Tyson Voelkel, president of the Texas A&M Foundation, receives a check from the lead donors to the Brownsville Scholars Program, Kelly Ann and Michael Hernandez III '83.

This fall, Texas A&M University will welcome its first cohort of Brownsville Scholars, a group of first-generation students from Brownsville, Texas, who will receive specialized academic and social support as they transition to college life. The program was announced at a press conference hosted in Brownsville by Rep. Eddie Lucio III and the Texas A&M Foundation on Thursday. 

The Brownsville Scholars Program is made possible through a generous donation by businessman and philanthropist Mike Hernandez, a 1983 industrial distribution graduate of the university. Hernandez committed more than $1 million to the Texas A&M Foundation to make higher education more accessible and affordable to an important and often under-represented sector of the state. Through the Brownsville Scholars Program, students will have access to co-curricular enrichment activities and mentorship opportunities. 

Hernandez’s gift will support the first four groups of Brownsville Scholars from fall 2016 through 2019. Each student will receive a scholarship and a spot in a living/learning community in one of the university’s residence halls. Students will also receive financial support for Fish Camp, workshops, conferences, study abroad and Cameron County internships. Each cohort will include 10 students, and the first group of students has already received notification of their selection.

“The Brownsville Scholars Program will provide a welcoming support system for students before they even arrive in Aggieland,” said Dr. Suma Datta, who directs Honors and Undergraduate Research at Texas A&M and coordinates the university’s living/learning programs. “This program will place students alongside peers with similar backgrounds and will provide them with the guidance they need to transition to Texas A&M with confidence and ease. We are so grateful to Mr. Hernandez for his commitment to this program and to the students of Brownsville.”

Hernandez’s gift will be counted toward the goals of the university’s Lead by Example comprehensive campaign, which aims to raise $4 billion by 2020 to solve the most crucial challenges facing the state, nation and world.

Brownsville Scholar Aryana Garza '20 with her sister, Natalia, and parents, Juan and Veronica Garza.

Originally from Brownsville, Hernandez now resides in Colleyville, Texas, and is president of the Dallas/Fort Worth-based company D&M Auto Leasing. He is dedicated to improving the Brownsville community, in large part by focusing on the education of Cameron County students. He hopes the Brownsville Scholars Program carves a path for students to play a role in a better future for Brownsville. 

“I experienced firsthand a high-quality education from Texas A&M and want to share that tremendous experience with young people from my hometown by making their college education more affordable,” said Hernandez. “The Brownsville Scholars Program will allow students from this area to receive the best education possible and encourage them to return to their hometown to share their talents.”

Dr. Karan Watson, Texas A&M’s Provost and Executive Vice President, views the Brownsville Scholars Program as an important step in the university’s mission to make higher education more accessible. 

“Texas A&M University remains committed to providing the highest quality education for students from across Texas,” said Watson. “We are building on our long-term efforts in accessibility by proposing a new education site, expanding our community outreach and engaged scholarship efforts, and continuing our prospective student recruitment and support in the Valley. This gift helps us in all of these efforts.”  

As Hernandez worked with the Texas A&M Foundation and university administrators to bring the Brownsville Scholars Program to life, he wanted to find a way to make it possible for participants to graduate with no debt. Each student in the program will receive scholarship support averaging $4,500 per year, which is intended to augment other institutional and federal support they receive. Hernandez’s gift will also provide each student with:

  • A one-time stipend for workshops, retreats or off-campus programs;
  • Living/learning community support that will offer mentorship, coursework, an annual social for families, and an annual trip to Brownsville;
  • Internship stipends in Cameron County; and
  • Fish Camp support so that each freshman scholar will be able to attend the camp before beginning at Texas A&M. 

To qualify for the Brownsville Scholars Program, recipients must demonstrate financial need, be Regents’ Scholarship recipients and have demonstrated leadership in high school. Hernandez hopes that other donors will also support the Brownsville Scholars Program by endowing a scholarship or adding to the existing fund.

“While my commitment is long-term, it is essential that we seek and identify partners willing to contribute to the cause so that we can provide more opportunities to future students,” said Hernandez. “Texas A&M has a proud alumni base in the region who share my admiration for the quality of education this institution offers and who are compelled to share that experience with future generations.” 

For additional information and for photographs of the press conference, please contact Molly Kulpa at mkulpa@txamfoundation.com or (979) 845-7468.

Texas A&M Foundation 
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M’s capability to be among the best universities. 



Stephen Cisneros '05

Director of Development
Mays Business School
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