Impact of Giving

Gustavo Barcenas ('17 Ph.D.) volunteers at UNT’s Center for Play Therapy (Photography by Ahna Hubnik)In his counseling offices at Jewish Family Services, Gustavo Barcenas ('17) helps solve the problems of East Dallas residents.

Advocating for a domestic violence survivor, using his play therapy skills for a child with behavioral problems or conducting evaluations for patients are all often part of a day's work.

One reason Barcenas is able to do his job so well is because, as a graduate student, he received the Marcy Golden Memorial Scholarship, named after a woman who spent 25 years as a counselor and 40 years as a special education teacher. The scholarship, which ensured he could complete his degree, was established by Jason Simon ('11 Ph.D.), UNT's associate vice provost for institutional research and effectiveness, and his wife and children.

Now, Barcenas is grateful to be able to help others.

Members of the UNT student organization Faith Filled Women of Christ helped to price items at Twice as Nice thrift store in Denton during Make a Difference Day this fall. (Photo by Kara Dry)"I experienced firsthand how support really makes a difference in students' ability to focus fully on what they're doing so that they can find success," he says. "It's inspiring to now help improve people's lives."

Barcenas and the Simons are part of a chain of giving at UNT. In addition to providing students with a world-class education to pursue their careers, the university has established an expanding culture of service and philanthropy.

This year, the Division of Advancement, under the leadership of alumnus and vice president David Wolf ('04 Ph.D.), achieved its highest annual fundraising in university history with more than $30.1 million -- $19.6 million in cash contributions, as well as multi-year pledges and estate gift commitments.

Most recently, the division helped the university bring in additional grant funding, such as a $1.6 million grant from the Greater Texas Foundation to support high school peer mentoring.

"Our alumni and friends made a real difference this past year in supporting UNT's vision and making an impact on the university," Wolf says. "We are working to re-engage -- and energize -- alumni and donors with the university and focus dollars on helping students and UNT as a whole be more successful."

Jason ('11 Ph.D.), Rachel, Ethan and Abigail Simon (Photo by Ranjani Groth)This year, the division hosted more than 100 events to engage alumni and friends, helping the UNT Alumni Association hit an all-time high of 14,035 members. This increased engagement also helps support a culture of giving at UNT that begins with students, ensuring they have opportunities to work alongside alumni and other UNT community members to give back through service projects such as The Big Event and Make a Difference Day.

This sense of service extends beyond UNT. When Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast, the UNT community jumped into action -- from alum Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, who opened his Gallery Furniture doors in Houston to those whose homes flooded, to members of the Mean Green basketball team who distributed supplies to residents.

Being able to interact with those they helped allowed them to see the impact of their giving firsthand. And the same was true for the Simons when they met Barcenas, who was able to tell them how the scholarship they provided had helped him.

"Gustavo's story is why we give," Simon says. "The return is an invaluable investment into our society. I hope more donors see the opportunity."

Honoring family

As an international student, Barcenas wasn't able to work off campus and didn't have access to loans, so he often worried about how to pay for rent or food.

When he was awarded the Marcy Golden Memorial Scholarship, he felt a sense of relief.

"Each time I received the scholarship I thought, 'At least I have this money to survive until the end of the semester,'" he remembers.

That scholarship came thanks to Simon; his wife, Rachel, an executive at AT&T; and their two children, Abigail, 15, and Ethan, 13.

"We want to instill in our kids that giving to others is important," Simon says. "We're putting our money where our priorities are."

They have set up three endowed scholarships each at a level of $25,000 and above -- gifts they're able to pay toward over time -- to honor family members. The Susan Simon Higher Education Doctoral Scholarship, named after Jason's mother, supports students in the College of Education's higher education department. The Marcy Golden Memorial Scholarship goes to counseling students in recognition of Rachel's mother's work as a therapist. And the Harry and Anna Bernstein Memorial Scholarship, named for Rachel's grandparents, helps fashion students in the College of Visual Arts and Design as a nod to Harry and Anna's work in the textile industry.

Simon, who has worked at UNT since 2008, notes that the scholarships create ripple effects. The recipients go on to careers in which they will educate other students, counsel patients, create clothing and inspire others in their fields.

