Julia Hickman and Cecil Reynolds are long-time University of Texas women's basketball season-ticket holders and Longhorn Foundation donors. They are also both mental health professionals who have taught at the collegiate level, a fact that makes their latest pledge to UT athletics all the more meaningful.
Representing the largest one-time donation in UT athletics history, the couple's $20 million gift will fund the future Cecil Reynolds and Julia Hickman Center for Student-Athlete Brain & Behavioral Health.
"Both of us being in the mental health field, we've gravitated to brain and behavioral health, and we observe that student-athletes have the same mental health issues," Reynolds states on the Longhorns website. "It's compounded because of the stress dumped on them. It's a whole different level of stress, because of the schedules, expectations and demands."
According to the site, "The center will provide administrative oversight, structure and support to implement an integrated, athlete-centered model of student-athlete mental/behavioral health services that emphasizes education, prevention, assessment, treatment and self-care for current and future Texas student-athletes. Additionally, the center will work to integrate clinical services and prioritize participation in research initiatives that focus on athlete brain and behavioral health interventions and outcomes."
"We continue to learn that having a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body," said UT vice president and athletics director Chris Del Conte. "This generous commitment will help our student-athletes for generations to come."
It was a generation ago that Hickman attended a women's basketball fantasy camp at Texas. "I was totally hooked," she said. "It was the most fun I'd ever had in my whole life. I started buying season tickets, and I sort of dragged Cecil, my son and my mom to basketball games. Cecil fell in love with it too."
Reynolds added that the new center will empower student-athletes to take care of themselves in ways beyond the physical. "We want to make it an expectation to ask for help. It should be no different than treating a sprained ankle," he said. "If you're having an issue that's emotional or behavioral, the expectation should be that you step forward and do something about it."