Annual event honors students and alumni who are making a difference in the UNT community and the world.

Daniel Edwards

Daniel Edwards. Photo by Zach Ashcroft,

When Daniel Edwards started his senior year of high school he wasn't sure what he would do after graduation. He had never been encouraged to apply for college because he wasn't able to afford it.

"I knew college was important and I wanted to set a good example for my younger brother, who was in high school at the time," Edwards says. "So I started exploring my options."

He learned about UNT's award-winning Emerald Eagle Scholars program and knew there was hope. He achieved a spot in the Texas All-State Band and was accepted into the prestigious College of Music as a first-generation college student studying music education. Now, with college graduation on the horizon, he attributes much of his success to the Emerald Eagle Scholars program, which helped him receive funding for school and even provided him with a UNT staff mentor, Stuart Birdseye, his freshman year on campus.

"Money was a concern for me, but I didn't let that decide my future," says Edwards, who has served as a field tech for the UNT Green Brigade Marching Band and an officer for Mu Phi Epsilon, a professional music fraternity at UNT.

His story is just one example of the ways UNT's Emerald Eagle Scholars program has helped financially challenged students earn a college education.

A green-carpet affair

Phyllis George

Phyllis George

Edwards is one of the almost 120 senior Emerald Eagle Scholars, who, along with the legacy of UNT’s outstanding alumni, will be celebrated during the 2014 Emerald Eagle Honors: Recognizing a Lifetime of Contributions to the American Landscape presented by the UNT Foundation. The cocktail event will begin at 6 p.m. on March 5 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

This Kennedy Center Honors-type stage production will benefit the Emerald Eagle Scholars program, which helps high-achieving but financially challenged students pursue their college dreams by providing financial aid and academic support. Because of the Emerald Eagle Scholars program, nearly 3,500 students have received an education, many of which are first-generation college students.

The event also honors three important alumni who have profoundly affected society and continue to make UNT proud. This year's honorees include alumna Phyllis George, the first female sportscaster on national TV, actress and 1971 Miss America; Larry McMurtry ('58), Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter; and Peter Weller ('70), actor and Academy Award nominee. These high-profile alumni will be honored by a video performance and will then be presented with their awards by actress Ali MacGraw and American sportscaster and announcer Brent Musburger, who were selected because of their strong ties to the honorees. Each honoree will be awarded a custom Emerald Eagle Honors Medallion, designed by UNT associate professor of metalsmithing and jewelry making in UNT's College of Visual Arts and Design, Ana Lopez.

Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry

"This is an event that showcases the type of alums that UNT produces and how UNT helps its students succeed," says Molly Morgan, director of marketing and communication for the UNT Foundation.

The event's festivities will be co-hosted by notable alums George Dunham ('87), host of the "Dunham and Miller" show on KTCK-AM Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket and previous public address announcer for the Dallas Cowboys from 1999-2009, and Melissa Rycroft Strickland ('05), champion of Dancing with the Stars: All Stars and previous star on ABC's The Bachelor and CMT's The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.

It's showtime

Ticketholders will enjoy hors d'oeuvres and a cocktail buffet prior to the event while enjoying music by musicians from UNT's jazz program.

Peter Weller

Peter Weller

The show, which begins at 7:45 p.m., will feature musicians from UNT's College of Music and the Dallas-based southern rock, country and soul band, Prophets and Outlaws, which features UNT alumni. Several Emerald Eagle scholars will share their stories of success, made possible by the UNT Emerald Eagle Scholars program.

After the festive and upbeat entertainment portion of the production, a champagne reception will be held for members of the Greek community, which will be hosted by Greek Life and sponsored by Higginbotham/Molly and Rusty Reid.

"I think the Emerald Eagle Scholars program is terrific and reaches across many academic departments. I am glad to see so much support going to these students," says Kit Sawers, principal at Fay+Sawers Productions, the company organizing and staging the event.

Last year the inaugural Emerald Eagles Honors event recognized the achievements of the program and awarded Emerald Eagle Honors to three outstanding alumniz — "Mean" Joe Greene, Mary Suhm ('74 M.S., '84 M.B.A.) and Roy Orbison. The event helped raise funding for the Emerald Eagle Scholars program and wowed attendees with featured musicians and even a visit by the UNT Green Brigade.

"There will be elements similar to last year's event, but also some unique and fun parts that are perfect for this year," says Sawers, who has a few surprises tucked up her sleeve.

Will you join us?

Tickets can be purchased online. All proceeds benefit the Emerald Eagle Scholars program to help students make their dreams a reality.

"If I hadn't found UNT and the Emerald Eagle Scholars program, I wouldn't be where I am today," says Edwards, who plans to be seated with his senior class of Emerald Eagle Scholars in the terrace above the stage during the event. "I'm going to be the first person to graduate college in my family. That's a big deal."

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