Scholarship Inspires Student
First Recipient of Memorial Scholarship Shares Navy Experience, Dental Dream
By Teri Speece
For Chris Jones, the first recipient of The Shane Epperson Memorial Scholarship, the reward is more than just financial—it’s the inspiration he receives from its namesake.
“When I learned about Epperson and saw that he was a Navy guy, I could really relate to him,” said Jones. “He had such a similar story to mine, being in for four years and wanting to go to dental school. It really hit home.”
Epperson joined the Navy in 2005 as a Seaman Recruit. In 2006, he became friends with Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Chase. Their friendship strengthened, and the two stayed in contact when stationed apart.
In April 2009, Petty Officer 2nd Class Epperson died at age 21. Chase mourned his friend and the loss of his promising future. To honor his friend whose dream was to attend dental school at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, Chase donated $10,000 to the School of Dentistry in 2012 to create The Shane Epperson Memorial Scholarship. Each year $750 will be awarded to a Texan who is a current or former member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Jones, a third-year dental student, was serving in the Navy when he discovered his desire to enter the health professions. While stationed in Peru, Jones volunteered with missionaries who provided medical and dental care to the country’s poor. “I dressed up as a clown to entertain the kids while the parents were getting medical attention,” Jones said. “It was sad. At the end of every day, there were still so many people to be seen.”
Jones decided to help others through medicine and, after shadowing a dentist at his mother’s workplace, he chose dentistry.
“The financial assistance is great, but the greatest help to me is mental. Now, I’m doing my schooling in memory of somebody else, someone who wanted to be here, should have been here, and wasn’t able to,” he said. “It’s like I’m carrying Shane on my shoulders.”