Scholarship recipients show gratitude to COE donors at annual banquet

Jack Atkins, Derrick Edwards, Ruth Dennis, Cathy BryceJack Atkins and Cathy Bryce with their scholarship recipients, Derrick Edwards and Ruth Dennis.

Apogee Stadium's Club Level was alive with conversation, laughter and gratitude as the College of Education's scholarship donors and recipients came together for the annual STAR Celebration on Nov. 12.

The STAR (Special Thanks and Recognition) Celebration honors the college's donors and allows them to meet the student recipients of their scholarships in person. This year, nearly $200,000 was awarded to 170 plus students.

"Your donations have supported so many opportunities," said Kaitlin Cruise, and Interdisciplinary Studies/Special Education senior who received the Bessie P. Cowan and College of Education scholarship and spoke at the even on behalf of this year's recipients. "Because of your support I can have passion, and I can pursue my passions."

Among the 155 STAR Celebration attendees were Jerry Thomas, dean of the College of Education; Finley Graves, UNT provost and vice president for academic affairs; and Eileen Moran, UNT associate vice president for development.

College of Education alumna Cathy Bryce also spoke at the event. She and her husband, Jack Atkins, established the Eva Marie Howard Atkins and Opal Watson Bryce Collier Education, which was awarded for the first time this year.

"When I got up today, I felt like a teacher on the first day of the first year that I ever taught," Bryce said. "We've been talking about this day for months – that we were going to meet our scholarship recipients tonight. I've been excited about it all day long."

The scholarship donors weren't the only ones eager to meet their counterparts. Brett Bell, Sports Management senior and second-year recipient of the Rita Pilkey Scholarship, was excited to see his scholarship donation representatives for a second time. The memorial scholarship was represented by Jack Watson, a friend of the Pilkey family, and Sue O'Neil, sister of the first Pilkey scholarship recipient, who annually attend the STAR celebration on Pilkey's behalf.

"It doesn't seem like it's been a year since I met the representatives for my scholarship, but I was already looking forward to seeing them again," Bell said. "I've been looking forward to this for a while – just catching up. It's awesome."

Bryce urged everyone to continue to find ways to support students in need. Ken Bahnsen, who created the Kenneth Bahnsen Scholarship and is former UNT student and professor, did just that.

"I went to school [at UNT] and I taught here for 48 years, but I kept teaching defensive driving for scholarship money," said Bahnsen. "That's how we got money built up for a scholarship so I could donate to help the student - to help girls like Omalola Adegoke, my scholarship recipient."

Speaking to the students who received scholarships, Bryce encouraged them to remember the generosity of their donors, and to supporting scholarships themselves one day.

"My hope is that at some point in your life you will pay this forward for others," she said. "That is, after all, the way we achieve the greatest hope for the future of this country and world – by providing a pathway to the highest education that any student wants to attain."

To make a gift to the College of Education, please visit or contact Keturi Beatty at 940-891-6860 or to learn more about giving opportunities.