students and enhancing their educational experience. The association encourages membership at a variety of levels, from annual members to lifetime members who have made major commitments to endowed funds that support scholarships.

Linda Blackwell Simmons says alumni support can provide the margin of excellence for UT Arlington and its students. “All great universities have involved alumni and strong alumni associations,” she says.

It’s because of these involved alumni that students like Elizabeth Lepe can make the world a better place.