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Why Do I Give?

Why Do I Give?
April 1, 2016 SEHD Communications

Why Do I Give?

by Silvia Fernandez ’88


My career has encompassed teaching, administration, and guiding students and parents through the higher education process for 40 years. Teachers influenced my life from elementary school through graduate school. I have seen the impact a good teacher and administrator can have on the future of young people.

During the 1980’s I joined the Dean’s Development Council in the School of Education and Human Development. My membership allowed me to meet professors who encouraged me to get my doctorate, something I had long dreamed of but never thought possible. I successfully defended my dissertation on the oral history of the college and graduated shortly before my 50th birthday.

As a result of that degree, my career progressed from classroom teaching to administrative roles. One position was in outreach for Texas A&M and another was as director of special programs for minority students in the health professions. I am so grateful for those last two jobs that I would not have had without my Ph.D. from this college.

Through those positions, I was able to encourage others like myself to continue their education. I know the difference an advanced degree can make first hand; therefore, my husband, Raul, and I chose to establish the Dr. Sylvia P. Fernandez ‘88 Endowed Graduate Fellowship for someone studying higher education administration.

I was lucky that I had Raul to support me while working on my doctorate. During that time, however, I watched single mothers and others who had to work and take classes. Some could not continue through the program, while others had to stop and start again. I want to help others continue their education who don’t have the financial resources that I did.

My passion for education started with my family. My mother loved school but lived in a time when it wasn’t customary or accepted for girls to receive a great deal of formal education. My father had to quit school to support his family.

To honor my parents’ commitment to education, Raul and I also established the Mr. and Mrs. William Chapman Peña Endowed Memorial Scholarship. Our goal is to pay it forward and help others who are first generation students seeking to change lives by becoming a teacher.

While circumstances did not allow me to receive my undergraduate degree from Texas A&M, I chose to endow this scholarship at the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University because I know first-hand how hard the faculty in this college work to prepare our students to be successful teachers. They truly care about diversity and providing professional development on new teaching methods. I also love the fact that they have studied ways to improve teacher retention rates.

Throughout my years on the Development Council, I have been amazed at the innovations that have occurred here, from STEM education and reading initiatives to interactions with health and kinesiology. The college has evolved and grown into so many areas and is truly a leader among its peers.

The changes that have occurred throughout our world have been amazing, but the common denominator is always education. No matter what profession someone is in, it took a teacher, and perhaps a benefactor like I had, to get them started on their path to success.

Mother Theresa once said, “We do not do great things–only small things with great love.” To me, that is what teachers are all about. In a very small way, I want to help them build the future. That’s why I give.


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