"Supporting scholarships is a chance to reconnect with the optimism, energy and excitement that students have at this point in their lives," Simon says. "By connecting with them, we are investing in others."

Paying it forward

Barcenas wanted to pursue a career in therapy and, specifically, work with Spanish-speaking families. His hometown of Toluca, Mexico, lacked mental health services.

"I had the fortune to grow up in a functioning family, but most of my friends were not in the same situation," he says. "That touched me and helped me realize what I wanted to do in the future."

Barcenas is grateful for the opportunities his scholarship afforded him.

"Now, it will be my turn to give back," he says.

Jordan Case ('81) also knows the benefits of scholarships. His father drove a beer truck and his mother worked as a waitress. Case knew he would need some help to achieve his college education.

He also was a great football player. He first attended Sul Ross State University, but after the school dropped its athletic scholarships, he came to UNT with hopes of making the team as a walk on.

Case more than succeeded. He played quarterback for three winning seasons under coach Hayden Fry in the late 1970s and was later inducted into the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame. After playing for three years with the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League, he went into the car business. Now, he is president and managing partner of car dealerships in three DFW area locations: Park Place Lexus/Plano, Park Place Lexus/Grapevine and Jaguar/Land Rover DFW in Grapevine.

Jordan Case ('81) (Photo by Ranjani Groth)He gives back to ensure that students have the same opportunities he did as a student-athlete.

Like the Simons, he has donated toward endowed scholarships at the $25,000 and above gift level. Case supports the Jordan L. Case Athletic Senior Awards Endowment and the Jordan L. Case Family Athletic Endowed Scholarship.

"Everybody deserves an opportunity," Case says.

He also pledged to help support the future $16 million indoor stadium, featuring a full football practice field, expected to break ground in 2018 south of Apogee Stadium.

"The new facility will give the coaches the tools they need to recruit and be competitive," he says.

Case says all the things he learned in athletics -- competition, teamwork, self-motivation, diversity and adversity -- have transitioned into how he runs businesses. His strategy won him the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which recognizes U.S. organizations for excellence in business management, in 2005. It was the first time a car dealership won the award.

Case has good memories of his time at UNT. When he wasn't playing football, he was studying for his radio, TV and film degree. He had his own radio talk show, "Huddle Talk," where he interviewed players and coaches.

Now he watches every home game from his suite at Apogee Stadium, another facility he helped support as a member of the stadium committee. For Homecoming, he invited about a dozen former teammates to join him.

"These bonds and friendships you build last forever," says Case, adding that he owes a lot to UNT.

"Someone gave back to the university," he says, "which allowed me the opportunity to afford an education and play football. And for that, I've always been thankful."

Contributing to community

Monica ('06) and Ernest ('11) Martinez (Photo by Ranjani Groth)Ernest ('11) and Monica ('06) Martinez also attend most every football and basketball game in addition to numerous UNT Alumni Association events, including regional alumni receptions and tailgates. They've also packed up meals for the hungry and put together bone marrow swab kits during The Big Event and Make a Difference Day on campus. As life members of the Alumni Association and members of the Mean Green Club, the Martinezes say their loyalty for UNT runs deep. They started college careers later in their lives and now feel a sense of gratitude for their educations.

"We achieved something that we had wanted to accomplish for years," Ernest says. "And now we're forever thankful and loyal to UNT."

As a senior project manager for a wireless company, Monica found herself topped out for her job. Her son, Nicholas, then in middle school, told her, "You can do so much better." Monica immediately drove to Denton and applied to UNT.

Ernest followed her a few years later after working 30 years as a general manager in the retail industry. He started off with online courses, and then Monica encouraged him to take classes on campus.

Monica, a general studies major, now works in bookkeeping and substitute teacher coordination at the Lewisville ISD, and Ernest, who earned a bachelor's degree in applied arts and sciences, is vice president of human resources at Securadyne Systems.

Upon Ernest's graduation, they were hooked as die-hard Mean Green fans and bought season tickets. Each year, they now purchase four seats, so they can invite friends and fellow alumni like Nathan ('94) and Becky ('07) Forshage. The Forshages had such a good time at this season's game against UTSA -- one of the nail-biters that UNT won in the last few seconds -- that they later bought their own tickets for the remaining home games.

