Educate Texas gives $750K for STEM degree accelerator

College to lead regional consortium focused on preparing students for petrochemical sector

BAYTOWN – Lee College has been awarded a $750,000 grant from Educate Texas to lead a regional consortium that aims to increase the number of underrepresented students earning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) credentials and entering the petrochemical workforce.

Posed shot with donation check
Parties involved in the Gulf Coast consortium of the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative gathered in Houston on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, to announce the grant award from Educate Texas. Pictured (left to right): Woody Paul, ExxonMobil; Debi Jordan, Lee College; Christy Ponce, Lee College; Peter Beard, Greater Houston Partnership; Allatia Harris, San Jacinto College; Dennis Brown, President, Lee College; Craig Beskid, East Harris County Manufacturers Association; Carolyn Watson, Global Philanthropy / JPMorgan Chase; Richard McKeon, Helmsley Charitable Trust; Angela Oriano, Lee College; Ann Pham, Houston-Galveston Area Council; Melissa Duarte, Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District; and Mike Krall, Lone Star College.

Lee College is one of only five institutions of higher education in Texas selected to receive grant funds for the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative. Each recipient convened a regional consortium that includes two-year colleges, four-year colleges, K-12 partners and workforce partners.

Consortium members have examined regional workforce data, identified the STEM pathways in which they plan to work and begun engaging faculty and workforce partners to achieve two goals: redesigning gateway courses in STEM majors to ensure alignment with workforce needs in the petrochemical industry, and providing professional development for faculty to improve teaching and learning in STEM fields.

“Lee College is privileged to serve as the Gulf Coast lead for the Texas STEM Accelerator Grant,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown, noting the importance of coordinated efforts to close the middle-skills gap in the region. “We have to strengthen the education to workforce pipeline through collaboration, but more importantly, through innovation. By bringing all partners — secondary and post-secondary educators, business and industry, workforce boards and others — we are more likely to build strong models that are replicable, scalable and sustainable.”

The STEM Accelerator project is developed in accordance with priorities for education and workforce outlined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission. The grant is funded through the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Greater Texas Foundation, Council for Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED,) JPMorgan Chase and the W.W. Caruth, Jr., Foundation. It is the first time the Helmsley Trust has ever funded a project outside New York State.

“The Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator motivates our education and workforce partners to collaborate at a regional level to develop and refine STEM pathways,” said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas. “These pathways will result in an increased number of students across the state earning STEM degrees that meet regionally-identified workforce needs. We are proud to be working with a strong public-private coalition of national and state foundations, corporations, local business groups and the state of Texas on this pioneering initiative.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit

Lee College receives $25,000 from PVF Roundtable for student scholarships

$25K Donation
Ginger Restovic, member of the PVF Roundtable Board of Directors; Ronn Haddox, Chairman of the Lee College Board of Regents; Dr. Dennis Brown, President of Lee College; and Dr. Cathy Kemper-Pelle, Vice President of Learning for Lee College.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College has received a $25,000 donation from the PVF Roundtable for scholarships that will support students in the craft trade programs of pipefitting, welding, machining and millwrighting.

Lee College administrators accepted the scholarship donation check during a special presentation at the October meeting of the Board of Regents.

“This will change students’ lives,” said Dr. Cathy Kemper-Pelle, Vice President of Learning, who attended the PVF Roundtable conference in August where the award was announced. “There is a large demand for skilled workers in our region, and your very generous gift will give students the opportunity to complete college credentials and start careers.”

The PVF Roundtable is an organization of companies and professionals involved in the pipe, valve and fitting industry. In addition to providing an open dialogue to exchange relevant information and creating awareness of industry affairs, the group is committed to helping prepare for the future growth of the industry through its support of educational and training institutions.

Ginger Restovic, a member of the PVF Roundtable Board of Directors, told the Regents the organization hopes to make the scholarship donation on an annual basis. After focusing its attention for many years solely on industry advancement, roundtable members recognized the importance of nurturing future generations of skilled workers needed for some $50 billion in projects slated for completion in the Gulf Coast region.

“We are more than honored to be able to pass this along,” Restovic said. “We know that there is a need out there and it’s not always at a four-year university. You educate them, and we’ll try to keep them employed.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite office in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit

Lee College handed $50,000 Fluor Foundation grant

Lee College was awarded this month a $50,000 grant from The Fluor Foundation to support industrial training programs, and provide college scholarships to Goose Creek and Barbers Hill students interested in pursuing industrial careers.

