One gift alone can contribute to transformative educational opportunities — the defining moments that change a student’s trajectory from unsure to successful, elevate a professor’s research into the national limelight and support the St. Mary’s University community in its faith journey through Catholic and Marianist traditions.
Now, multiply the glory these types of gifts can bring. Not by 10 or 20, but by more than 10,000.
Each takes St. Mary’s a step closer to realizing its vision to become one of the finest private universities in the region. Each propels the most ambitious fundraising effort ever undertaken at St. Mary’s — The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign launched in Fall 2017.
In November 2019, the University announced already meeting the goal of $130 million and increasing the campaign to a new $150 million goal.
St. Mary’s has received $51.5 million in student scholarship gifts and grants, which created 78 new endowed scholarships. Another $11.9 million has funded state-of-the-art transformations of classrooms and labs with equipment that graduates will use in industry, research and health care.
In the words of Alicia Cordoba Tait, D.M.A., whose position as the inaugural Beirne Director of the Center for Catholic Studies was funded by one of these donations, “the ‘Defining Moment’ is believing what is possible.”
She shares that belief in what is possible with the students and faculty across campus who — thanks to the campaign’s donors — have already witnessed the evolution of their experiences in faith formation, and academic and research excellence.
“In Catholic higher education, I found an environment where you can be all of who you are, especially when you allow your faith to be prominent in that,” Tait said. “I’m a better musician. I’m a better teacher. I’m a better human being because I’m allowed to be true to myself and I’m surrounded by people who are allowed to be true to themselves.”
Donations have already helped fund scholarships for students who may otherwise be unable to afford a St. Mary’s education. This is true for Magdalena Olivas, an Accounting and Finance and Risk Management senior from Mexico.
On the day of her high school graduation, Olivas had decided to go to another school because of her budget. But thanks to the St. Mary’s Carlos and Malú Alvarez International Student Endowed Scholarship Fund, she was able to attend her dream school.
“‘Thank you’ only includes eight letters, but to me, it involves a life-changing moment: a new hope, a dream come true and a bag full of dreams that will impact the lives of many,” she said.
A St. Mary’s scholarship also changed the life of Mya Culiver, a Computer Engineering junior and Women’s Basketball guard from New Mexico.
“Any financial assistance is a blessing,” she said. “I believe we have a purpose here on Earth to love and serve others. The people who have provided funds for me are a step ahead on that, and I will be doing the same when I’m in the position to do so.”
As a mentor, I can see that transformation at work in my students. When students are in the research lab working on answering real questions that could impact health and disease, they learn biology in a whole new way.
In addition to scholarships, the University increased the number of Marianist Leadership Program students on campus, thanks to donations. These opportunities give students like Laura Dicún, a junior Management major and Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor from Argentina, more skills to propel their careers.
“The Marianist Leadership Program has empowered me to be a leader for my community,” she said. “It has helped me discover where my strengths and weaknesses are, where I need to grow even more. The idea of being able to lead with the Marianist charisms is very significant to my future, especially because I want to be in education.”
The Defining Moment is not just changing the lives of students through scholarships and programs, but it is also helping by funding and refurbishing classrooms and labs. Funds have also supported 14 new endowed academic positions.
Verónica Contreras-Shannon, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences, now teaches the scientists of the future within a recently renovated biology classroom.
“Research as an undergraduate can be a transformative experience,” she said. “As a mentor, I can see that transformation at work in my students. When students are in the research lab working on answering real questions that could impact health and disease, they learn biology in a whole new way.”
Nicholas Romero, a senior Mechanical Engineering major from California, has benefited as a student from The Defining Moment Campaign because of the new labs on campus and as a member of the Marianist Leadership Program.
“The Mechanical Engineering program has given me the skills required to work in an engineering-related industry right out of undergraduate school, but with an emphasis on the importance of establishing interpersonal relationships and reflecting the characteristics of a Marianist education,” he said.
Benefits also extend to students within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Samantha Shine Trabucco, a Master of Arts in Public History student from Floresville, Texas, said she is able to give back to the San Antonio community thanks to the University’s Promoting Post-Baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans Program.
There’s also the escape into nature. Many of these children have been through developmental trauma and other issues at home. Three hours in a boat or on the dock can, at least temporarily, make those problems feel smaller and far away. They also become aware of their surroundings, giving them the incentive to respect and protect the environment that offered them solace.
And then, of course, there’s the delight and triumph that comes with finally catching that fish.
“It gives you a rush,” says Jones. “And it’s good for your pride.”
“You’re instilling in them the love of nature. You’re changing their lives forever.”
“Through the Program, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with the nonprofit Esperanza Center to produce a digital project on the history of the Missions and Tejano culture, she said.
The Defining Moment does not just help students today, but creates leaders of the future.
“My life was transformed because a St. Mary’s professor saw in me more than I saw in myself and cared enough to spend the time necessary to get me to see my potential,” said David Sommer, Ph.D., Charles E. Cheever Chair of Risk Management and a St. Mary’s alumnus.“The most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to play a part in the transformational process our students undergo here. To assist our students as they develop into promising young professionals and genuinely good people is an honor that I never take for granted.”
Learn more about the Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign and how you can make the goals possible at https://www.stmarytx.edu/defining-moment.
In Catholic higher education, I found an environment where you can be all of who you are, especially when you allow your faith to be prominent in that.
My life was transformed because a St. Mary’s professor saw in me more than I saw in myself.
‘Thank you’ only includes eight letters, but to me, it involves a life-changing moment: a new hope, a dream come true and a bag full of dreams that will impact the lives of many.
The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign Gifts Bring Glory to a
St. Mary’s University Education
Transforming the St. Mary's Experience