Alumnus Recognized As Mentor of the Year

Lake Travis ISD Mentor of the Year Sam Crowther poses with high school mentee at the McKetta LuncheonAlumnus Sam Crowther has held a number of roles since graduating with his bachelor’s degree from the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering in 1957. He has been called a chemical engineer, a consultant, an entrepreneur, a science fair judge, a Sunday school teacher, an author and most recently, the mentor of the year for the elementary school students of Lake Travis ISD in Austin, Texas.

In May, Crowther received the Mentor Me LT Award for his dedication to the spirit of mentoring, including regular visits and contact with students, the quality of time spent and the concern and enthusiasm with which he has approached the mentor-student relationship.

“It makes me feel proud and useful, and I enjoy that very much,” Crowther said of receiving the award.

Since 2008, Crowther visits 15 to 20 students a week across three elementary campuses and intends to add two more campuses beginning fall 2016. And while he has found a passion for teaching children, mentoring was something he never expected to find an interest in.

“Mentoring slid into my life much like chemical engineering did,” Crowther said. A steady ‘C’ student, it took hard work, time and the teaching of former Texas ChE Professor Matthew Van Winkle to inspire Crowther to pursue chemical engineering – a story that can be mirrored by Crowther and his students.

“I enjoy it so much and I enjoy the kids,” Crowther said. “It’s amazing to watch them suddenly light up and want to learn, because many of them struggle in the beginning. Sometimes, I will run into the kids years later and they are so grateful for having spent time with me and that makes me feel really good.”

Crowther initially enrolled at UT Austin to study to become a dentist, following the footsteps of his stepfather. His focus quickly changed after sitting in on some of the chemical engineering classes his roommate attended, led by Texas ChE greats like Dr. John McKetta and Dr. William Cunningham. Shortly after, Crowther changed his major to pursue chemical engineering.

Crowther continually uses the lessons he learned from his time at UT Austin to introduce science and the basics of chemical engineering to the students he mentors. He even recently expanded his mentoring beyond elementary school students to invite Tristan, a local high school student interested in engineering, and Tristan’s little brother and mother, to the McKetta Luncheon to introduce the boys to chemical engineering and other alumni in the profession.

Along with receiving the district-wide award, Crowther was also recognized as the Mentor of the Year by individual campuses West Cypress Hills Elementary and Bee Cave Elementary. All three awards were presented to him at the annual LTISD End of Year Dinner on May 12, 2016.

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