Poetry lesson prompts philanthropic investment
$50,000 gift creates the Robert and Jennifer Reichek Scholarship Endowment honoring Professor James Pipkin
Robert Reichek recalls vividly – more than 30 years later – the day he learned to appreciate poetry. He had earned a bachelor of business administration degree from UH but was back on campus taking an English course taught by James Pipkin.
“He spent the whole class explaining eight lines of poetry,” Reichek said. And when the class was over Reichek understood the meaning behind the words and had experienced an “a-ha” moment that transformed his reading habits for life.
He wound up taking several classes taught by Professor Pipkin and, even, changed careers, leaving behind commercial construction and real estate development to become an classroom teacher.
“After I became an English teacher, I realized just how difficult educating students really is,” he said. “I came to realize just how talented and special Dr. Pipkin was. I still fondly remember how stimulating the classes were and how challenging he made them.”
He returned to general contracting work and remained a voracious reader and a big fan of Dr. Pipkin.To acknowledge the teaching contributions of his all-time professor, Reichek and his wife Dr. Jennifer Reichek have funded a scholarship endowment for the benefit of English majors.
The Robert and Jennifer Reichek Scholarship Endowment honoring Professor James Pipkin in the Department of English has been established with a $50,000 gift. The income from the endowment will provide an annual scholarship up to $5,000 through a competitive process to an English major concentrating in literary studies.
“I am deeply honored by Robert and Jennifer's thoughtfulness and generosity,” said Pipkin, who was awarded in 2003 the State of Texas Piper Professor Award “for outstanding scholarly and academic achievement.”
Wyman Herendeen, chair of the Department of English said the Reicheks’ generous endowment recognizing the outstanding teaching of Professor Pipkin speaks to the importance of literary studies for undergraduate students.
“The endowment is testimony to the transformative nature of literature and fine teaching,” Herendeen said. “I believe that the award will be a beacon of excellence for our students, and it will provide the impetus for additional awards for student excellence."
Both of the Reicheks are UH alums. Dr. Reichek earned her doctorate and master’s degree at the School of Education after a bachelor of science in education from the University of Texas at Austin.
She recently retired after 29 years in public school education. She was a teacher of grades 1st – 8th , an elementary and middle school principal, and an adjunct professor who taught graduate students at UH-Clear Lake, UH-Victoria and the University of St. Thomas.
“We are very grateful to Robert and Jennifer Reichek whose gift is a wonderful example of ‘paying forward’ to benefit generations of students,” said Dean John W. Roberts. “The endowment makes an extraordinary statement about the value of outstanding teaching and teachers on students. Many thanks to Dr. Pipkin for being an inspiring teacher and scholar.”
- Shannon Buggs