• Family Connections
    Carlos Barron

While the members of the Parent Leadership Gift Council (PLGC) are known for giving gifts, two sets of Southwestern parents have received an unexpected gift through the Council as well. After living as neighbors twelve years ago and 8,000 miles away, Jerome and Tresa De La Cruz P’18 and Ron and Courtney Schultz P’20 have rekindled their friendship through the PLGC.

Ron and Jerome are employed through the same energy company. In 2001, they were both transferred to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their families moved to the same expatriate neighborhood. Living just three doors apart, they were an integral part of each other’s lives. “Living over there, we didn’t have any family around,” says Courtney. “Our friends became like our family. We saw each other almost every day.”

The two families have many shared memories of their time in Dubai. Their children attended the American School together. They were on the same afterschool sports team. They went camping together in a wadi, a seasonal river bed, under palm trees in the desert. Tresa and Courtney volunteered together on the Parent Association at the School. For the holidays, many families celebrated Christmas in the desert in this predominantly Muslim country, with camel rides and belly dancers.

The families lived as neighbors in Dubai for three years. From there, the De La Cruz family moved to Norway, then Alaska, and the Schultz family returned to Texas.

Fast forward to 2013. Daughter Sierra De La Cruz ’18 began her search for a college while living in Anchorage, Alaska. She has extended family in Texas and decided she would attend a small, liberal arts college there. A United Methodist pastor friend in Alaska with Texas roots suggested the family check out Southwestern because of its historic ties to the Church. After a visit, Tresa says, “It just felt right.” Sierra entered as a first-year student in 2014 and graduated this spring.

In 2016, daughter Hayley Schultz ’20 in Houston, Texas, also made the decision to attend Southwestern. Her choice was influenced by artist alumna Lauri Jones Cragg ’83, Hayley’s art teacher for eight years while growing up. Looking for a personal but challenging college experience and a strong art program, Hayley decided Southwestern was for her, too.

Family Connections

Seeing each other at the 2016 fall Parent Leadership Gift Council meeting was a real surprise for the couples. Tresa and Jerome aren’t able to make every meeting considering their 4,000 mile trip from Anchorage to Georgetown. Ron and Courtney were greenhorns at their first meeting. They had some inkling that both of their daughters attended Southwestern through social media, but never expected to reunite with each other through the Council.

The Parent Leadership Gift Council is comprised of 38 parent and couple members. It is a particular way for parents to be more engaged in their student’s Southwestern Experience. At the twice-yearly meetings, members engage with other parents and school leadership, including President Burger, professors, students, and alumni.

One contribution members make is financial, giving at least $2,500 a year to the institution. They also serve as ambassadors for the college, especially to other parents. Every parent of an incoming student receives a personal phone call from a member of the Council. Each August, they sponsor August send-off parties in cities with a sizeable population of new students, like Dallas and Houston.

Since reuniting that fall, the couples have looked forward to seeing each other at meetings.

“At a dinner last year, we sat together and lingered long after the meal,” says Courtney. “We got to catch up on each other’s lives and reminisce about so many special memories.”

It seems fitting that, just as they served on the Dubai American School Parent Association over a decade ago, Courtney and Tresa are once again working together to further their children’s educational opportunities. Tresa says, “I should have known the Schultzes would be at the Parent Leadership Gift Council. They are the kind of parents that get really involved.” 

To learn more about the Parent Leadership Gift Council, visit southwestern.edu/plgc.