UTPA Alumnus Honors Professor in an Extraordinary Way
On a university campus, among the swarming mix of thousands of students and professors, every now and then, a unique connection is sparked in the classroom between an inspirational professor and a promising student. Sometimes, it’s those connections that can last a lifetime and build the foundation for a professional relationship that can impact the lives of far more than ever thought possible.
When Jesus A. Zambrano, BBA-Finance '02, first took a course with Dr. Cynthia Brown as a junior at The University of Texas-Pan American, he never thought that Dr. Brown would play such an influential role in his professional career and life.
"I enjoyed her teaching methods," he said. "I got an A in her class. Then I took an additional course with her and that's how we began our long-lasting relationship."
Dr. Brown, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies at UT-Pan American, began teaching at the University in 1998. She has continued a successful career with the University and has impacted the lives of countless students and colleagues.
Zambrano attributes much of his success to her professional guidance and mentorship. As his time progressed at UT-Pan American, Dr. Brown coordinated a meeting for Zambrano and then Dean of UT-Law School, Bill Powers. "Maybe it was my destiny, but that is the main reason I applied to UT-Law," Zambrano said.
Throughout his undergraduate education, Zambrano worked a full-time job, fulfilling various roles for the International Bank of Commerce (IBC). He paid his way through school and took night classes each semester. In the end, the strenuous schedule and self-discipline paid off for him.
Now, well into his career as a successful attorney for Inter National Bank (INB) and CEO of Solida USA, LLC, Zambrano has found time to fulfill one of his greatest passions: philanthropy. Zambrano and his wife Ariana, who also earned a Finance Degree in 2002 from UT-Pan American, have recently agreed to contribute $20,000 to UT-Pan American to establish the Dr. Cynthia Brown Endowed Scholarship. The generous gift, which Zambrano made in honor of Dr. Brown, is not only meant to assist students, but to honor the professor who he credits so much of his academic and professional success to.
"This gift is a way of honoring Dr. Brown since I cannot pay her back for what she has done for me. She mentored, encouraged, and believed in me. And although I've always believed in myself, her guidance was truly invaluable. Establishing an endowed scholarship in her name is a way to honor her for being such a great professor and human being," Zambrano stated.
Dr. Brown says she is truly humbled by the endowment. "It's an award that is far beyond anything that I would have ever dreamed would be possible. But, Jesse is a very special person and was a very special student. He quickly shared with me the fact that he was working full time. It was amazing that he was always the most prepared in class, was never absent, was always reaching out, and always wanted to make sure that he understood the material. He wanted to know how he could better himself and how he could move forward within the banking profession. I became his mentor and we talked a lot about his life decisions and the decision to go to law school, with the idea that it would keep his options open within banking as well as within law. We kept in touch throughout law school and once he came back to clerk at a local law firm, and then stayed in the Valley, we remained in touch. I think that as a teacher - to watch a student progress in this way is one of the most rewarding things, and one of the reasons that you love the profession. It really signifies the best of everything about being a faculty member."
Associate Vice President for University Advancement, Lydia Aleman, who has been working with Zambrano to establish the endowment, couldn't agree more with his decision to honor Dr. Brown. "She's our Vice Provost for Graduate Studies. She leads the graduate office and has a plethora of responsibilities under her belt. It's almost too much to mention. She is just phenomenal."
This inspiring gift has also paved a path for Zambrano to engage in what he believes is an essential facet in the platform of advancement. Recently, Zambrano has been able to dedicate more of his time toward philanthropy. As a Board Member of the PSJA Education Foundation, he is working to advance education at all levels across the Rio Grande Valley. "I want to get more involved with programs that provide funds for educational opportunities. I want to make an impact going forward by participating in other scholarship programs and educational opportunities for needy and deserving students."
Zambrano is working to increase the practice of philanthropy across the RGV and he believes that it is not only necessary, but that there is more that can be done to achieve this. As UT-Pan American moves toward its consolidation with UT-Brownsville and welcomes the establishment of a new university and new medical school, the universities' network of supporters is working to expand their reach and engage a greater number of alumni to support an increasing student enrollment estimated at 30,000.
UT-Pan American has over 70,000 alumni spread across the world and Zambrano says that giving back to your alma mater is about more than just a dollar amount. It's about appreciating the "intangible benefits" gained from a college education, which can't be stamped with a price tag.
"There are so many intangible benefits derived from a successful professional career. Of course, the money is great when you make it. But once you do, we have a responsibility to give back. In reality, what you pay for an education, compared to the income you make going forward, is really a small amount. Having Dr. Brown by my side - her advice, counsel and sound mentorship are the intangible benefits that I am talking about. Only I know the value that it has created for me and my family," he said.
Zambrano has set the bar high among his peers and fellow alumni, and he continues to stay motivated to expand his philanthropic efforts. The professional relationship with Dr. Brown as his professor, mentor and friend inspired him and yielded a gift that is already inspiring many others.
"As alumni get involved, others will follow and will be compelled to participate. I know this scholarship will help many students in the future, and I hope Dr. Brown continues her career at UTPA because of the impact she has on students."
If you are interested in making a gift to support UT-Pan American, please contact the Division of University Advancement at email@example.com or (956) 665-5301. If you would like to make a secure gift online, please visit http://BroncCountry.UTPA.edu/GiveNow.