Posted by Rachel Meade
We arrived in a line of cars, directed down the long driveway toward Mrs. McDermott’s ranch home. The day was overcast, the clouds offering a perfect covering from the Texas sun. The trees, grass, and bales of hay infused the soft breeze with the crisp scent of nature. Two dogs pranced through the grounds together, watching us with joyful anticipation. It was, in many respects, the perfect day for a barbecue.
We gathered before the wood-paneled house and conversed over soft drinks as Mrs. McDermott inconspicuously joined us. Many of us hadn’t realized that she had been present for some time, but once she was introduced, a sense of reverence fell over the crowd. My class was encouraged to sit, and we were serenaded by a string quintet of Jaap van Zweden Symphony Scholars as they played a selection of waltzes compiled by the principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Christopher Adkins.
Soon after, we heard from Jonathan Martin (President and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra), Reena Schellenberg (Director of the newly established Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellows Program), and Dr. Hobson Wildenthal (Interim President of UTD). An overwhelming gratefulness rushed over me: I realized how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to be here among some of the most influential people in Dallas, listening to their plans to improve Dallas’ future!
Finally, the time came for us, the McDermott Class of 2015, to meet Mrs. Margaret McDermott and tell her about our plans to improve Dallas as well. Let it be known that it is no light task to present your life goals to the person who endowed the scholarship program that funds your undergraduate education. In short summaries, we sat beside her and told her about the dreams her generosity will allow us to realize at UTD.
Then burgers hit the grill, and the smell of a smoky, Texas barbecue drifted into the air. Our stomachs churned with hunger as we explored the property, passing time as lunch was prepared. A few of us walked the meandering path from the ranch house to a small, partially hidden lake. We shared our expectations for the year as we stepped through soft grass and listened to the quiet sound of life around the lake. Fish hopped above the water, and dragonflies made ripples on the surface. We observed a few moments of silence and tranquility then eventually made the journey back, following the distinct scent of food.
The burgers were delicious to say the least, but their delectable nature, for me, was overshadowed by the opportunity I had to enjoy lunch sitting next to Mrs. McDermott. She spoke of her travels and experiences, and I quickly saw for myself her passion for providing quality education to students and cultural enrichment to Dallas. What gratefulness I already had within me increased tenfold as I began to grasp how personally invested she is in my success and in the success of my peers. And the barbecue at the ranch marked just the beginning.