Dr. Lydia Aguilera is painfully familiar with the fact that not all students have the luxury of having money to attend school. As a former student, The University of Texas-Pan American faculty member knows the impact of financial assistance, especially when money is tight.
"I have lived through the struggles of being a student, and am now witness to the fact that students still need help. I know that there are many, many ex-UTPA students out there that, like me, used UTPA as a stepping stone to their careers," Aguilera said.
The clinical assistant professor of the UTPA/University of Texas at Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program (CPP) is on a mission to help those financially strapped students. She has taken matters into her own hands by creating a $10,000 scholarship fund.
The donation will establish the "Stepping Stones Endowment -Standing on the Shoulders of Pan Am," in July.
"Over the last few years I have had conversations with friends in the community and we reflected on the fact that we were standing on the shoulders of UTPA," Aguilera said. "The educational opportunities provided by then-Pan American University raised us closer to our professional goals."
This is the second gift the longtime pharmacist has donated to the University. Aguilera said she understands the challenges students face and hopes the endowment will eliminate some of the economic burden, and allow students to achieve their academic dreams.
"Giving back is the right thing to do," she said. "I just want to help."
Lydia Aleman, associate vice president for the Division of University Advancement, said an endowment like this means that UTPA will be able to provide additional scholarships to students, ensuring that they will accomplish their educational goals.
"We are so pleased that Dr. Aguilera has made this commitment to the University," Aleman said. "This gift will help students to succeed. It is an investment in their future."
The Edinburg native is now challenging other alumni to donate and add to the endowment to reach the University's goal of $100,000.
"I know that these same people can relate to the financial, social, and academic obstacles that students deal with every day," Aguilera said. "I feel that this endowment will provide an opportunity for so many ex-UTPA students to do the right thing and also give back."
Aguilera attended UTPA for most of her pharmacy pre-requisite courses, and then transferred to the University of Houston in 1978 where she received her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. She later received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Florida in 2008, but said her core training at UTPA laid the groundwork for her later success.
"It was everything. I can't even imagine where I would be without the opportunity I had to go to college in my home town," Aguilera said.
Her three children also began their careers at UTPA, so Aguilera said her relationship and loyalty to the University is longstanding. She is committed to fund the $10,000 donation over five years.
The idea for the second endowment came about during a conversation with a colleague. During the discussion, Aguilera said she realized she would not have been successful if she had not attended UT Pan American.
"I wouldn't have accomplished any of my dreams without the foundation I received at UTPA," she said.
Now Aguilera wants to share that achievement with her students.
"When I signed on as a member of the faculty, I thought I would spend my days reading, studying, teaching and other scholarly pursuits. The reality is that I spend a great deal of my day in meetings with students providing mentoring, advisement, research opportunities and generally looking for ways to enhance their experience at UTPA," Aguilera said. "I see that so many of my students need financial help."
To learn more about donating to UTPA, contact the Office of Development at (956) 665-5301.