Representatives from Fluor Corp. and The Fluor Foundation presented the $50,000 check at the December meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. In addition to scholarships, the grant money will be used to purchase training equipment that enhances hands-on learning in the classroom.

Fluor reached out to Lee College in 2013 to forge a partnership that would address the growing demand for the next generation of skilled workers. Since that time, the company has helped recruit students for industrial training, offered valuable insight about how to improve and update program curricula, and given job opportunities to graduates.

“Fluor has truly proved to be a great industry partner for us,” said Debi Jordan, executive director of the Center for Workforce and Community Development. “They came to the table with not just challenges and problems, but solutions and support. They are very engaged.”

Torrence Robinson, president of The Fluor Foundation and senior director of Global Community Affairs, told the regents that Fluor is dedicated to developing the workforce that industry needs to be successful. Supporting quality educational initiatives is an essential part of that effort, he said.

“We are committed to helping provide the resources that you need to do your job even better, and we look forward to our continued partnership with Lee College,” Robinson said.

Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown and Board of Regents Vice Chairman Ron Haddox thanked Fluor and The Fluor Foundation for their generosity on behalf of the entire campus community.

“I can’t tell you how much this means to us, and more importantly, how much it means for our students,” Brown said.

Mitsubishi gives $250K in equipment, software

Lee College received this month a $250,000 suite of digital computer equipment and software from Mitsubishi Electric Corp., which will be used to train students for a range of high-demand, high-wage technical careers.

The donation included state-of-the-art Mitsubishi programmable logic controllers (PLCs), as well as associated software and training for instructors. Company representatives joined Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown, members of the Board of Regents and other administrators for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, May 2, at the McNair Center to get a firsthand look at the PLCs before students begin working with them.

An essential piece of equipment in many industries, PLCs help automate electromechanical processes — from the control of a vent fan in an oil refinery, to the motion of a conveyor belt on a factory assembly line. Technicians use specialized software to program the systems to produce the desired function.

In thanking Mitsubishi for its generosity, Dr. Brown noted that Lee College is fortunate to have strong connections with many industry partners. Such relationships benefit students by providing enhanced educational resources and greater opportunities for future success, he said.

“What Mitsubishi has done for the college will move us forward in our mission to prepare our graduates for industry,” Dr. Brown said. “Learning these skills will help students secure a career that can last a lifetime.”

Mark Werthman, director of the technical support group for Mitsubishi, said he hoped its donation would further bridge the gap between industry and education. Finding qualified employees is important to both the company itself, and the customers that purchase its products.

“We recognize the commitment at Lee College to the education and re-education of the workforce in this area, and we thank them for recognizing the needs of the industry,” Werthman said. “We are excited to have this opportunity and look forward to helping the college every step of the way.”

Chevron Phillips donates $40,000 for scholarships

Lee College will receive an additional $40,000 from Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. as part of the company’s ongoing Workforce Development Scholarship Program, which supports students interested in petrochemical careers.

Chevron Phillips Chemical announced the additional donation to the scholarship fund April 2 as it celebrated the groundbreaking of the first component of a $6 billion expansion at its Cedar Bayou facility in Baytown. The project includes construction of a world-scale ethane cracker at Cedar Bayou, and is expected to bring approximately 10,000 temporary engineering and construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs to the area.

Chevron Phillips Chemical established the Workforce Development Scholarship Program at Lee College in 2012 with an initial gift of $75,000. Since then, the company has awarded scholarships to 31 students in the process technology, instrumentation technology and electrical technology programs, including eight dual-enrollment students who are completing college coursework while still in high school. The programs prepare students for entry-level operations and/or maintenance jobs in the petrochemical industry.

The additional $40,000 gift will be allotted to the college at $10,000 per year from 2014-17, allowing more students to receive scholarship money over a longer period of time.

“As the demand for qualified process technicians and operators continues to increase, it is our responsibility as a community college to ensure our students are prepared for jobs here, within our local community,” said Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “We thank Chevron Phillips Chemical for continuing the generous support offered through this scholarship program and the opportunity it provides for students to be successful in both the classroom and the workforce.”