The Moya Family Legacy

When asked their favorite thing about the Honors College, students and alumni frequently focus on the feeling of family. Sense of community and mutual investment in success within Honors unifies a diverse population and transcends the boundaries of age and personal experience. Those who join Honors—alumni, students, faculty, and staff—become “descendants” of the Honors experience, irrevocably changed by the intersection of its lineage with their own. For some, however, this family is a literal one as well. Like the Patterson family featured in the spring issue of Areté, and like many other families who have a legacy in Honors, siblings Paula and Eric Moya brought their family into the Honors family.

Paula MoyaPaula Moya (’91, English) was the definition of a non-traditional student—a working mother with two small daughters—when she applied to Honors at the urging of another non-traditional student, Honors alumna Mary Evelyn Sorrell (’81, Art). Paula credits the Human Situation course and her interaction with faculty members including Drs. Ted Estess, Lois Zamora, and Robert Zaretsky with helping to shape her career trajectory. She said, “The engagement of the faculty, coupled with their enthusiastic engagement with ideas of the mind, allowed me to admire them even as it allowed me to imagine myself pursuing a similar kind of life.”

Now the associate professor of the Department of English and director of the Program in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University, Paula’s scholarly work focuses on the socio-historical concept of race, and the approach she takes is heavily influenced by the lessons she learned in Professor Zamora’s class on the apocalypse as well as the valuable skill of close reading learned from both Professors Estess and Zamora. “Close reading, and an appreciation for the power of foundational narratives, are things that I can trace back to the Honors Program; both remain at the core of my work today,” Paula said.

Eric MoyaAs he approached graduation from high school, Eric Moya (’95, English) faced the usual uncertainties about whether to pursue a small teaching college or a large university, but with sister Paula’s encouragement, he began to focus on the Honors College at the University of Houston. “I liked the idea of a small college feel—as I was accustomed to an invested faculty—within the confines of a large diverse university.”

Of his many great experiences, the Honors trips he took bring back the fondest memories. A winter trip to France with Dr. Estess and then-associate dean Bill Monroe, as well as a Flannery O’Connor van pilgrimage with Dr. Monroe, informed and exemplified his Honors experience.

Eric, now director of education at the Esalen Institute, therapist, and lecturer/instructor for the Upledger Institute, said, “In every class I teach today, I try to find ways to engage my students—give them opportunities to be successful, to feel cherished, and to feel like they have something to offer—all lessons I took away from my experience in the Honors College.”

Both Paula and Eric have the sense of a lifetime home in Honors, and that feeling resonated with their father as well. The support, education, and success both the children enjoyed through the Honors College, coupled with the investment in the individual success of each student provided by Honors faculty, inspired the family to pledge to give back. That pledge led to the eventual creation of the Moya Family Scholarship, a fund that supports first generation students in the Honors College. And so, a new generation of Honors students continues to benefit from the legacy and journey of one family and expands the Honors family circle year after year.