Perseverance appreciated

Winner of AGC Gene Murphree Award
inspired by her Laotian parents’ spirit

Michelle Sengsoury, a construction science graduate from Amarillo, Texas and daughter of Laotian refugees, was awarded the 2004 Associated General Contractors Gene Murphree Award by the 2004 construction science graduating class.

Oddly, the exceptional student said her construction science studies at Texas A&M began quite accidentally.

“I applied to A&M and was accepted into the school of architecture and mistakenly enrolled in the construction science program instead of the environmental design program,” Sengsoury recalled. “I decided to go ahead and stick with it, and was able to take classes that overlapped both programs. I enjoyed my construction classes and felt that they were more fitting to what I wanted to do.”

Since coming to A&M, Sengsoury said she has learned to appreciate the many hardships her parents endured escaping from Laos and starting a new life in the United States.

In 1979, prior to fleeing communist-ruled Laos, Sengsoury’s parents lost a child to malnutrition. Their second child, a son, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand.

The family arrived in the United States, “with literally nothing but each other,” the student recalled. An Amarillo family, who had learned of the Sengsourys’ plight through their church, took them in. Church members helped the family learn to speak and write English and also found the father a job as a meat cutter. A short time later, in 1982, Michelle was born.

After saving enough money, Sengsoury said her dad earned a graduate equivalency degree and began taking college classes while continuing his full-time job.

“He struggled through many of his classes, but he never gave up,” Sengsoury said.

After 15 years working at a meat-processing company and many hours in the classroom, the father’s hard work paid off.

“I distinctly remember when my dad finally graduated from college,” said Sengsoury, who was a freshman in high school at the time. “A sense of pride overwhelmed me because I knew how difficult it was for my dad to get where he was.”

Soon after graduation, Sengsoury’s father took a job as a draftsman and paved the way for his daughter’s interest in the architecture field.

Since graduating, Sengsoury has gone to work for Key Construction in Fort Worth.

“My hope for the future is that I continue to persevere and be persistent, as my parents did, and not allow the ‘potholes’ I am faced with to hinder the goals I have set for my future,” said Sengsoury. “Although my parents were forced to bear many hardships and were overwhelmed with discouragement, they kept going. When I think about the many challenges my parents endured to bring me where I am today, I am encouraged to persevere through this journey I am about to embark upon, and to continue striving for the goals that I have set for my life. Through their trials, my parents have inspired me to accomplish what I have started here at A&M and to seek to accomplish the goals and dreams that I have following graduation.”

The AGC award is named for Samuel E. “Gene” Murphree, who graduated from A&M in 1945. Murphree founded Gene Murphree Corporation General Contractor in 1954 and served as CEO until retiring in 1986. He has served as the AGC’s national director, as president of AGC’s Houston chapter, and as director of 11 commercial banks.

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Michelle Sengsoury