Thieves Can't Steal UT Dallas Pride
Campus Restores Alumna’s Cherished Symbol of Degrees and Memories
Amid the shock of discovering her home had been invaded last year, Debra Pickral realized that thieves had stolen the jewelry box where she kept a prized reminder of the years she spent and the degrees she earned at UT Dallas.
Pickral earned a bachelor’s degree in 1990 in general studies (now interdisciplinary studies) and followed up with a master’s degree in the same program in 1994. Missing along with Pickral’s jewelry box was a pendant with the UT Dallas seal, which Pickral received when she earned the master’s.
“I worked so hard for both degrees,” Pickral said. “This pendant was my reward for more than a decade of persistence to earn these degrees, and now it’s gone.”
Dr. Aaron Conley
Pickral contacted the bookstore and the company that produced the original keepsake but learned that the pendants were no longer available. She called Dr. Aaron Conley, vice president for development and alumni relations, who went to work setting a surprise in motion for Pickral.
Conley shared Pickral’s story with Herff Jones, a company that produces class rings, yearbooks, awards and other symbols of accomplishment. Moved by the loss, the company designed and produced a pendant for free.
Conley called Pickral and asked her to come to campus, where she was surprised with the pendant by UT Dallas President David E. Daniel.
“This was one of the most touching stories of alumni pride I've heard in my entire career,” Daniel said. “I just had to meet Debra and thank her for showing such loyalty to her alma mater.”
Pickral, who lives in Fort Worth, has worked her entire career in the federal government and is currently an investigator with the United States Department of Labor.
“My UT Dallas education has been invaluable to my career,” Pickral said. “I'm so proud to see how the University is growing. I haven't been on campus in years, and I almost don't recognize it today.”
Pickral’s pride in her alma mater will pay off for other alumni. Herff Jones will make the pendant a keepsake option for other graduates as well.