Veteran, Mother, Scholar; Rebecca Heath Earns Legacy Ring

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – In spring 2020, five Islander students were given an Islander Legacy Ring, courtesy of the Islander Alumni Association. It’s a tradition that honors the profound contributions that students make to the Island campus and beyond. For Rebecca Heath '20, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi senior economics major and veteran, her Islander Ring is emblematic of her devotion to her studies, peers, and professors.

“It was a huge gift that I wasn’t expecting,” Heath said. “College has been a huge piece of my life and this has such sentimental value. I almost cried.”

Heath came to the Island University after leaving the Air Force where she served for six years as an aerospace ground equipment mechanic. After having a child, she and her husband moved to Corpus Christi to be closer to his family and so Heath could attend school.

“I came from a poor family and it was through military support that I was able to go to college,” Heath said. “I wanted to give my son a better situation than I had, and a business degree was the best option. I ended up falling in love with economics. I chose TAMU-CC because of its business accreditation, and because the campus was perfect for me, not too big, a beautiful city, veteran-friendly and a comfortable community with lots of culture.”

All students who receive Legacy Rings are nominated by Islander faculty or staff. In Heath’s case, it was Dr. Deniz Gevrek, Associate Professor of Economics, who made the nod. Not only was Heath in many of Gevrek’s classes, but she also served as Gevrek’s teaching assistant (TA).

“I have had many opportunities to witness Rebecca’s devotion, attention to detail, and skills both in and out of the classroom,” said Gevrek. “She has a commitment to excellence that will carry her far in her career.”

Over the course of her degree, Heath found herself being asked by classmates to act as their unofficial tutor and decided that a job as an economics tutor at the Center for Academic Success (CASA) was the next logical step. A nursing student taking Principles of Economics as an elective was one of Heath’s most memorable pupils at CASA. Heath says that while the student was highly skilled in pharmaceuticals, she had no previous economics knowledge.

“We worked hard together, and she ended up getting an ‘A’ in the class,” said Heath. “I was so proud; it was like she was my little economics baby bird that grew into an economics eagle!”

Besides working as a TA and tutor, Heath served as treasurer for the Student Veteran Organization. She says she appreciates the strong veteran-friendly atmosphere of the University, along with the irreplaceable friendships she’s made with fellow vets.

“Everyone has been very accepting and helpful about my veteran status. I was even able to participate in a veteran-only first-year seminar where I got to connect with my veteran community,” Heath said. Ultimately, Heath intends to attend Ohio State University to pursue a Ph.D. in economics. She says she got a leg-up on the admissions process thanks to her professors, as well as the unending support of her husband, Blaine.

“My beautiful husband has supported me since the beginning when we were in the military together,” Heath said. “When I made the choice to leave the Air Force, he was instantly in my corner supporting me. Even now, he’s willing to go anywhere with me because I have something special with economics, and he wants to see me take it as far as I can.”

As she nears her graduation in summer 2020, Heath extends warm regards to her economics professors.

“They’ve never once given up on any student in class. They’ve helped me in so many ways from understanding economics in the civilian world to picking schools for my doctoral degree,” Heath said. “All the economics professors are my favorite.”

Students are invited to participate in the Ring Ceremony at Lee Plaza where they can toss a sand dollar into the fountain and make a wish before they graduate, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary halt to that tradition. Islanders received their rings via mail this summer, and are able to participate in virtual commencement taking place in August.