On May 12, I walked across the stage in the UNT Coliseum to receive a bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in chemistry and political science. Almost all of my family are UNT graduates — including my parents, step-parents and grandparents — and UNT has been home to me all of my life.
As a kid, I came to campus with my dad (Scott Windham) almost every weekend. He was a police officer when I was born and has worked on campus for 25 years. I stood along the Homecoming parade route catching candy while he directed traffic, and I threw beanbags and played horseshoes at tailgating events. I’ve been to every football game with my family since I was 12.
When I came to UNT as a freshman in 2008, I took the advice of my parents and high school teachers and immediately got involved. I joined the Freshman Intern Program in the Student Government Association, interacting with other freshmen, meeting administrators and working on causes that were important to me, including campaigning for a new stadium.
That led to my first on-campus jobs, in the orientation and Honors College offices. At the Honors College, I was introduced to my college mentor, Dr. Gloria Cox, who taught me to stay on top of my school work and do everything with the utmost integrity.
Eventually, I launched a campaign to become student body president so I could work for students and advocate for their causes. That was the most rewarding part, discussing and resolving issues with students — like work on a campus smoking ban, the construction of a new Union and the affordability of college.
I also was chair of the Distinguished Lecture Series and had the honor to meet and interact one-on-one with financial expert Suze Orman, civil rights activist Cornel West, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former President George W. Bush.
I entered UNT with ambitions of becoming a medical doctor, but working in student government and in the U.S. Senate as an intern for John Cornyn took me in a new direction — to follow my other passion, government. Sen. Cornyn knew I was a student body president and every morning he would say, “Good morning, Mr. President.” Part of my job was to give tours of the U.S. Capitol, where I learned the stories behind all of the paintings and statues of people who are important in history.
One of my last nights in Washington, I was watching the legislative session on C-SPAN and decided to go to the Capitol with my ID card to sit in the chamber and watch the debate in person. I was the only one there. It lasted until 3 a.m., and I was fascinated by it. Afterward, I stood in the middle of the rotunda and looked up, soaking it all in. It was a turning point for me.
I’m now going to pursue my Ph.D. in political science at Texas A&M with a doctoral assistantship worth $150,000. Maybe I’ll teach, or maybe I’ll go back to Washington to help create healthcare policies. I may run for office one day.
But I’ll remember how my family guided me throughout my journey. And I’ll remember being in the Honors College and living in Honors Hall, working in the SGA offices, hanging out in Clark Park with my friends and tailgating at Fouts Field and Apogee Stadium.
UNT will always be my home.
Blake Windham’s degree symbolizes four generations of UNT alumni, dating back to the 1930s. Read more about his legacy family at northtexan.unt.edu/legacy-families.