Honoring One Of Brownsville’s Finest, One Student At A Time
In June, the
Blanca and Filemón Vela Endowment Scholarship was created with a
gift of $50,000.
“Outside of the courtroom, Filemón’s priority was to encourage youngsters to stay
in school and continue their educations,” said Blanca Vela, married for 44 years
to Judge Filemón B. Vela, U.S. District Court Federal Judge for the Southern
District of Texas.
After Judge Vela passed away in 2004, the family wanted to find a way to honor his
legacy while promoting his passion for education.
“Scholarships for deserving students – a fitting way to remember Dad – and Mom,
too, for her equally passionate commitment to education; as mayor of Brownsville,
she placed a high priority on quality education for all of the city’s children,” said
Rafael Vela, one of the three Vela children.
The family began to raise funds with a golf tournament in 2005.
“We wanted to draw in a younger crowd and have a reasonable entry fee to increase
participation, so we switched to organizing a bike ride in 2010,” Vela said. “This
really caught on, and the crowd has grown each year.”
With the proceeds amassed over the eight years, the Vela family made the decision
to commit the funds to scholarships designated for students working toward
a Bachelor of Liberal Arts. Additionally, the family gave $10,000 to the Bill
Archer Fellowship program to sponsor two UTB students as Archer Fellows in
“This is a family and friends effort, and everyone volunteers to make this happen,”
said Blanca Vela. “Having the endowed scholarship, we can continue with the
annual bike ride, called the ‘Laguna Loop,’ and keep adding to the fund. And we
are confident that it will be well maintained with wise investment oversight from
UTIMCO [University of Texas Investment Management Corporation].”
Through the years, countless students in towns and cities throughout South Texas
were given the message of the power of education by Judge Vela, either on the radio
or in a school visit. One of Judge Vela’s former law clerks, Roman “Dino” Esparza,
accompanied the judge to several schools.
“The judge said it was part of the job description for any law clerk who worked
for him to participate in the school presentations,” Esparza said. “Even though it
always appeared the students were listening respectfully and paying attention, we
would always wonder what impact the presentations had on the children. Judge
Vela would say, ‘As long as we touched one today, we did our job.’”
Plan a Gift Today to Make a Difference Tomorrow
Lita Ortiz of Brownsville is a member of the
Legacy Society at The University
of Texas at Brownsville.
Created in 2012, the Legacy Society is an honorary designation given to
friends of UTB who have pledged planned gifts to the university.
“I give to the university because education is so important to everyone,” Ortiz
said. “It enriches someone personally; it enriches them professionally, and
more than anything, it enriches them so they can make their community a
better place for all.”
Planned giving, common at most universities, can be achieved by a number
of methods such as simple bequests, life estates, charitable gift annuities and
charitable remainder trusts. Donors also may choose to make the university
the beneficiary of life insurance policies.
“Planned giving is a wonderful way to give to the university,” said Serena
Putegnat, University Relations Officer. “This allows the donor to share in
advance and to be thanked in advance, but most importantly, the donor will
have the satisfaction of designing a program that will benefit students for the
For more information on planned giving, contact Serena Putegnat at
956-882-4326 or firstname.lastname@example.org.