Aaron and Brenda Cook and Betty Davis, Brenda’s mother, are sharing their life-long love of reading and education with Tarrant County College students in a way that seems totally natural for a former reading teacher, a former librarian and a former member of the TCC Foundation’s Board of Directors—a merit-based scholarship that celebrates Davis’ long career as an educator and her overall joy of life.
All three share a strong belief in the power and importance of education, especially early in students’ lives when they acquire the learning skills and love of reading that set the foundation for their academic and personal success. Which is why, when the Cooks established the Betty J. Davis Scholarship in 2015, they dedicated it to helping aspiring teachers achieve an Associate of Arts in Teaching degree as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree in elementary or secondary education.
Aaron Cook served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors from 2014 to 2017, which provided him an in-depth appreciation for TCC. It didn’t take long for him to see the beneficial impact the College can have on students’ lives. He quickly became a strong believer in the overall value of community colleges and the important role they play in helping students prepare for a better future. He then translated that belief into action by establishing the scholarship.
“When I got involved in the Foundation, I found out how even a fairly modest amount of money can do so much good because the expenses associated with TCC are so inexpensive compared to most universities. It seemed like a very natural thing for us to honor Betty with,” he said, adding that the family attends the annual scholarship event, where they meet the students who “are always very grateful and express how much it really means to them. It’s a good reminder, at least once a year, that it really does make a difference.”
Joe McIntosh, executive director of the Foundation, lauds the Cooks’ and Davis’ dedication to learning as the motivation for their generosity and commitment to student success. “As a member of the TCC Foundation Board, Aaron was a servant leader; the students and their success were always his main focus. The scholarship he and Brenda established honoring Mrs. Davis—a scholarship they continue to faithfully support—is a testament to that focus on our students. And to have Mrs. Davis join Aaron and Brenda as a donor to the scholarship is just that much more gratifying.”
While Aaron forged a 33-year, successful career as a computer specialist in the Bass enterprise system, Brenda focused on raising three children in their Southwest Fort Worth home. After the children left the nest, she served for several years as a librarian in the Benbrook Public Library System. She sees the scholarships as a worthwhile way to help students who are not as fortunate as her own.
Meeting the recipients is especially meaningful to Brenda because at the scholarship event, “we hear stories, one after the other, about people who are in those situations. Many of them work a job or two and at the same time, many of them have families to care for,” she said.
TCC is many young people’s step into starting their adult life. It’s a way for them to earn a bit more and better provide for their families.
Aaron agrees because “it’s awesome the amount of people they can serve for the amount of money that they use to do that. There’s no typical student at TCC. There are many young people who start right out of high school but there are also many, many people who have a family and figure out that they can’t make that next step to provide for their family without more education,” he said. So there’s many, many students who are a bit more mature than 18 or 19 or 20 years old, and it serves that community as well.”
The ability to serve those students also represents an ongoing tribute to Davis’ dedication to living her life to the fullest. She is a spry 92-year-old who gets a broad smile and a twinkle in her eye when she discusses her post-retirement life that includes publishing a book of memoirs and her deep passion for quilting.
The decade after her retirement in 1992 saw Davis travel extensively to countries on every continent (except Antarctica). Early on, she took an informal approach to her travels, quickly ditching her luggage for a backpack and staying at youth hostels wherever possible.
Once Davis re-settled in Fort Worth in her mid-70s, she rediscovered her creative passion, which she ultimately channeled into quilting. As a member of the Trinity Valley Quilt Guild, she acquired a professional quilting machine, where she has spent the past decade creating quilts that range from 15’ x 15’ to 1’x 1’ tabletop covers. The quilts reflect traditional patterns, as well as many of the influences and vibrant colors that she discovered on her trips. They sometimes hold elaborate embroidered patterns that she creates freehand. During the decade, she has created more than 1,000 quilts, many of which she has given to worthwhile causes and people. Typical of her commitment to sharing and service, she views her quilts as an opportunity to give help and happiness to other people.
“My joy is in making the quilts. I don’t want to own them. It’s the creation of them that I enjoy. I give my quilts away. At first, I sold a few and then added the money to the TCC scholarship fund. Now I donate them away to children’s places, like the wards in Cook Children’s and JPS. And now I make quilts for fallen police officers, and we also make quilts for veterans to recognize their service. The most recent was for a lady who had served three years and this was her first recognition. They are meaningful quilts,” Davis said.
Mentioning the strikingly large amount of good that stems from the scholarship and Davis’ generous life draws a momentary pause from the trio. One that stems from their belief that helping others is just the natural thing to do.