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Meet Freshmen Guinan Scholars

A tennis champion, an actress, a French-language guru, a three-sport athlete and a national Hispanic merit scholar are the 2013 University of St. Thomas Father Vincent J. Guinan Scholarship recipients. The incoming freshmen will receive full-tuition scholarships to University of St. Thomas beginning this semester. These diverse students plan to grow in faith and character and aspire to careers such as a pediatrician, a trauma nurse, a French teacher, a nutritionist and a forensic psychologist.

Meet the 2013 Guinan scholars:

Diego Frias

Frias was a national Hispanic merit scholar, participated on the debate team and was a part of the Seven Lakes High School Orchestra. He currently attends St. John Vianney Catholic Church. He plans to work on-campus and is looking forward to joining the UST Honors Program. Originally from Mexico, Frias said the scholarship was a way of fulfilling his dream in his career field and his parent’s dream for him to receive an education unavailable to him in Mexico.

He said he fell in love with St. Thomas the first time he saw the campus.

“I visited several schools and none compare to the atmosphere that St. Thomas creates,” Frias said. “It’s incredible to be able to feel like you're in your own little St. Thomas-world while being smack in the middle of Houston city life – it’s  truly amazing. I was also impressed with the attention and help I got even before I was accepted. The staff was very friendly, and it was one of the things that made me fall in love with UST.”

Frias plans to study psychology to become a forensic psychologist. He would also like to investigate opportunities in the justice system.

Thanh Nguyen

Nguyen was blessed, grateful and relieved when she found out about the scholarship. She currently attends St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Deer Park, Texas, and was the salutatorian of her senior class at Deer Park High School. A tennis player on the winning Deer Park tennis team who has been district champion for the past three years, Nguyen is excited to get into the Museum District area for the diverse backdrop that UST calls home. She plans to be in UST clubs such as Celts for Life, HOSA Future Health Professionals, the Student Government Association and the Vietnamese Student Association.

Nguyen said she is looking forward to starting her freshman year because of the rich education, accessible resources and welcoming atmosphere at UST.

“I liked that it is a Catholic university, because it would allow me to have the resources I needed to grow deeper in my faith,” Nguyen said. “St. Thomas is known for its pre-med program, and is also conveniently located near the Texas Medical Center, so opportunities would be greater for me.”

Nguyen plans to study biology to become a pediatrician.

Adrian Rodriguez

Parlez-vous français? Oui, oui says French connoisseur Rodriguez.  At Sam Rayburn High School, Rodriguez was involved in the French club, French National Honors Society and Sam Rayburn’s Texas French Symposium team. He also graduated ranked fourth in his class. Rodriguez said when learning a new language, people are guided to learn about new cultures, which is an extremely enriching experience.

He currently attends St. Juan Diego Church in Pasadena, Texas. Rodriguez said he has had his eye on the scholarship for some time because he wanted to help out his father, who maintains the sole income for his family.

“I knew I had to work very hard, for a long time, to be rewarded with something like the Father Vincent J. Guinan Scholarship,” Rodriguez said. “What attracts me to UST is its balance between a liberal education and a Catholic one. I also like that it’s a small university and professors and peers get to know you better and faster. The fact that it’s close to home is great, so I can visit whenever I start to miss my mom's cooking, which I know will not be long.”

Rodriguez plans to major in French and minor in education to become a high school French teacher.

Aaron Ruff

Ruff is a well-rounded individual who was a three-sport athlete and is strong in his faith life. He ran track, played basketball and was a Second Team All-State selection in football for the state of Wisconsin. He was also the senior core leader of a Christ-centered, student-led volunteer organization at Aquinas High School in Minnesota known as IMPACT. Somehow in his free time, he also performed in musicals throughout high school.

Having visited UST when one of his older brothers, John, attended, Ruff is interested in playing intramural sports, joining one of the many faith-sharing groups, a volunteer group, student government, and a health and wellness club. He is thankful he can help out his parents by being awarded the Guinan scholarship and getting a part-time job. This freshman lives an active lifestyle and looks forward to moving to Houston and meeting new people.

Ruff plans to major in biology and go into a field with the nutrition, the health sciences and physical wellness. He would like to contribute medical assistance in impoverished countries.

Erin Novak

Novak’s sister made fun of her for an entire week because of her elated reaction to finding out she won a Guinan scholarship. This actress was the star of Duchesne Academy High School’s rendition of “The Sound of Music” as Fraulein Maria. Currently attending St. Thomas More Catholic Church, Novak liked the Catholicity of UST and was impressed with the nursing program.

She wants to join the UST choir program, be active in theater and Campus Ministry. She can’t wait for  the challenges that await her.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge to have so much responsibility for myself,” Novak said. “I will be much more independent next year, and I am excited about where that will take me in life and how it will shape me as a person.”

Novak plans to study nursing to become a trauma nurse or biology to be a veterinarian.

Read the version of this story posted in the Texas Catholic Herald (PDF).

Father Vincent J. Guinan, a visionary leader, led the Basilian fathers in founding St. Thomas and served as the first president. To further Guinan's mission, scholarship recipients are required to join the Presidential Ambassadors and participate in Campus Ministry activities.

Scholarship applicants must be Catholic, meet specific academic requirements and submit a 500-word essay and recommendation letter. The top 15 finalists attended an on-campus interview. They will all live on-campus in Guinan Hall.

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