In an era of ripped jeans and purposely untied shoelaces, the classically styled ensembles of HBU’s Student Foundation are a contrast in a crowd. Students on assignment in the prestigious group are polished from head-to-toe, and serve as fitting representatives of the University, interacting with friends and guests of HBU. Most importantly, the external presentation is a reflection of the students’ internal poise and professionalism.
The Foundation was formed during the 1969-1970 school year. From the beginning, the organization has included some of the best students of HBU, who act as exemplars of the school, serving at events, receptions, and giving campus VIP tours. It is the only student organization affiliated with the President’s Office.
Ed Borges, HBU senior director of Special Projects, describes the evolution of the group’s signature look, and its representation of the school’s recognizable color combination, orange and blue. “In the 1960s when the college was established, it wasn’t uncommon for the men to come to class in blazers and the women in dresses,” he said. “Originally, the bright color of orange was chosen because, if you wore a blue blazer, you would blend in.”
In the early 2000s, the buttoned-up look gave way to cardigans, polos and khakis. While the Foundation was still represented at events, for some, it seemed that the group had drifted out of prominent sight. A conversation began in 2016 about reviving the vibrant blazers and the sense of formality and presence they held. “The students are at a lot of high-profile events, and it makes sense for them to stand out,” Borges said.
Borges, who works with the University Events Office, along with the Advancement Office, to coordinate the Foundation’s schedule, collaborated to explore options for Foundation apparel. Finding the right shade of orange, and a fabric weight that made sense for Houston, wasn’t an easy task. “We tried one that ended up being more peach in person, then we looked at one that was too blood orange,” Borges said.
But, they finally found the blazer that fit – a Maxwell Park, striking orange, 100 percent polyester stunner with brass buttons. The best part is that the design comes in men’s and women’s cuts. Of course, the jacket must be paired with the right complements for best effect. Male Foundation representatives wear a tie patterned in black-and-white pinpoint, orange and blue accents, and – if anyone is still unsure of their affiliation – an HBU logo layered in. The women wear a matching scarf in the same pattern as the tie.
Foundation students debuted their new attire in the spring of 2018 at the Silver Tea fundraiser. “They got so many compliments from friends of the University, and those who remember the orange coats from their years,” Borges said. “Everyone was taken by them; it definitely made an impact.”
Junior Elizabeth Saldivar, Foundation chair and a student worker in the President’s Office, helped select the ladies’ outfit. She said the older generation, and the younger ones too, can appreciate a sharp-dressed student who is checking them in at an event or starting a conversation with guests. “I love the orange blazers. When we took our group photo, people were asking, ’Who are you, and what is this for?’ We’re being noticed, and that’s helping the Student Foundation, and the University too, to be known.”
Students become part of the Foundation after being recommended by a faculty or staff member, and they must go through an interview process. Desired qualities are involvement in the University, a love for its traditions, and factors such as high academic performance and strong morals.
“We are very proud of them, so we want others to get to know them too,” Borges said.
Members go through customer service training, etiquette lessons and image polishing. In the process of students serving, they often receive in return, meeting others who enrich their collegiate experience and establishing points of contact for their lives after college.
“I love hearing alumni reflect on their years in the Student Foundation as one of the greatest honors of their HBU careers,” Sharon Saunders, vice president for HBU Advancement and University Relations, and a Foundation advisor, said. “They remember the special relationships with administrators, faculty, staff and friends of the University, as well as their bond together.”
Saldivar said, “It’s a blessing to be part of something that’s being revitalized – something that’s bigger than ourselves. We’re a proud community of students who want to serve and want to represent the University.”