An endowed fund supporting students working in field placements has been established in honor of Cordell Reynolds, a Steve Hicks School of Social Work graduate.
Tragically, Cordell passed away in March 2021 in a car accident. Eric and Melanie Reynolds, Cordell’s parents and the creators of the Cordell Reynolds Endowed Excellence Fund, created this endowment to honor their son’s work and legacy. “Our whole purpose is to celebrate his life and continue his work. This allows us to help others continue the work that Cord is not going to be able to do. This School of Social Work and UT Austin meant so much to him.”
Cordell made a huge impact on his community and the lives of all who knew him. His parents remember that “Cord had a tremendous ability to care about people that other people didn’t care about, and he had that his whole life.” This passion and purpose led him to social work, which ultimately led him to the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. It was here that, in the words of the Reynolds’, “Cord’s passion was really given root.”
Though they originally intended to make a one-time gift, the Reynolds family recognized that an endowment would have a permanent impact on the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and its students, and would also be a lasting celebration of Cordell’s life.
Cordell followed his older brother to UT Austin; the year he graduated from high school, he was the only student from his hometown of Kaufman, TX to come to the Forty Acres. He enrolled in the pre-social work track and dove in head-first. “Within one year, he had been accepted into the School of Social Work and plotted out his path so that he could finish his BSW in three years,” remembers Eric proudly. “That’s when we woke up to what this meant to him.”
Cordell was a passionate, enthusiastic student. His care for others drew him to the program, but the faculty’s genuine care for their students and their passion for their work kept him there. During his first semester in the social work program, Cordell was required to complete 100 volunteer hours. Cordell’s commitment to this work was so determined and focused that he fulfilled this requirement within the first eight weeks of the semester, even walking a mile to and from his placement every day.
Cordell completed his undergraduate field placement at LifeWorks, an Austin-based organization that is focused on making youth homelessness rare and non-recurring. He finished his BSW in May of 2019, then went on to complete his MSSW in August of 2020 as part of the school’s accelerated post-BSW program. His ultimate goal was to work in a medical social work environment. He was passionate about helping people who needed a leg up and a bit of assistance.
Cordell’s legacy of dignity shines out not only through this generous endowment, but through the ForCord website. The site serves as a source of information for those looking to honor Cordell as well as a time capsule of reflections and memories. The website’s logo, created by Cordell’s cousin, shows two hands reaching around a gamer’s headset. This logo represents the impact that Cordell left and the connections that he made both in-person and online. The two hands symbolize Cordell’s hugs— “If you were hugged by Cord, you knew you had been hugged!” smiles Melanie. Cordell was also a prolific and skilled online gamer. The Reynolds were touched to discover that “there were people from all over the world who left tributes for him whose lives he touched just through playing online video games.” His deep care touched the online gaming community around the world.
The Cordell Reynolds Endowed Excellence Fund will memorialize and expand Cordell’s impact on his loved ones, UT Austin, and the world of social work. Eric says that, “Whether he encountered a student or a geriatric patient in a hospital, Cord wanted to make sure that people got what they were entitled to as human beings with fundamental rights. He was going to help them get what they deserved and needed to get.”
Contribute to the Cordell Reynolds Endowed Excellence Fund here.
Visit the ForCord website here.