Student Profile - Fred Vernon
Long road, long hours lead to LU for Fred Vernon
For Fred Vernon of Port Arthur, the path to becoming a successful Lamar University student has been a winding one.
A junior accounting major, Vernon is spending the summer in a paid internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Houston, where he hopes to eventually become a partner after completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Lamar University.
“It’s been great. I’m learning about business. I’m learning about myself. One of the senior partners, Todd Hoffman, is a Lamar University graduate. He’s been working with me a lot, teaching me about business and coaching me along the way,” Vernon said.
Not all of the jobs Vernon has held since graduating from Memorial High School in 2006 have related as directly to his long-term goals. After high school, Vernon started going to welding school at night while working as a welder at ExxonMobil in Beaumont during the day.
He saved his money and, after about eight months, quit work and enrolled full time at Tyler Junior College. The money didn’t stretch as far as he had hoped. After two semesters he was back home, getting certified in combination welding and going back to work as a welder, this time at Motiva, while going to school part time at Lamar State College-Port Arthur. He then began studying to become a certified welding inspector at San Jacinto College, but lasted only one semester.
“Toward the end of that semester, I decided I can’t keep doing this. I don’t want to work outside in the heat. I didn’t know I wanted to do accounting yet, but I knew I had a knack for business,” Vernon said.
He returned to Port Arthur, where he completed a degree at Lamar State College-Port Arthur, began his studies as a transfer student at Lamar University and started a new job as a corrections officer. Fall 2010 is “when things got interesting. I had what I called 25-hour Fridays.”
Throughout Fall 2010, Vernon would get up in time for an 8 a.m. class, attend classes until about 12:30 p.m., then head to the dining hall for a quick lunch. After lunch, he would run to his room in the Cardinal Village residence halls to change into his correctional officer uniform, reporting for work at 2:30 p.m. About 90 percent of the time, he would get notice near the end of his eight-hour shift that he would be required to work eight hours of overtime. He usually made it back to his dorm room about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Thanks to a Lamar University scholarship for the spring, Vernon was able to end his career as a correctional officer and focus on his studies with an on-campus job as a Cardinal Village community advisor. He decided to major in accounting because of his strong performance in his first two accounting classes and the encouragement of Ann Watkins, chair of the Department of Accounting and Business Law. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA, earning a place on the President’s List twice at Lamar State College-Port Arthur and twice at Lamar University.
Vernon cites the approachability and availability of faculty and staff as one of his favorite things about Lamar University. He sees several reasons he has been able to build strong relationships on campus already, including his ability to find common ground with people and the grace of God.
“Finally, I believe when people see someone who is driven and ambitious and has a well-defined goal, people are eager and willing to help someone like that,” Vernon said.
He credits God and his mother as two of the reasons he has achieved what he has so far. “She homeschooled us for our first five years,” he said, noting that his younger brother is a student athlete playing football at Texas State University. “The work ethic and discipline she instilled in us as children at that age has undoubtedly made an impact.”
Vernon expects to be the first in his family to graduate from college. In addition to pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting, he plans to complete his MBA and Master of Science in Accounting degrees at Lamar University.
On campus, Vernon is a Lamar University Ambassador and is a member of the Accounting Society, National Association of Black Accountants and Beta Alpha Psi, an accounting honor society. Those professional organizations on campus opened the door to a career expo for Vernon, which led to his summer internship. He hopes to return to PricewaterhouseCoopers for another internship in the spring.