The Dana K. Padgett Excellence in Art Fellowship scholarship endowment supports graduate research fellowships in the School of Art within the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts. This annual scholarship also keeps alive the memory and legacy of a University of Houston acclaimed artist and instructor.
The scholarship fund was established by her husband Michael Padgett, to assist graduate students as they pursue their studies in art, a field that Dana loved, studied and taught with great passion.
As an instructor at UH, Dana taught a variety of courses in both studio art and art history, including drawing, intermediate painting, introductory art history, graduate writing seminar, postmodernism and contemporary painting. She also taught courses at community colleges in the area and at the Contemporary Arts Museum.
While art was Dana’s passion, she was also skilled in computer science. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in computer science at Vanderbilt and worked for several years writing computer code for the space shuttle program in Clear Lake.
Michael Padgett notes that while computer science and fine arts may seem incompatible, they actually dovetailed quite well. “Dana was always a visually oriented person,” Padgett said. “Her computer science degree from Vanderbilt allowed her to think about the world in a very analytic fashion. When you combine a visual orientation with strong analytic skills you get someone who can take an image apart and analyze it quite deeply in terms of message, history, content and construction.”
As computer technology became more sophisticated, electronically generated imaging became an art form in itself. While many art purists struggled to implement the new techniques and software, Dana was able to easily implement the new technology, thanks to her computer science training. The more modern technologies were tools for her, rather than obstacles.
“Dana very much enjoyed teaching and seeing her students move forward,” Padgett said. "Her main concern about what her students took away was that they would master the material. Some of the topics that she taught were quite advanced. She wanted her students to really absorb the material because she knew that it would serve them well in life.”
Padgett also notes that both he and Dana completed their educations at a time when state schools received much more funding from state legislatures. This allowed them to attend universities and finish degrees without debt.
“Decreases in government funding mean that private individuals will have to help fill a gap that is much larger in the US than in many other countries,”
Padgett said. “If this endowment allows students to finish their studies with a little less debt, then they can start the next phase of their lives in a better position. The idea [behind this scholarship endowment] is to invest in students at a time when they may need money the most.”
Padgett hopes that students will remember the many types of help they received during their university studies, and that they can return the favor later in life to help someone else.
“If this endowment allows a student’s time at UH to be remembered and the generosity of UH to be celebrated, then it is a worthwhile fund to exist,” he said.“If this endowment allows a student’s time at UH to be remembered and the generosity of UH to be celebrated, then it is a worthwhile fund to exist,” he said.