Lee College Foundation Gala raises record $175,000 for scholarships and support

Foundation Board will award a total of more than $470,000 to students this academic year

Gala Fundraiser
The Thursday Night Band, a Lee College ensemble featuring students Emily Vaughan, Simon Flores, and Andrew Adams-Whitehead, performs at the 31st annual Lee College Foundation Gala, held in September at Sylvan Beach Pavilion in LaPorte. The gala raised a record $175,000 that will be used for student scholarships and other forms of support.

BAYTOWN, TX — With nearly 400 guests in attendance and $175,000 raised, the 31st annual Lee College Foundation Gala was a record-breaking success that will help ensure deserving students at all levels will have the scholarships and other forms of support they need to pursue higher education.

And while many college and university foundations only offer scholarships to students attending school full-time, the Lee College Foundation will  instead focus on meeting students’ needs wherever they are.

Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, the foundation will award more than $470,000 to students this academic year, and all are eligible: those enrolled full-time; part-time; in dual-credit classes for high-school students to earn college credits; in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development; and in the Lee College Huntsville Center prison program.

“Many of our students are surprised and amazed that somebody they don’t know is willing to donate funds to help them get an education,” said Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation and director of Foundation and Donor Relations. “The gala provides an opportunity for industry and the community to celebrate together and gives us the chance to thank those donors, who are so loyal and proud to have their own community college that’s doing so well.”

Tax-deductible contributions from industry and private donors are also used to support the Student Success Fund, created to help those facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses. When a student was notified that she would receive a Pell Grant for her tuition — but not before the deadline when her classes would be dropped for non-payment — the Student Success Fund helped bridge the gap. When a student received a $400 textbook scholarship but still lacked several books she needed for her rigorous coursework in the nursing program, the Student Success Fund provided the additional money to buy all the books required for her class.

“Enrollment is one thing, but students have to persist, stay the course and graduate,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “So many little things can impede a student’s progress and we have to be able to step in and help them. Financial contributions are immensely important — more important now than ever.”

As the foundation continues in its mission to provide financial support to Lee College students, board members hope to see more donors choosing planned giving by setting up bequests, charitable trusts and annuities that will allow them to make a lasting difference for generations to come.

“I’m excited about my future,” said Emily Vaughan, a native Baytonian and foundation scholarship recipient who is active in Lee College Theatre and plans to attend Sam Houston State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in music education at Sam Houston State University. “None of this would be possible without donations. They really lightened my load.”

For more information about giving to the Lee College Foundation, contact Warford at pwarford@lee.edu or visit www.lee.edu/foundation.

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 education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Sell-out crowd expected for Lee College Foundation Gala

Highly anticipated event raises money for scholarships and other student support

Photo of those attending the 2015 Gala.
The 30th annual Lee College Foundation Gala held in 2015 drew 350 guests and raised a record-setting $150,000 for scholarships and other forms of student support. Tickets for this year’s gala have already sold out.

BAYTOWN, TX — A sell-out crowd will enjoy food, music, silent and live auctions and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Lee College students at the 31st annual Lee College Foundation Gala, which will be held at Sylvan Beach Pavilion to raise much-needed funds for scholarships and other forms of student support.

The gala is set for Thursday, Sept. 15, and will begin with a social hour at 6:30 p.m., followed by a seated dinner at 7:30 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by Lee College student musical ensembles and Skyline, a Houston-based band well known for deftly performing a wide range of styles — from classic rock and country to Motown, Latin, jazz and the big band sound that was popular at the historic pavilion in its heyday.

“Over the years, attendance and proceeds from the gala have increased due to the generosity of individuals, businesses and industry in this community and the surrounding area,” said Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation. “These donors believe in education and realize that it can change lives and open doors to opportunities. Students continue to be amazed that contributors have given money to help someone they’ve never met attend college.”

The first Foundation Gala was held in the early 1980s at the suggestion of board members — both to raise money, and to raise awareness of the foundation’s mission to provide for the needs of Lee College students through scholarships and other types of student support. Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, the foundation will award more than $450,000 in scholarships in this academic year. The 30th annual Foundation Gala held last year raised a record-setting $150,000.

