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UHCL alumna gives back to university 'family'


Emily and Oliver Osborn

HOUSTON, March 9, 2014 — Home is where the heart is and no one knows this more than University of Houston-Clear Lake alumna Emily Butler Osborn. Not only has she made her own home a place where everyone feels loved, but also made a point of helping others find and create their own "home." During a time when many would be beginning to prepare for their retirement, Osborn was returning to school.

There were few education options for Osborn in the 1970s because of her roots in Lake Jackson, and she chose the budding UH-Clear Lake. And it is UHCL and future students who will benefit in the future because Osborn has become a UHCL Legacy Partner, a special designation for alumni and friends who affirm their commitment to UHCL through a planned gift. 

"I was a homemaker up to that point," says Osborn, now 87. "My husband, Oliver, was an executive with Dow Chemical and had traveled and worked for them for many years and I thought it was my turn to do for others, which included getting more education and a career outside the home."

Osborn's husband supported the idea and she returned to school. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in History/English degree from her days as an undergraduate in the '40s at Rice, Osborn knew she wanted something in the behavioral sciences arena in counseling or therapy and quickly found a niche in the marriage and family therapy program.

Osborn says that she had a strong, close family that included two brothers and two sisters and she carried that sense of "family" into her own where she had three children. She wanted others to have that same feeling about family.

Because of the drive between her Lake Jackson home (where she still lives today), Osborn says she chose daytime courses usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays because of the long, and at that time, barren trip to UHCL. She connected with her classmates where there was a mix of young students trying to find their careers, while a couple of the others were like her and upgrading their professional skills or trying to improve themselves by returning to school. Former Professor of Psychology and Family Therapy Linda Bell found a future therapist in Osborn.

"I had to take 12 hours in the behavioral sciences to level in undergraduate psychology (to attain the necessary psychology classes) and met Dr. Linda Bell," says Osborn. "I became interested in Linda's research and discovered marriage and family therapy – I felt a calling to be a therapist."

"Emily is a remarkable woman…a lovely person who had a natural calling for family therapy," says Bell, who helped create the UHCL Marriage and Family Therapy program, about her former student. "She came to the program having already lived a very full life raising a family and volunteering in numerous ways in her community and she used her experiences to excel in school."

"Linda recognized life experience in me," says Osborn, who has added four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren to her family since graduating from the university in 1979.

Upon graduation, she immediately began working at a Christian counseling center where she helped families reconnect. She remembers one case in particular where a young boy and mother came to see her because the boy was having night terrors. As it turned out, Osborn discovered that his father, who had to go overseas, had asked him to take care of the family. Once she delved into that issue, Osborn was able to help.

She worked five hours a day, three or four days a week, but learned to separate her work and home life, something that was psychologically necessary. Other invigorating activities for Osborn included writing a historical novel, "Fairhope," that takes place at a plantation near the Brazos River, her home site. After a career that lasted well in to her 60s, she now wants to give back to her university and help others make their career dreams a reality.

"Education is important to Oliver and me," says Osborn. "We want to make it available for others. UHCL was there for me."

To find out more about supporting UHCL and how to become a Legacy Partner, call Dwayne Busby at (281) 283-2019.

University of Houston-Clear Lake offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a doctoral program, from its four schools, which include the School of Business, School of Education, School of Human Sciences and Humanities, and School of Science and Computer Engineering. In 2011, the university gained approval from the state to add freshman- and sophomore-level courses to its roster and is currently planning for its first freshman class in fall 2014. For more information about the university, visit

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