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At 30, Fellowship Still Making Impact

Ask a student like Ronald Ivy to put a value on the importance of the Juanita Cash Fellowship for Graduate Education in his life, and you’ll receive an answer that amounts to “priceless.” The science education doctoral student is one of many who have benefited from the award for minority students who are Fort Worth ISD teachers to seek advanced education degrees.

In 1987, Dr. James Cash and his sister Pamela Cash established the fellowship to honor their mother’s courage, and the courage of the School of Education faculty who helped her succeed. When Juanita began her TCU education, black students weren’t permitted on campus or eligible for financial aid, but two faculty members held class at Carver Elementary. Juanita earned her master’s degree in 1965 and taught in Fort Worth public schools for 27 years.

“I was always fascinated by the commitment of the school to do what was right, rather than what was acceptable,” Dr. Cash said. “As we think of what’s going on around us today I hope the university has the same kind of courage to make the world a better place.”

Dr. Cash is no stranger to the university. He started classes in 1965 and was the first black basketball player in the Southwest Conference. The Academic All-American graduated with a bachelor’s in mathematics in 1969. From there he earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Purdue, and became the first tenured black professor at Harvard Business School. He has served on public, private and non-profit boards, including Microsoft, General Electric, Walmart, and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. He and his wife spend most of their time in Florida and Massachusetts, but he often returns to Fort Worth and to TCU. He most recently returned to campus for a Letterman’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in fall 2016, he himself was inducted in 1982.

And the now 30-year-old fellowship they helped establish provides students with opportunities their mother never received. Students like Trevon Jones, an AVID teacher at Paschal High School, and Ronald Ivy, who wants to make the world better by impacting teachers and young students. Ivy taught science for 10 years and has served as Assistant Principal at Springdale Elementary in Fort Worth for six years. He’s researching what causes apprehension for teaching science in lower grades, when he says learners are naturally the most curious. As a teacher, he took students on field trips to Houston and Washington D.C. to learn about NASA, flight simulators and new technology firsthand.

“When I taught science, I worked in low socioeconomic areas with African American students. They were stuck in their neighborhood.” Ivy said. “I wanted to bring experiences in to help them take that journey.”

Ivy said earning a Ph.D. has always been a goal, to help make more of an impact. “Without the fellowship, I wouldn’t have made the relationships I have with professors and Ph.D. students. [The program] has opened my eyes and built my knowledge base,” he said.

Ivy plans to graduate in 2018 and says he is extremely thankful for the fellowship, especially knowing its humbling history. Dr. Cash and his family will keep that history going, because as he notes there is still work to do.

“The school has physically changed dramatically, but more importantly I get the sense that the quality of education has improved dramatically,” Cash said. “Even with all the great progress, there’s a lot of room for improvement.”