Texas Exes scholarship named for Senator Judith Zaffirini

Alexa Ura

The Texas Exes announced a new scholarship named for Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a long-time champion of affordable higher education.

The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship was announced Tuesday morning during a ceremony hosted by the Texas Exes, the independent UT alumni organization. The scholarship will first be awarded to one student in fall 2013 and will be awarded to multiple students per year in the future.

Judith Zaffirini’s 30-year-old son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., will endow the scholarship for high school seniors from South Texas, with preference for students from Webb, Starr or Zapata counties. The scholarship will be renewable for up to four years if students maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

“What we all wish for our children is not be like us but to be better than us,” Judith Zaffirini said. “Not to match our accomplishments but to surpass them. Ladies and gentlemen, I think I have succeeded.”

Zaffirini, whose legislative priorities include adequate funding for financial aid programs, has authored bills in support of funding for financial assistance programs and helped establish the B-On-Time Loan Program, a state loan program that offers students loan forgiveness.

Both Zaffirini and her son earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from UT.

“If you look across this room, there’s a lot of people from all parts of the state and even different parts of the country,” Carlos Zaffirini Jr. said. “There’s one thing that we all have in common: the University of Texas made our lives better. The goal of this scholarship is to make this state and this country better the way my mom did.”

Judith Zaffirini formerly chaired the Higher Education Committee since its inception in 2009. Beginning in 2005, she chaired the Higher Education Subcommittee before it was upgraded to a regular committee.

In 1987 she joined the senate as the first Hispanic woman to be elected into the position.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst recently reappointed Judith Zaffirini to chair the Senate Committee on Government Organization, but she will continue to serve on the higher education committee as general member.

UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said the Zaffirini family understands the importance of financial assistance for students in South Texas.

“One of the UT System’s highest priorities is improving education and health in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” Cigarroa said. “This scholarship will support hardworking, qualified students who may not have been able to attend the University of Texas because of financial circumstances.”

UT President William Powers Jr. said Texas Exes scholarships, including the Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship, help the University attract a diverse
student body.

“[Scholarships] also stand for the proposition of what public and great public universities are about,” Powers said. “In every way, scholarships are so critical and that is one of the things we’re celebrating today.”

The Texas Exes will manage the scholarship. The alumni association awards close to $2 million in scholarships to about 700 students annually.

Printed on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 as: Scholarship named for Senator Zaffirini