Mary Jo Rawlins bestows fashion design scholarship in her name

Claudia Taylor

Club music thumps and bright lights glare over a runway lined on both sides with row after row of eager spectators. It looks like a scene from New York Fashion Week. But in reality it’s the ArtWear 2013 fashion show in UNT’s University Union, and UNT President V. Lane Rawlins and his wife, Mary Jo, are front row center.

The president and his wife attend the ArtWear show, a presentation of pieces created by seniors in the fashion design program, every year. But this year’s show May 4 had special meaning: Mrs. Rawlins took to the stage and introduced the first recipient of the Mary Jo Rawlins Endowed Scholarship in Fashion Design, Sharae Rogers. President Rawlins funded the scholarship as a gift for his wife’s birthday in 2012, a gesture she says left her “stunned.”

“I never dreamed that he would do that. It was a thrill,” she says. “He knew how much I love the Texas Fashion Collection.”

Scholarship recipient Rogers will spend her summer in New York City as a technical design intern for The Row, a high-end fashion brand created by designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. She is part of the Emerald Eagle Scholars program, which helps high-achieving students with high financial needs pay for a UNT education, and maintains good grades while working 20 hours per week. Rogers knows from experience the impact scholarships have on hard-working students.

“For me, it was either college or working in a call center or grocery store for the rest of my life,” she says. “I pay for all my bills on my own, without the financial help of my family. But I don’t let this make me stressed — I push harder to achieve all of my goals, not because I want to but because I have to.”

The ArtWear show is a chance for UNT’s budding fashion designers to show off their creations. Normally about 200 pieces are submitted, and a panel of industry judges chooses just over half of those to hit the catwalk. Mrs. Rawlins, a longtime admirer of fashion, says the students’ designs never fail to impress.

“The show is always fantastic,” she says. “It gets better every year.”

Rogers says she will work hard to set the bar high for future recipients of the scholarship.

“I was so shocked and honored to find out that I'd be the first recipient of the Mary Jo Rawlins scholarship in fashion design,” she says. “I want to thank President and Mrs. Rawlins for such an amazing gift and opportunity. I'm just so grateful to be recognized for my hard work.”

Above: Cynthia Mohr, chair of CVAD's design program; Mary Jo Rawlins, wife of UNT President V. Lane Rawlins; and scholarship recipient Sharae Rogers at the ArtWear fashion show May 4 at UNT's University Union.