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Paying It Forward.

“I do get emotional.”

Martha Isabel Aguayo grabbed a couple of tissues and continued, “For me to go college, I had to do it myself. I have two kids, and I did it for them – so they would follow in my footsteps.”

Grateful for the opportunities that UTEP provided her, Martha decided that the best way to pay it forward was by establishing an endowed scholarship: the Martha Isabel Aguayo Endowed Scholarship, which benefits students in the Department of Communication who are pursuing a career in multimedia journalism.

She reached for another tissue. “I don’t really have the money to start a scholarship; I am not rich by any means,” she said. “But, if I can do it, others can do it.”

Martha hopes that her scholarship will alleviate some of the financial burden associated with attending college, so students can focus more on their studies and less on how to make ends meet.

Martha knows a thing or two about juggling classes while holding down a job. Her college experience wasn’t exactly as she imagined it would be.

Growing up in El Paso, Martha had high hopes of leaving town to attend college. Her father thought differently, and he did not approve of Martha attending her then dream school – UT Austin. Back then, she explained, Hispanic girls weren’t supposed to leave their families to go to school.

So, in 1975, she enrolled at UTEP as a business major.

“I thought if I could get a degree in business, I could go away to law school,” Martha said. “You know, like Perry Mason. I admit it; I love Perry Mason.”

Life, however, had different plans for Martha, and not long after she enrolled, she left UTEP to work full-time and raise her two children.

Fast forward to 1992. Working at Time Warner cable, Martha begin thinking about improving her life prospects. Her children were growing fast, and as the company’s top-biller, she knew she was capable of more.

“I realized that getting my college degree was something I just had to do,” she said. Martha re-enrolled at UTEP and signed up for 9 hours of classes. Over time, she added additional hours, often taking as many as 18 each semester.

“It’s funny,” she said, with hint of mischief in her eye, “I would get dressed up for work in my business suit, park in UTEP’s parking lot, get my feet out of my car and put on my tennis shoes to go to class. I’d take appointments in between classes. My employer never knew I was going to school.”

But, her clients knew. Martha told them so they would understand why she sometimes needed to reschedule appointments or if she occasionally showed up late. As a rule, though, she ran a pretty tight schedule. Her clients admired her drive and helped her retain her status as a top-biller. She was 38 at the time.

“I thought I was so old, and I wanted to be degreed by 40,” Martha said, adding that a few of her clients would tease her about her age, “Martha, when you walk in, your classmates are going to say, ‘There’s the professor!’”

Working full-time and raising two children as a single parent, Martha still hit her goal. She graduated from UTEP in 1994 with a degree in journalism. Six years later, she earned her Master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.

Fast forward once more to today. Martha has successfully navigated three separate careers – the first in radio and TV sales, then publishing, and now, managing her real estate business. She also spent 10 years on the opposite end of the classroom, teaching business classes at El Paso Community College and the University of Phoenix.

Always dedicated to the success of her children, Martha proudly attended both of their college graduation ceremonies, from two separate Texas institutions on the exact same day.

The gods of Texas higher education scheduling were on her side that day in 2010, as were the gods of aviation. Right after her daughter’s 1 p.m. undergraduate ceremony at U.T. Austin on May 15, Martha hopped on a plane back to El Paso for her son’s 7 p.m. UTEP ceremony. She drove straight from the airport to the Don Haskins Center with a few short minutes to spare.

Always dedicated to the success of her children, Martha proudly attended both of their college graduation ceremonies, from two separate Texas institutions on the exact same day. Marthakids.jpg

With both of her children happy and successful, Martha has focused her personal time on a different passion: advocating for UTEP as very active and visible member of the Alumni Association. Since 2011, Martha has worked hard to find ways to connect alumni of all ages. Today, she advocates for UTEP as president of the Alumni Association’s board of directors.

Martha’s devotion to her alma mater is infectious. She is anything but shy around fellow alumni, often engaging them with her vivacious personality and occasionally with her self-professed love of “partying.” Quite simply, Martha is fun to know.

With a small-ish pile of tissues now on the table, Martha was fully composed and preparing to dash to another meeting somewhere on campus. She paused and smiled.

“That’s the thing,” Martha said, “UTEP is the heart of El Paso. The better UTEP does, the better we all do. We are a community.”



An endowed scholarship can be established at UTEP with a minimum gift of $25,000, given outright or pledged over five years. Martha established her endowment with an initial $5,000 gift and plans to pay off her pledge in installments. “$2,000 here and there, as I can,” she said.

But, that’s not her only plan. Martha is also asking for your help. All gifts to UTEP, whether to the Martha Isabel Aguayo Endowed Scholarship or to the scholarship or program of your choice, make a difference in the lives of UTEP students.

To give to the Martha Isabel Aguayo Endowed Scholarship, visit

To learn about additional giving opportunities, visit our giving page:



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