Faculty member establishes endowment scholarship
By Roxanne Lerma Casares, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/31/2012
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Dr. Lydia Aguilera, a first-generation college graduate, knows firsthand the monetary burden of going to pharmacy school.

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Dr. Lydia Aguilera, clinical assistant professor of the UTPA/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program (CPP), established an endowment scholarship to help students in the CPP pay for school. Photo courtesy of Armando Rodriguez, Timeless Photo Studio, McAllen, Texas.

“I experienced the social, financial and academic challenges that most of my students face every day,” Aguilera said.

The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) educator wants to alleviate that load for her students, and has found a unique way to do it. Aguilera has established a new scholarship fund for UTPA pharmacy students.

“It is a big decision, in terms of finances. I will have to make adjustments in my personal life to fulfill the commitment, but it had to be done. My students need help,” she said.

The endowment, set up by Aguilera, a clinical assistant professor of the UTPA/University of Texas at Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program (CPP), will help students in their spring semester before going to a cooperative pharmacy school.

The professor has also prepared an appeal letter that will be mailed out, challenging alumni of the cooperative program to donate.

“Including the class of 2012, we have had 67 graduates of this program. They all know how hard it was to get into and get through the program. They are all Doctors of Pharmacy now, and can look back on their years in the CPP with a sigh of relief and a huge sense of accomplishment,” Aguilera said.

Aguilera said she is hoping the endowment will encourage those former students to help future pharmacists.

“I want them to look back on the years they spent in the program. I know they will agree that some financial relief would have been a blessing,” Aguilera said.

The Edinburg native completed most of her pharmacy pre-requisite work at then-Pan American University. She then attended the University of Houston College of Pharmacy where she graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy, and went on to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of Florida.

“The best way I can describe it, is feeling like you're never going to catch up, and when you're close, you get a whole slew of new assignments,” Aguilera said. “Then it's back to the frantic studying, working and oversleeping.”

The scholarships will help offset college expenses, such as moving costs and the fee for the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), during the final semester for students planning to leave to the cooperative pharmacy school.

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 pharmacy students, ensuring that they will achieve success and graduate.

“We are committed to helping aspiring pharmacy students excel academically and this gift will give us the resources to do that,” Aleman said. “Dr. Aguilera’s commitment to the University is strong and we are grateful she has invested in UTPA and its students.”

After a long successful career in the pharmacy industry, Aguilera signed on as faculty for the CPP in 2009.

“I realized that I wanted my life to mean more, to serve more and knew that working with students at UTPA would provide that opportunity,” she said.

Aguilera said she decided to establish the endowment at UT Pan American because she wants to create a legacy of helping students realize their dreams of becoming a pharmacist.

“This is the place where it all started. This is the institution that opened its doors and said ‘Come on in.’ I wouldn't have accomplished any of my dreams without the foundation I received at UTPA,” she said.

Aguilera is committed to fund the $10,000 endowment over five years. When an endowed scholarship is given, the donated money is invested. Only the interest earned from the donation is used to fund scholarships, so Aguilera’s endowment will be a permanent gift.

“It is vital to give back because it is the right thing to do,” Aguilera said.

For more information about donating to UTPA, contact the Office of Development at (956) 665-5301.