Jennifer Mikel was congratulated by attorney David Beck after she was named recipient of the first David J. Beck Fellowship at Lamar University.

Jennifer Mikel, a junior nursing major from Sweeny, has been named the inaugural winner of Lamar University's David J. Beck Fellowship.

Lamar University President James Simmons announced Mikel's selection Nov. 18 at a ceremony on the eighth floor of the Mary and John Gray Library on campus.

At the ceremony, Mikel received an engraved medallion and certificate from Lamar University distinguished alumnus and prominent attorney David J. Beck, whose $1 million gift to the Lamar University Foundation made the fellowship possible.

The fellowship will provide Mikel with a full academic scholarship for 2009 including tuition, books, rooms and board and $10,000 to pursue a summer project she proposed as part of her application.

She plans to travel to Ghana where she will work as a nursing intern in a rural hospital and live with a host family for six weeks through Projects Abroad.

During the ceremony, Beck, a 1961 Lamar graduate and founding partner of Beck, Redden & Secrest LLP in Houston, joked that after reviewing materials about Mikel and the other finalists, he did not think he would be accepted to Lamar University today.

"I don't think I have ever seen credentials as impressive as those of Jennifer and the other finalists," Beck said. "I applaud every one of you for all that you've accomplished."

Beck established the fellowship in June 2007 to be awarded to undergraduate students in financial need who exhibit high academic performance in any discipline.

Beck praised Mikel as an outstanding choice as the first David J. Beck Fellow.

"A willingness to work hard and learn from others is critical to success in any field," Beck said. "I hope this fellowship year gives Jennifer a unique opportunity to supplement the excellent education she is receiving at Lamar University. Her spirit of service is admirable and indicative of the quality of students attracted to Lamar."

Mikel, 19, said she had been interested in working in Africa since her senior year at Sweeny High School when she did an internship at Brazosport Memorial Hospital and met a nurse who had traveled to Africa during her college years.

"I thought this would be an excellent way for me to mix what I want to learn in nursing with a fantastic trip that would be a journey of a lifetime. I was so happy that David Beck came up with this fellowship so that it could be possible," Mikel said.

Beck grew up in Port Arthur where his father worked in the Gulf Refinery. He studied government at Lamar and joined the pre-law program after a government professor suggested he go to law school.

A graduate of the class of 1961, Beck served the college as president of the Student Government Association.

Beck went on the University of Texas Law School in Austin, and has been a longtime member of the board of trustees and chair of the development committee.

Beck joined Fulbright & Jaworski LLP in Houston in 1966, and became head of the energy litigation department for the firm in the 1980s. He began the Beck, Redden & Secrest LLP firm in Houston in 1992. The firm represents corporate defendants. It was named one of the Top 5 "boutique" firms, firms specializing in litigation, in the country.

Beck served as president of the American College of Trial Lawyers for 2006-2007.

Beck has not forgotten the impact Lamar made in his life, and has become a dedicated supporter. He became a trustee of the Lamar University Foundation in 1987 and served as board president in 1991-92. The next year Gov. Ann Richards appointed Beck a regent of the Lamar University System.

He was honored as a Lamar University Distinguished Alumnus in 1999. In 2002, Beck established a scholarship in political science for students who need financial assistance to attend college.

"This is a wonderful opportunity not only for me but for future students who want to do something extraordinary and experience something that they might not be able to do if it wasn't for his contribution," Mikel said. "He's making so many people's dreams become reality."

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