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 education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

EHCMA donates $140K for scholarships and support

BAYTOWN, TX – Students pursuing technical programs of study at Lee College now have additional money to help fund their education after the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) donated $140,000 for scholarships and other academic support.

ECHMA presentation to Regents
Todd Monette, outgoing Board Chairman for the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA), signs a $140,000 donation check Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. The association raised the money at its second annual golf tournament to provide scholarships and support for students in technical programs. Also pictured (l-r) are Pam Warford, Executive Director of the Lee College Foundation; Craig Beskid, EHCMA Executive Director; Monty Heins, incoming EHCMA Board Chairman; Roy Watson, Chairman of the EHCMA Workforce Development Committee; and Ronn Haddox, Chairman of the Lee College Board of Regents.

EHCMA Executive Director Craig Beskid, outgoing Board Chairman Todd Monette, incoming Board Chairman Monty Heins and Workforce Development Committee Chairman Roy Watson presented the donation check Thursday, Dec. 17, at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents.

The money was raised at the second annual EHCMA Workforce Development Golf Tournament in November, in which more than 35 teams from more than 70 companies in the manufacturing and construction industries participated this year. Proceeds from the tournament exceed the association’s goals, and were divided between Lee and San Jacinto College.

“This funding will have a positive impact on the availability of programs that provide the skills and certifications needed for students within the surrounding communities to enter into the petrochemical and manufacturing workforce,” said Monette, manager of the LyondellBasell Channelview Chemical Complex and featured speaker at the Lee College Fall 2015 Commencement Ceremony. “This golf tournament is one of the many ways EHCMA brings our community together to support the growth of the Houston workforce and provide opportunities for our community.”

EHCMA focuses heavily on the workforce development issues facing the industry and sponsors numerous initiatives to create opportunities for local students to access skilled education programs, particularly focused on successful petrochemical or manufacturing careers.

“Finances are one of the main barriers that our students have to completing their degrees,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “These scholarship dollars mean a lot in terms of our students’ ability to really finish what they start. To have industry step forward and provide this kind of an opportunity is amazing.”

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 www.lee.edu.

St. Thomas signs two Lady Rebels

As the five most recent graduates from the Lady Rebel Volleyball Team prepare to embark on the next phase of their educational journeys, two student-athletes have signed on to continue playing the sport they love at the university level.

Lady Rebels
Lady Rebels Volleyball Head Coach Tracie Johnson (top left), Assistant Coach Paige Jenkins Sorge (top right), Candace Grosjean (bottom left) and Alyzabeth Vincent (bottom right).

Candace Grosjean and Alyzabeth Vincent will join the volleyball team at the University of St. Thomas in Houston after receiving their associate degrees from Lee College last weekend at spring commencement. Grosjean is a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, while Vincent graduated from Deer Park High School.

“We are really proud of this group — not only for what they’ve done in athletics, but also for all they have done in school,” said Head Coach Tracie Johnson, who became acquainted with Grosjean and Vincent when both girls were in the seventh grade and beginning to build their volleyball skills. “I will miss these ladies a lot.”

Grosjean and Vincent counted the exceptional athletic facilities at Lee College among the things they would miss most about the Lady Rebel volleyball program, along with their teammates and coaches and the feeling of playing in the Sports Arena. Both are looking forward to what the next chapter holds.

“It’s so exciting to be able to finish college and get to play volleyball while we’re doing it,” Grosjean said. “We’ll have a lot of chemistry on the court, and I’m happy that we will be able to play another 2 years together.”

Vincent agreed, adding, “We’re excited to play again and thankful for this opportunity.”

Joy, gratitude at Foundation Scholarship Breakfast

Before she was awarded a scholarship from the Lee College Foundation, Honors Program student and Nigerian immigrant Gift Sampson had to make the difficult choice between paying tuition or taking care of household bills. At her husband’s insistence, the tuition always came first.

Foundation Scholarship Breakfast attendees
Students and donors got acquainted at the 13th annual Lee College Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, Friday, April 10, at the Rundell Hall Conference Center.

