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Wilkinson Legacy to Help Criminal Justice Students

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MARCH 7, 2012 –Linda Aguilar Wilkinson created The William Van Wilkinson Scholarship Endowment for Criminal Justice at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College to honor the legacy of her late husband.

Dr. William Van Wilkinson, or “Bill” as he was known, was chair of the Criminal Justice Department and a professor for many years. He also served as President of the Faculty Senate.

Bill Wilkinson †

Colleagues remember him for his love of the teaching profession, and he was most proud of his students who obtained criminal justice positions all over the country and abroad.

Before his death in May of 2006, the Wilkinsons decided to create an endowment to help students pursuing a criminal justice degree.

“This endowment was something that Bill and I had pledged we would do together,” Wilkinson said. “I left it in his name because I wanted his legacy and honors preserved for all time. He was chairman of the Criminal Justice Department for many years, and he built it up. I wanted the scholarship to be about him.”

Last week, Linda Wilkinson, an Austin elementary school administrator, sat with members of the criminal justice faculty and senior criminal justice majors Christopher Peña and Karen Olvera De Leon for an informal reception in recognition of the fulfillment of her $100,000 endowment pledge.

“When Bill first got here, he fell immediately in love with the area,” said Wilkinson of her late husband. “He had a real passion for his job. He knew how hard it was to put yourself through school and how money was always an issue. So he convinced me that we needed to turn around and help other students.”

Since 2006 more than 17 students, including Peña and Olvera De Leon, have benefitted from the endowment.

Among these students is Araceli Figueroa, 22, who graduated from UTB in December 2011; currently living in San Antonio, she works for the Bexar County District Clerk and is looking forward to a promotion in the criminal division.

“I was able to continue my education because of this endowment,” Figueroa said. “When the loans and financial aid I was receiving just weren’t enough, this scholarship helped cover the rest of my tuition and books.”

Linda Wilkinson recently completed her Doctorate of Educational Administration with a concentration in Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin. She said she feels relieved and happy that the endowment her husband imagined and she created to honor his memory has touched so many students’ lives in positive ways.

Linda Wilkinson

“If we have been able to help students and if we can continue to help a criminal justice student, then that’s great,” said Wilkinson. “Criminal justice was the field my husband loved so much, and he would be so proud of these students who are working so hard to better their lives.”

A Fulbright Scholar, Wilkinson was known as an internationally-recognized expert on the comparison between U.S. and Mexican law, and he also collaborated for many years with Universidad Autonima de Mexico in Tampico, Mexico to help establish an intellectual and professorial exchange program between the two countries via the medium of the classroom.

“The endowment clearly helps students with real financial needs,” said Dr. Kevin G, Buckler, professor of Criminal Justice and current Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, “Dr. Wilkinson had a clear understanding of the additional challenges and barriers that many students in the lower Rio Grande Valley experience in their pursuit of higher education. Financial assistance can make a tremendous difference to the student who receives it.”

For more information about giving to The William Van Wilkinson Scholarship Endowment for Criminal Justice, call the UTB Office of University Relations at (956) 882-4322.

To make a gift online, please visit www.utb.edu/giving.




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