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TWU honors civic leader, scholarship recipients

Profile image for By Britney Tabor
By Britney Tabor

DALLAS — A record 420 people attended a Texas Woman’s University luncheon Thursday in Dallas honoring a Dallas civic leader and recognizing four TWU doctoral candidates with $3,000 scholarships.

Mary Brinegar, the president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, was awarded the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award, recognizing Dallas leaders for work in improving the quality of life in the community and advancing the importance of education. The award is presented by Bank of Texas, TWU and the TWU Foundation.

Brinegar has served as the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society’s president and CEO since 1996. She’s also served as associate general director for the Dallas Opera, worked with the Science Place in Dallas and for nine years raised funds for KERA. According to TWU officials, more than $90 million has been raised for Dallas Arboretum capital projects under Brinegar’s leadership and the venue draws an annual attendance of 947,000.

In remarks Thursday, Brinegar said she’s never accomplished anything on her own for a nonprofit, but that the success was because of several others. She also talked about the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, which opened last September at the Dallas Arboretum and its focus on science. Brinegar thanked supporters and volunteers of the garden.

Following the luncheon, Brinegar, said it was a “stunning surprise” to be asked to accept the award.

“I am so terribly flattered and honored that an award such as this, given to someone such as myself that leads a nonprofit also means that there were a lot of people behind the scenes that made this particular project, our Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, a reality,” she said. “It also says a lot to anyone that’s engaged in any nonprofit activity right now. Life is so much better when you can do it with friends.

“You can accomplish great things if you never let down your standards,” she said. “I was just in the right place at the right time, and I don’t think I was smarter or more clever than anybody, but I certainly had passionate people around me.”

The 12th annual awards luncheon was held at the Belo Mansion and Pavilion.

The award and scholarships bestowed Thursday are named for Virginia Chandler Dykes, a health care provider known internationally for her work in occupational therapy. Dykes, who was present for the awards presentation Thursday, completed the graduate occupational therapy program at the university in 1954 and from 2005 to 2011 served on the TWU Board of Regents.

Dykes called the work of the graduate students recognized with scholarships impressive.

Among the doctoral candidates recognized with scholarships Thursday were Sheila Bustillos-Reynolds of Denton, Angela Boisselle of Bedford, Amy Johnson of Hurst and Laura Thomas of Lubbock.

Bustillos-Reynolds is pursuing a doctorate degree in women’s studies with a concentration in multicultural studies at the TWU Denton campus that she hopes to complete in two years. Her research focuses on access to higher education for students who were in the foster care system, and she hopes to become a women’s studies professor.

“My interest in these students peaked when I worked with a small group of former foster youth who were attending college and having trouble graduating,” Bustillos-Reynolds said in her remarks. “The more I talked with these students and researched their backgrounds, the more intrigued I became and invested I became in their professional and personal lives.”

Boisselle is pursuing her doctorate in occupational therapy at TWU in Dallas and intends to complete the program within the next year.

She said Thursday she intends to dedicate her career to “studying the interface between advanced technology for individuals with cerebral palsy.” Upon completing her doctorate, Boisselle said she intends to travel to Malawi, Africa, and work with occupational therapists in training laypersons to assist with physical disabilities. She’s received several Cook Children’s hospital practice awards for her work and her work has been published that was accepted by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

The scholarship award is helpful in getting her through her dissertation, she said.

“I’m very thankful to have it,” she said following the luncheon. “It meant a lot to me to be able to represent our profession and TWU.”

Johnson is pursuing a doctorate in child development and family studies at TWU Denton. Johnson is a faculty member at Tarrant County College, according to TWU officials.

She said she’s studied the trafficking of young children in the U.S. and Cambodia and said she intends to “educate parents and adolescents on the dangers of trafficking and to prevent children from being tricked or forced into trafficking.”

“I’m a mom, and so every bit helps,” Johnson said of the scholarship. “I was really honored because I go to school with a lot of amazing people, and so to be chosen for this was just an honor.”

Thomas is pursuing a doctorate degree in nursing science that she hopes to complete in August. She is a certified nurse educator and currently is an academic instructor with the Texas Tech University Health Science Center’s School of Nursing. Her dissertation examines intimate partner violence in young single women. She said her hope is to give a voice to these women among health care nurses and providers.

“It’s really a big honor to be recognized for the work I’m doing in my doctorate studies, and it’s helping pay for tuition — the scholarship — and it’s also helped with my research as well,” she said.