“After we paid the tuition, we didn’t have enough money to see us to the end of the month,” Sampson said through tears at the 13th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, held Friday, April 10, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. “But he told me: We are going to make it. … And I worked so hard. I went to the Writing Center every day, to the point where I called and they knew my voice.”

Each year, the foundation breakfast gives scholarship recipients and their donors the opportunity to connect. Students personally thank donors for the tuition or textbook assistance that helped fund their education, while donors see and hear firsthand how their generosity has made a difference.

“I just get amazed by what we have at Lee College and in this community,” Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown said at the breakfast. “In the eyes of the donors, you can see the excitement they have for what they have been able to do: helping us get the students here, keep the students here, and graduate. And in the students, you can see the progress and the growth that they’re making because you believed in them. There simply aren’t enough ‘thank-yous’ we can give.”

Sampson described how she and her husband’s shared faith in her lifelong dream of receiving a college education kept them going despite myriad challenges — from conquering the English language barrier, to overcoming doubts about her own ability to excel academically after coming from a culture where women were valued only for their potential worth as brides and wives.

“When I received the $1,000 scholarship, that was how it all started and that money meant the world to me,” said Sampson, who received the Cindy McNeill Memorial from the foundation. “There is a text in the Bible that says that if you cast your bread upon many waters, that it will come back to you in so many ways. The bread that you cast touched me in another part of the world and now I am here today, because of you. I cannot be more grateful.”

Gift Sampson (scholarship recipient)
Scholarship recipient Gift Sampson (center), along with her husband Garland Blanchard (left), thanked donor Kelly McNeill (right) for her generosity.

For John Allen, a Barbers Hill High School senior taking dual-credit college courses in process technology, receiving the Chevron Phillips Workforce Development Scholarship through the Lee College Foundation opened a world of new possibilities for his future.

“The money for tuition and books has been really helpful to me and my family, but the money is just the beginning,” Allen said at the breakfast, noting how much he has gained from his relationship with Todd Jackson, the Chevron Phillips employee mentor with whom he was paired as a scholarship recipient.

“He took me on a tour of the plant and I was able to see how to apply what I’m learning in class to the real world. You all have motivated me for success.”

The Lee College Foundation is a non-profit entity that raises private funds to help support scholarships and other worthwhile initiatives that directly affect student success, and promote the student’s ability to reach their educational goals. This year, the foundation endowment topped $10 million for the first time in history. For more information about the foundation or the Foundation Board, contact Executive Director Pam Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@leecollegeonline.com.

Martin awarded prestigious Cooke scholarship

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After running into a few obstacles while applying for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, Lee College sophomore Zachary Martin had almost given up on the possibility of being one of just 75 community college students selected nationwide.

Then Georgeann Ward, coordinator of the college Honors Program, stood up at a recent event to make a special announcement.

Martin, a graduate of Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown and co-captain of the award-winning college Debate Team, had just finished an exhibition round and was expecting to hear the judges’ decision. Instead, Ward told the 30 supporters gathered in the Bayer Conference Center that Martin had been named a 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.

The highly selective Cooke Foundation scholarship is the largest private scholarship for community college transfer students in the country. Recipients receive up to $30,000 per year to attend an accredited, four-year college or university, where they can pursue any course of study they choose. The award money may be used for tuition, living expenses, books and other required fees.

“I was completely blown away,” said Martin, an honors student and the fourth Jack Kent Cooke scholarship recipient in Lee College history. “Ever since I graduated from high school, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for college. To know that I’ll be able to be go and get my education without worrying about that is such a burden off my shoulders. It’s a blessing from God himself.”

Cooke scholarship applicants must be current students at an accredited U.S. community college or 2-year institution with sophomore status; have a cumulative college GPA of 3.5 or higher; plan to transfer to a 4-year college or university to begin studies in the coming fall; and demonstrate significant unmet financial need.

A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Martin has earned a 4.0 GPA and will graduate from Lee College in May with an associate degree in music. He is ranked the No. 1 novice debater in the country by the International Public Debate Association, and has also received statewide honors for choir, among many other accolades.

