The Gift of Giving: Scholarship Serves as Inspiration for Graduate, Donor

By Melissa Graham  |  December 12, 2018

Five years ago, Nicole Tucker BA’04 never imagined she could establish a scholarship at her alma mater.

“I thought I had to have my name on a building,” said Tucker, a real estate agent in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. But with guidance from the University, she learned that she could give back on a smaller — yet still impactful — scale and see the results of her generosity firsthand.

“I had no idea that it was even an option, that one person could establish a scholarship,” Tucker said. “Once I learned about it, I became really interested.”

Tucker established the Diane Milot Tucker Scholarship, named for her late mother, in 2014. This past fall, her investment earned enough interest to award the first scholarship to Lailani Garcia, a senior in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. A mother of two and the first in her family to earn a college degree, Garcia received the scholarship just in time to graduate in December. She says her family didn’t even expect her to finish high school, let alone receive a degree in speech pathology.

“It’s just such a relief,” Garcia said of the scholarship. “My boyfriend works 60 to 80 hours a week just to make ends meet, so this was a huge help.”

Tucker’s scholarship helped pay for one final class for Garcia, who said she cried when she was chosen as the recipient.

“This, to me, is such a small portion of everything else she has to do on her own,” Tucker said. “It’s probably more rewarding for me.”

Tucker and Garcia have more in common than just the scholarship. Garcia became a single mom at 16, and Tucker was raised by a single mom. Even though college seemed out of reach for Garcia, a trusted school counselor told her it was a possibility, and that encouragement allowed her to see how a four-year degree could become a reality.

Tucker’s mom was also determined to earn her associate’s degree, taking classes one at a time over the course of a decade when she could scrape together the funds and find a sitter for her two children. That emphasis on the value of education inspired Tucker to both honor her legacy and give back through the Diane Milot Tucker Scholarship.

“There are so many different ways to give,” Tucker said. “Whatever your interest is, you can give toward that and be a small part of not just one person’s future, but also the entire University community.”

Tucker’s gift not only helped a student in need, but also allowed Garcia to see how she could impact lives once she becomes an alumna.

“I want to be able to do that in the future,” Garcia said. “It inspired me to think about what I can do later on to give back.”

Learn how you can establish a scholarship at