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Texas State University

Terry Scholars: Where Are They Now?

three graduates smiling with diplomas
Katie Luevano, Bonnie Cole Southerland, and Jennie Darst Syamken (all Terry Scholars and roommates).

Terry Scholars: Where Are They Now?

Howard and Nancy Terry founded the Terry Scholarship in 1987 with a check for $1.2 million. Today, the Terry Foundation funds freshman and transfer scholarships at 13 Texas public universities. Texas State joined this group in 2004. The first group of Terry Scholars graduated from Texas State in 2007-08. We reached out to the first class at Texas State and heard from three alumni, two of whom — Katie Luevano and Jennie Darst Syamken — were roommates for four years. 

Katie Luevano (B.A. ’08) is the advancement director at Veritas Academy, a growing classical, Christian, university-model school in southwest Austin. She began working at Veritas as the admissions manager in the fall of 2011 and joined the administration team in the spring of 2016. 

A former high school English teacher, Luevano says she tries to teach a class each school year as a way to connect with the students. 

“It is hard to put into words all that the Terry Scholarship means to me because it has touched every area of my life. When I initially received my Terry letter, it was the spring of my senior year in high school, during which both of my maternal grandparents, whom I was very close to, passed away, and my mom had just completed treatment for melanoma at MD Anderson. The letter and scholarship provided me with a renewed hope.” 

At Texas State, Luevano roomed with other Terry Scholars who are her best friends to this day. “Experiencing Texas State’s offerings and classes with these girls by my side pushed me to go out on a limb and embrace meaningful challenges, which included studying abroad for my foreign language credits, pursuing courses within the Honors College, working as a student instructor for the Department of History, and completing a double major with a teaching certification by graduation in May 2008,” she says. “My family and I are so grateful for the gift and opportunity I received to attend Texas State as a Terry Scholar. I am who I am today because of the gift and legacy of Howard and Nancy Terry.”

Jennie Darst Syamken (B.A. ’08) earned her degree in history with a minor in geography. This year she will begin a new chapter as a fourth/fifth grade teacher in a private school in the Corpus Christi area. 

For eight years Syamken was an academic advisor for Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, where she earned a master’s in history in 2018. 

“The Terry Scholarship gave me an opportunity that I never thought was possible. I graduated from Texas State University debt free and had the chance to move on to my master’s degree without any financial worries. I am forever grateful for this amazing organization and for their continued support and encouragement towards my future,” she says.

mary k twis headshot

Dr. Mary K. Twis (B.S.W. ’07) is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at Texas Christian University. “I teach at the undergraduate and graduate level. I also conduct research related to human trafficking prevention and intervention and provide program evaluation and consultation services for various nonprofits in North Texas,” Twis says. She plans to continue pursuing tenure at TCU. 

After graduating from Texas State in 2007, she took a year off to gain work experience before obtaining a graduate degree. Twis earned a master of social work degree from UT Arlington and worked for five years as a social worker. She graduated in May 2018 with a doctorate in social work. 

Asked how the Terry Scholarship changed her life, Twis says, “I am not sure if I would have been able to pursue graduate education if I carried a large student loan burden from my undergraduate education. Without graduate degrees, I would not have the career I have, and I would not be able to do what I love to do. Moreover, because I finished my undergraduate degree a year early, the Terry Foundation allowed me to transfer some of my scholarship funding to my master’s degree, which also greatly reduced my financial burden in young adulthood. 

“Who can say that they finished three degrees with limited savings and without any student debt? This is my story because the Terry Foundation saw something in me and chose to invest in my future, and for that I am forever grateful. 

“The career I have now has allowed me to save for my children’s education and future. The investment that the Terry Foundation made in me has made a difference not just to me, but to future generations.” 

The Terry Foundation

The program provides a four-year full scholarship for between 12 and 17 incoming freshman each year and covers 65% of the cost of attendance for 6 to 9 transfer students.