Texas Tech University

First in His Family to Become a College Graduate

Zoe Bell

April 9, 2015

John Hawley is a Terry Scholar at Texas Tech University.

John Hawley
John Hawley

John Hawley is living proof that if you work hard anything is possible.

Growing up, Hawley faced tremendous adversity, pushing him away from success. In May, he will be the first person in his immediate family to graduate from a university.

“Doing well in school was never really encouraged in my household but it was something I grasped on to when my family experienced poverty starting the year I entered middle school,” he said.

Hawley said he is the only person in his family that he is aware of who has not been in rehab for drugs or alcohol. His father left when Hawley was 9, and Hawley has not seen him since he was 12. This truth was what motivated him to work so hard in every task.

“I didn't want to end up like my family and have not contacted them or seen them for more than two years,” Hawley said. “I wanted to be better than the life I was handed and I have always felt God wanted me to do great things for him, even though I should listen to him far more than I do.”

Hawley said aside from accepting Jesus Christ as his savior when he was 8, nothing meant more to him than receiving the Terry Foundation Scholarship. He was one of the first Terry scholars interviewed for selection at Texas Tech, which makes him a part of the inaugural class of 2011.

Terry Foundation

The Terry Foundation is a Houston-based scholarship program founded to provide scholarships to outstanding Texas high school graduates for attendance at public colleges and universities within the state. Based on students' answers to the application questions as well as the scholarship application for the university, students are nominated to become scholarship candidates.

“With my family in poverty, there would have been no way to attend college without a full-ride scholarship, and that is exactly what the foundation gave to me,” he said. “They gave me a life, an outlet and better future than the one that was handed to me.”

First-year scholar qualifications include a record of leadership in school and their community, financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and show strong academic abilities as evidenced by grades, class rank and ACT or SAT scores. The application includes two essays and two letters of professional recommendation from teachers or employers who are non-family members.

Hawley said his high school college and career counselor, Diane Hernandez, suggested he would be an excellent candidate.

Erica Irlbeck
Erica Irlbeck

“Since she knew my dream was to come to Texas Tech, she pushed even harder when the Terry Foundation announced the expansion of the program to Texas Tech in 2010,” he said. “Before that, it was only at a handful of colleges statewide. I felt that I met the qualifications and that my extracurricular and academic success would put me ahead of the pack, which turned out to be true.”

Like most Texas Tech students, Hawley is a huge supporter of the Red Raider sports teams. He loves to attend basketball, football and baseball games. In addition to being in the Honors College, he works as a production coordinator at CEV Multimedia, is president of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) and an active member of the Texas Tech Terry Scholars.

He hopes to graduate from the masters' program he chooses in 2017 and begin work within the agricultural industry, or earn a doctorate in either agricultural communications or public relations. He has been accepted to earn a Master of Science in agricultural systems technology at Utah State University. He is waiting on an application to Kansas State University before making his final decision.

“I am still far from perfect, but with the guidance of so many helpful and caring advisers, I have stayed on the path that was so generously presented to me,” Hawley said. “It was unthinkable just two years ago, but I am now on a path which will lead me to attending graduate school in the fall of 2015.”

His advisers and mentors include Hernandez, Heather Medley and Erica Irlbeck.

“Dr. Irlbeck was a friend of mine before my time at Tech and encouraged me to visit when I was only a high school sophomore,” Hawley said. “More than six years later, she instructed two of my classes, served as my academic adviser and has been a role model for me through her supervision of the Agricultural Communicators, an organization I currently serve as president of. She is an amazing woman and someone I truly hope to impress with my future career achievements.”

Heather Medley
Heather Medley

Texas Tech was the only school to which Hawley applied. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his class from Caney Creek High School in Grangerland. He was a member of the Texas FFA news staff for three years in high school, and Texas Tech played an integral part in running that program. Through his involvement there, he was recruited to attend Texas Tech.

“Additionally, Texas Tech has the no. 1 overall agricultural communications program in the nation as recently deduced by a University of Arkansas study,” Hawley said. “I wanted to be where the best of the best were working.”

Last year, Hawley addressed more than 200 people during the 2014 Texas Tech Terry banquet. He spoke about his personal story in front of every Terry Scholar on campus and several special visitors, including Texas Tech President M. Duane Nellis.

“It meant so much to me to dedicate that speech to my close friend and mentor, Heather Medley, who has encouraged me more than anyone in my entire life,” he said. “She has truly been the best adviser the Texas Tech Terry scholars could ask for.”

Throughout all the obstacles Hawley has faced, he is thankful for Texas Tech and the support the university has given him.

“God has blessed me and thousands of others with the opportunity to attend the greatest university in the world, Texas Tech,” Hawley said.