A Statue, a Promise and a Ram in a Bush
Nine-years-old. That was Phyllus Flowers' age when she took her first job, became the bookkeeper for her 10-member family and promised herself that one day she would graduate from Baylor University.
Born in a little house just three blocks from campus, Phyllus grew up regularly visiting the Armstrong Browning Library and playing on the Judge Baylor statue.
"One day I looked up at Judge Baylor's imposing figure and said, 'I am going to graduate from this school some day. Just you watch and see!'" Phyllus said.
It was a big promise, especially in a time when many institutions remained segregated.
At age 18, Phyllus dropped out of college at the University of North Texas in order to work full-time to put her husband through college. For the next several years, life was a constant wrestle between working, supporting three small children and squeezing in community college classes. But, though Phyllus' dream to receive a Baylor education sometimes seemed dim and distant, she fought to keep alive.
When faced with seemingly hopeless circumstances, Phyllus drew strength to persevere from her mother's constant Biblical reminder of God's provision to Abraham in his greatest moment of need. "My mother told me 'God always brings the ram in the bush and sometimes you may be that ram,'" Phyllus said. "So I prayed that I would live to make a difference for my people, my family."
When the time finally came for Phyllus to step on that familiar campus as a Baylor student, her two sons were among her fellow classmates. "All those years I had worked to accomplish this goal, this deal between me and God and Judge Baylor," Phyllus said. "And as I was leaving my first day of religion class, I went by the statue and said 'I'm here.' And I just stood there and cried."
She had made it, at last. With minimal finances and children in college along with her, however, it was far from clear how Phyllus would be able to persist to graduation. Her "ram" came just in time...in the form of a Student Foundation scholarship.
"I felt like I was somebody when I received that scholarship," Phyllus said. "I knew somebody else cared about my success and that meant a lot to me."
On December 17, 1994, Phyllus won that 33-year long bet. Earning a bachelor's degree in business administration at age 42, she became the first person in her immediate family to receive a four-year degree.
Living by her mother's admonition to show gratitude by "paying your blessings forward," Phyllus has made it a personal practice to give what she can to the Student Foundation scholarship fund each year.
"I am not rich by anyone's standards," Phyllus said. "However, I make sure to give that small amount to scholarships every year since I graduated because someone reached out to me in my time of need."
"I give to scholarships because when my time comes, I want to hear the Lord say 'well done.' That's all I live for."
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