In 1991, then-University of Houston president James Pickering developed the Scholars' Community to help the huge number of commuter students. The Scholars' Community is a series of "tools" that enables freshman students who live off campus with academic advising, take smaller classes and have access to computers.
He chose two people to head the department that would oversee the development and expansion of the community. Terrell Dixon and Edwin Willems started the program in 1994.
Tuesday, the Scholars' Community held a banquet honoring the two men for their efforts. Both men are stepping down as directors and taking different positions within the department.
The banquet also celebrated the graduation of the first student within the department. Maricela Trevino, a senior who will earn her bachelors degree in psychology this December, was honored as the first graduate of the Scholars' Community.
"Everybody here is nice to you, and it is like a family," said Trevino.
Two history professors from UH will take over the program and have already started making progress. Initially, the community was funded by Exxon, who gave half a million dollars to the effort.
Bill Kellar is the new director and Joe Pratt is the executive director of the program, which has been the model for similar programs at other commuter schools such as the University of Indiana at Indianapolis.
Tina Blakes, the Scholars' Community coordinator, said that she expects great things from the two men. "They have a great vision for the program and should help us a lot," she said.
When the program began, the Scholars' Community had 300 students. Now it has grown to more than 600. Pratt wants to expand the program to more students.
"We need to get support from the campus. We should do better with the commuting students, as far as retention, and I think we will," Pratt said.
"I am very excited to the upcoming years and I am looking forward to building on what they (Dixon and Willems) have started," Kellar added.
Two teachers were also honored for outstanding service. Math Professor Christopher Murray and Claire Lawrence, an English teaching assistant, received plaques for outstanding performance.