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October 9, 2000

SARAH T. HUGHES SCHOLARSHIP WINNER OVERCOMES ADVERSITY TO ATTEND SMU SCHOOL OF LAW

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DALLAS (SMU) -- At 13, R. Jeronimo Valdez discovered his future profession while delivering office supplies to Southern Methodist University's School of Law.

"It was summer, it was hot -- about 107 degrees -- and I was helping my uncle deliver computer paper to the school. He pointed out the students and said 'Jeronimo, those students are going to be lawyers someday,' and that's when I knew what I wanted to be in life," he said.

As this year's Sarah T. Hughes Scholar, Valdez says he is able to attend the law school of his dreams, which he otherwise could not afford. The three-year, full-tuition Hughes Scholarship is sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association (DBA) and underwritten by the Dallas Bar Foundation. Since 1981 the scholarship has been awarded to an SMU first-year minority student.

A Dallas native, the 25-year-old Valdez is one of seven children reared by a single-mother and the first person in his family to graduate from college. At the age of seven, his mother was deported to her village in rural Mexico. For a time he lived in both countries, living with relatives while in Dallas in order to complete his education. He is a graduate of H. Grady Spruce High School and earned a political science degree in 1999 from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Major funding for the Hughes Scholarship is provided by the bar's annual production of "Bar None," a musical variety show featuring Dallas judges, lawyers and legal support staff. "Bar None" shows have raised more than $500,000 since 1985 for the minority scholarship. Law firms, solo practitioners and individual donors also provide significant financial support to the production and to the scholarship.

Valdez and the other current SMU Hughes Scholars, Darlene Woodson and Gabriel V. Vazquez, will be honored at a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Avenue. Also being honored will be the participants and sponsors of this year's "Bar None" production.

Judge Hughes, a former trustee of the Dallas Bar Foundation, worked to improve the rights of women and minorities for more than half a century. She served in the Texas Legislature from 1930 to 1934, was the first woman to become a State District judge in Texas, and was appointed to the federal bench in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.

In addition to the Hughes Scholarship, Valdez was one of only 20 law students nationwide to receive the first Legal Opportunity Scholarship from the American Bar Association. After law school, he plans to practice public interest law and hopes one day to become a judge.


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