Charlotte Mueller, a music instructor at the college, said she can’t imagine a more worthy recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship than Martin. A student in her music literature and applied piano classes, Martin was a role model and natural team player who never let personal adversity get him down.

His character and deep sense of self-worth and value left an impression, she said.

“Whatever Zach does, he puts his heart and soul into it,” Mueller said. “He goes out of his way to encourage other students to do their best. While his responses and answers to questions in class were first-rate, he always turned to other students and prompted them with comments that he knew would lead them to make significant contributions to the class discussion as well.”

Though he has not yet made a final decision about where he will continue his collegiate studies, Martin said he is excited about what the future holds.

“I am very pleased and grateful that I received so much support in making sure my education at Lee College was the best it could be,” he said shortly after learning he was named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. “I thank you all so very much, because you’ve really made a difference in my life.”

Students, Donors Connect at Scholarship Breakfast

For Miguel Hernandez, enrolling at Lee College several years ago to earn an associate degree in pipefitting began a series of transformations and promotions that changed his life for the better.

Scholarship Breakfast 2014Now an instructor at the college, Hernandez and his wife, Maria, are also Lee College Foundation scholarship donors with a lofty goal: to give enough money to fill an entire classroom with bright students eager to pursue their dreams.

“It’s been a great satisfaction to see students get the same opportunities that I did,” Hernandez said Friday, April 11, at the 12th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast in the Student Center, imploring the students in the room to seek out a job that would allow them to make an impact on the world.

“Don’t embark on a career for material reasons,” he said. “Find purpose in what you do.”

Each year, the foundation breakfast gives scholarship recipients and their donors the opportunity to connect. Students are able to personally thank their donor for the tuition or textbook assistance that helped pay for their education, while donors hear firsthand how their generosity has made a difference.

After spending much of her life as a wife tending to the needs and schooling of her three children, Debra Long arrived at Lee College full of doubts about her ability to be a successful student – even after she learned she would be awarded a foundation scholarship.

“What began as an experiment became a passion,” Long told the crowd at the scholarship breakfast. “After three semesters, 18 honors hours and four conferences, I am filled with wonder at where I am in my life. I honestly would not be standing here if it wasn’t for you.”

The son of a single mother who worked multiple jobs to support a family of five, Fernando Izaguirre fell into drugs and bad behavior before turning his life around and gaining admission into Angelo State University. Working 40 hours a week to pay for school and make ends meet took precious time away from his studies, however, and he ended his first year with grades too low to continue.

Returning home to Baytown to attend Lee College was one of the best decisions he ever made, Izaguirre said. The foundation scholarship he received took a burden off his shoulders.

“I didn’t have to struggle and worry about how I was going to pay for my education,” he said.

Hearing the stories of the students’ ability to overcome their challenges with the help and generosity of Lee College donors “gives me goose bumps,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown.

“I cannot thank you enough,” Brown said at the end of the foundation breakfast. “What you do with these scholarships means so much.”

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.”

Several scholarships to be handed out at Tech Night

Lee College will give away a dozen scholarships to lucky students who attend Tech Night, an annual event that showcases technical programs of study.

High-school students from surrounding districts, current college students and members of the community are all invited to Tech Night, to be held from 6-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 8, in the Lee College Sports Arena. Through hands-on demonstrations, exhibits and one-on-one conversations with instructors, participants will learn about the wide variety of programs available at the college that can lead to jobs in the technical, industrial, science and health care fields.

Representatives from several programs will be on hand to answer questions and discuss opportunities, including: process technology; computer technology; electrical and instrumentation technology; industrial studies, such as welding, pipefitting, millwright and machine tech; logistics; professional administrative technology; allied health; nursing; physics; and pre-engineering.

Tech Night attendees will be able to participate in a raffle to win one of 12 student scholarships ranging from $200-500, along with other prizes. There will also be information available about the non-credit courses offered through the Center for Workforce and Community Development, and the resources and services provided through Student Affairs, Financial Aid and the Educational Opportunity Center.