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Emily Orr ’23, Grace Vaughn ’23 and Juliette Jimenez ’22 flash gig 'ems outside the Hagler Center
(l-r) Emily Orr ’23, Grace Vaughn ’23 and Juliette Jimenez ’22 | Image: Will Walker '13, Texas A&M Foundation

The Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees honored Juliette Jimenez ’22, Emily Orr ’23 and Grace Vaughn ’23 as recipients of the Foundation’s highest student award, the Trustees’ Outstanding Student Award. These students, who have excelled academically and as student leaders, were honored during a luncheon on May 19. Each recipient received a cash prize of $3,200.

Since 2013, 21 Aggies have been recognized with this honor. Billy Lemmons ’83, chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, emphasized the award’s prestige. “It’s about more than good grades,” he said. “This award recognizes students’ character, selfless service and the example they set for their peers. We want these extraordinary Aggies who really embody this university’s values to know the impact they’ve already made on others.”

The award was established through an endowed gift from former Foundation trustee Melbern Glasscock ’59 and his wife, Susanne, who also established the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research in the College of Arts and Sciences. The couple wanted to recognize students who have overcome significant personal or family financial challenges to attend Texas A&M. Additionally, these Aggies have demonstrated leadership in the classroom and in campus, state or national student organizations. Recipients also have previously received one or more scholarships funded through the Texas A&M Foundation.  

“Talking to these students and hearing their stories reminds our team why we are so passionate about our mission of building a brighter future for Texas A&M University,” said Tyson Voelkel ’96, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “They represent what Texas A&M is all about: fostering true leaders of character from all walks of life. We’re proud to have helped support these students in their Aggie journeys and look forward to seeing them excel long after they’ve left campus.”

Emily Orr ’23

Texas A&M senior Emily Orr flashes a gig 'em outside the Hagler Center
Image: Will Walker '13, Texas A&M Foundation

At age 13, Emily Orr ’23 reluctantly agreed to her mother’s request to accompany her brother, who is on the autism spectrum, to his job at a small animal veterinary clinic. Soon, Orr found herself enjoying the clinic’s environment—resulting in a job offer at age 14, a promotion to vet technician at 17 and a budding dream of becoming a veterinary surgeon.

Similarly, the Lucas, Texas, resident’s decision about which college to attend seemed destined. Her parents are Class of 1989 and 1990 and met as Fish Camp counselors, while Orr’s older sister and brother are also Aggies. “I came up for football games and visited my sister on the weekend, so Texas A&M was a place I had already established as a home,” she said.

As Orr entered college, her mother — who was involved in Student Research, Fish Camp and Muster Committee — encouraged her daughter to explore extracurricular opportunities. Orr decided to join the Corps of Cadets so she could play saxophone in the Aggie Band. Joining the Corps also opened the door for her to take part in Parsons Mounted Cavalry and join the O.R. Simpson Honor Society, where she tutored other cadets.

Nevertheless, the biomedical sciences major prioritized her studies and maintained a 4.0 GPA. She’s used her ability to understand complex information to be a tutor-for-hire for non-Corps students who were struggling with introductory biology, organic chemistry and biochemistry. “It’s really rewarding to help people figure out how to study and set their foundation for college,” she said.

Tutoring wasn’t her only job while in college. Wanting to avoid student loan debt, Orr also worked as a cadet housing officer and as a paid student research assistant. She also took on shifts at her home veterinary clinic during breaks.

With plans to start her graduate studies at the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences in the fall, Orr will use the award’s funds toward her first-semester tuition. “Receiving the Trustees’ Outstanding Student Award will let me reestablish myself as an adult,” said Orr, who also received the university’s Buck Weirus Spirit Award. “It is a great culmination of my time at Texas A&M and shows that I’ve actually done something meaningful that is seen by other people.”

Grace Vaughn ’23

Texas A&M senior Grace Vaughn leans against a column outside the Hagler Center
Image: Will Walker '13, Texas A&M Foundation

When it came time to select a college, Grace Vaughn ’23 was set on attending the United States Air Force Academy, but she was disqualified at the last minute. At that point, she turned to her mother’s alma mater, Texas A&M. “I knew I wanted to be part of a big school culture with a rich history, tradition and so many opportunities,” she said.

Yet Vaughn’s parents, who have seven children, weren’t sure if they could afford Texas A&M. The Houston-area family decided to take it semester by semester, and Vaughn applied for and received scholarships and internships over the years to help pay for her education.

Attending Texas A&M gave Vaughn many opportunities to grow as a person. Her first challenge arose as an incoming freshman when a friend died by suicide right before Vaughn began the Corps of Cadets’ Freshman Orientation Week. Vaughn credits the combination of these events for teaching her how to be independent and resilient in the face of challenges.  

She also took the advice of friends and mentors who invited her to participate in various campus organizations, such as the Muster Committee. “What’s defined my Aggie experience is other Aggies helping me when I didn’t have much guidance from others,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from these experiences.”

Recommendations from peers led her to join the Texas A&M Foundation’s Maroon Coats, which she believes is the most impactful involvement she’s had on campus. “I saw how much all the Maroon Coats absolutely love Texas A&M,” she said. “That was the first time I was surrounded by such high-caliber people who were investing in me in such a unique way.”

The Trustees’ Outstanding Student Award caps her college experience. Vaughn, who is earning a degree in psychology with a minor in Russian, plans to save most of the award as she prepares to embark on a management consulting career at Bain & Company.

She also leaves Aggieland with a deep sense of gratitude. “I’m grateful for my scholarships, my parents and Texas A&M’s support system all helping me to graduate and earn this degree without debt and without having to work a full-time job during college,” she said. “So many people helped me financially and personally — and they helped me develop a deep sense of wanting to do that for others.”

This story was originally published by the Texas A&M Foundation.