On Giving Tuesday 2017 I chose to give to a cause that has deep meaning to me. I established the William K. Berenson Endowed Scholarship at my alma mater, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. The gift of $150,000.00 will fund scholarships for students from Fort Worth, where I have lived for the last 40 years and proudly call home.
I earned my juris doctor degree from SMU in 1979. The endowment gives me the opportunity to express my gratitude to the institution and individuals that made my career possible.
Few scholarships were available back then. I worked part-time jobs to pay for school and at times did not own a car. Earning my law degree was a struggle, but I was determined to follow my dreams. A scholarship would have made law school less stressful. I hope my endowed scholarships will make law school more accessible for some hardworking students from Fort Worth.
I began my legal career working as an insurance defense attorney for a larger law firm in Fort Worth. However I knew that I wanted to help individuals rather than big corporations and insurance companies and opened my own personal injury law firm in 1982. For over 36 years I have been blessed to have a successful practice and am now thrilled to give back to SMU Law School and my Fort Worth community.
I am also grateful to SMU for giving my daughter a full academic scholarship for her bachelor’s degree and offering her additional funds to earn her master’s degree in accounting. Marissa is enjoying her position as a CPA at a well-known corporation in Dallas.Supporting young students in our community
Over the past four decades, I have strived to make a difference in my community. One of my strongest passions is education.
In 2004, I adopted the Rufino Mendoza Elementary School .I come to the school to mentor students and run and walk with the after-school activities program. I cheer the children on and several 5K races, distribute new running shoes (courtesy of the Cowtown Marathon, another cause I support), support the school as requested, and give Christmas presents to the children and several families.
My favorite day is coming every year to speak at Career Day. I get “my kids” to pledge to graduate from high school and to make the best grades they can. I ask them to choose their dream careers and give them checklist of subjects that might be helpful in achieving that goal. I urge the students to start thinking about college and beyond, to law school, medical school or whatever path they aspire to. I ask them to think big. Bringing my diploma from the University of Texas is always exciting and I let them hold it to impress the idea that they too can earn one.
I recognize that paying for college can seem like an insurmountable hurdle, but I want the students to know that college is truly within reach. To help sow the seed, I have donated 20 grants of a combined $10,000 to Hispanic fifth grade students through the Mexican American College Endowment. Students who receive a MACE scholarship also become eligible for additional college scholarships upon graduating from high school.My goal is to make help make college accessible to Fort Worth students
My gift to SMU is the third phase of my objective to help students in Fort Worth succeed by giving them encouragement and resources to attend an excellent law school.
Education is an essential ingredient for success. Unfortunately, too many young people cannot afford to attend college, let alone earn an advanced degree in law, medicine, science or technology, without financial help. I believe that higher education should be assessable to any student who aspires to study hard and pursue a career.
I plan to continue contributing to the endowment to help as many students possible.
This endowment is apparently the first from a Fort Worth SMU Law alumnus and is one of the few donated by a solo practitioner. I hope that other will join in supporting our next generation of lawyers.Criteria and application information for the SMU Law scholarships
The William K. Berenson Endowed Scholarship is reserved for students who have attended a Fort Worth school or university. SMU Law will reach out to college placement offices throughout Texas to alert Fort Worth students about the scholarship and note potential candidates who might be eligible.
If you have questions about the criteria or want more information about how to apply, please contact the admissions department at SMU Law School.
I wish all students success in their careers and future endeavors.