The Martinezes also travel to away games. During the Army game last year at West Point, they made friends with Carl Hess ('66), a New Jersey resident, and still keep up with him. And they made the trip to Boca Raton, Florida, to support the team at the Conference USA championship game this season.

After Monica suffered a heart attack in January, many of the Mean Green and alumni family offered their support with notes of encouragement and flowers.

"We are so proud that UNT is our school," Monica says. "The community is special, and we are honored to be part of the Mean Green family."

Ernest adds, "Our engagement with the university gives us a great opportunity to build relationships."

Leaving a legacy

Paul Voertman and Richard ArdoinPaul Voertman understood the importance of supporting community throughout his life. As a philanthropist, patron of art and music, and former owner of Denton's iconic Voertman's Bookstore, he helped students earn their degrees and become world-class performers, artists and scholars, and he helped UNT make strides in the arts and academics.

UNT announced this fall that it will receive the largest bequest in its history from his estate. Voertman, a graduate of the Demonstration School and a UNT student in the 1940s, died in June at the age of 88.

The gift, projected to be at least $10 million, is designated to the colleges of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Music, and Visual Arts and Design. The funds will primarily support scholarships and fellowships, as well as research and creative activities such as the Opera Production Fund. More than 40 percent of the bequest will be eligible to receive matching funds from the Texas Research Incentive Program. That potentially leverages an additional $4 million to benefit research initiatives, including graduate student support.

"This gift will have a tremendous impact on UNT, our students and their opportunities for research and creative exploration today and for future generations," President Neal Smatresk says. "Denton was Paul's home, and he was a community-minded business owner who gave back in so many meaningful ways."

Voertman and Richard Ardoin, his partner of 48 years, were extremely generous to UNT during their lifetimes. Ardoin, who died in 2002, made a significant estate gift to UNT that includes a charitable trust. With Voertman's bequest, the couple's combined giving to UNT totals more than $15 million, making them UNT's top donors.

Voertman was known on campus not only for his longtime sponsorship of the annual student art competition, his gift of the Richard Ardoin-Paul Voertman Concert Organ, annual poetry prizes and many scholarships, but also for his individual support of students and his willingness to help wherever there was a need.

"Mr. Voertman's generosity and philanthropy were undeniably descriptive of the man he was," says music alumnus Isaiah Chapman ('17), who is now a graduate student in viola and music theory at Eastman School of Music. "It is not often that those who give are also generous with their time. Just when you thought he could not be any more incredible, he comes to your recital, despite his declining health. His spirit will forever be remembered and admired."

The generosity of Voertman's and Ardoin's gifts, along with the giving efforts of others, create significant impacts for UNT and will be felt by generations of students to come on campus. That generosity ripples into our communities as alumni leave the university to make their mark throughout the world in their chosen fields and their volunteer efforts, says Wolf, who is continually amazed by the kindness he sees within the Mean Green Nation.

"The philanthropy and gifts of time from our alumni and university friends leave an enduring legacy that spans our entire university community," Wolf says. "You can see -- and feel-- it in our labs, classrooms and creative spaces, and that chain of caring and giving clearly expands from our campus into the world to truly make a difference."

Giving Highlights for 2017 fiscal year

  • UNT increased major gifts (contributions of $25,000 or more) by 49.6 percent over last year.
  • UNT Annual Giving (contributions under $25,000) grew commitments more than 17.8 percent. A fundraising effort, the Diamond Eagles Giving Society, was created to make an immediate impact on UNT priorities.
  • UNT Advancement events, including the Wingspan Gala and the Kuehne Speaker Series, generated $1.49 million in revenue.
  • Planned gifts rose 33 percent to $7.5 million. Donors to UNT created 39 new endowments with the UNT Foundation. Those gifts include a $1.5 million endowment from alumnus Don Millican ('74) and his wife, Donna, to establish the Don and Donna Millican Endowed Chair in Accounting at the UNT College of Business.
  • UNT Advancement produced more than 100 events to engage alumni and friends, while the UNT Alumni Association hit an all-time high of 14,035 members.

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