A Half-Century of Giving Transforms UT Dallas
Over the past 50 or so years, The University of Texas at Dallas campus has evolved physically from a lone building in the middle of the Blackland Prairie just north of Dallas to a deliberate patchwork of research facilities, residence halls and academic buildings bustling with bright students, innovative programs and cutting-edge ideas. Three businessmen conceived the initial vision, but the ambitious transformation of UT Dallas into a top-tier research institution was made possible by forward-thinkers and generous supporters who made the University the rich mosaic that it is today.
In 1961, Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) founders Eugene McDermott, J. Erik Jonsson and Cecil Green established the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest — renamed in 1967 as the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies — the foundation for what would become The University of Texas at Dallas.
Gov. Preston Smith signed House Bill 303 in 1969, establishing UT Dallas as a component of the UT System. The Southwest Center for Advanced Studies donated 325 acres to the state of Texas.
UT Dallas received 275 acres of land from the Hoblitzelle Foundation and the Texas Research Foundation, which was initially established to revitalize soils of the Blackland Prairie and whose president was Karl Hoblitzelle.
In 1985, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board stipulated conditions to be met before approving an engineering school at UT Dallas, including raising $24 million from private sources. Led by Kent Black, then-president of Rockwell International Corp., key business leaders worked with UT Dallas President Robert Rutford to generate funds from the community.
At a special ceremony in 1989, Gov. Bill Clements signed into law a bill establishing UT Dallas as a four-year school, and philanthropist Peter O’Donnell announced a $1 million gift to support student scholarships.
In 1990, TI Chairman Jerry Junkins led The Campaign to Make History, an effort to raise $3 million to ensure the success of UTD’s transition to a four-year university. Nearly 50 individuals, corporations and foundations contributed to the cause.
The Excellence in Education Foundation — founded by Jonsson, Green and McDermott — contributed 76 acres of land and nearly $6 million in endowed funds in 1992.
Dallas real estate developer Trammell Crow donated more than 100 live oak trees to the University in 1994 to help landscape the acreage on either side of University Parkway.
The Two Thousands
Margaret McDermott donated $32 million in 2000 to establish the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program.
In 2004, an economic development project known as Project Emmitt and led by Texas Instruments began pumping more than $300 million into the University to strengthen science and engineering programs.
The Center for BrainHealth opened a state-of-the art facility in Dallas in 2007 and expanded clinical and research programs, buoyed by significant gifts from supporters such as Dianne Cash and T. Boone Pickens.
In 2009, just two months after Texas law made the University eligible for Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP) matching funds, 16 donors made gifts totaling nearly $17 million, including seven that were $1 million or more — the largest number of seven-figure donations ever received in a single day at UTD.
The Two Thousand and Tens
In 2010, the first phase of the seven-year-long Campus Landscape Enhancement project, funded with $50 million from Margaret McDermott, was dedicated. Some 5,000 trees and shrubs were planted, among other improvements. The University later named the Margaret McDermott Mall and Trellis Plaza in her honor.
Alumnus Naveen Jindal donated the single-largest alumni gift to date, part of a joint $30 million gift presented with fellow alumni Nancy Gundy Davidson and Charles Davidson for the School of Management, which was renamed the Naveen Jindal School of Management. The Charles and Nancy Davidson Management Honors Program was also established in 2011.
Dedicated supporters of the Callier Center for Communication Disorders contributed $5 million in 2013 to launch a $22 million expansion on the Richardson campus.
Realize the Vision: The Campaign for Tier One and Beyond concluded in 2014 by raising $273.3 million to support academic and research programs, scholarships, faculty chairs and campus enhancements. The five-year effort established 237 endowed funds and moved UTD closer to becoming a national research university. TRIP and the University of Texas System Research Incentive Program matching funds accounted for $67 million.
In 2014, a $14 million gift from Margaret McDermott, combined with $10 million in TRIP funding, created the Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellows Program, an innovative program designed to prepare outstanding doctoral students for careers in leading research enterprises.
Edith O’Donnell, longtime visionary and patroness of the arts and education, made a $17 million contribution in 2014 to create the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History.
In 2016, in support of newly appointed UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson, Margaret McDermott made a culminating gift of $25 million toward the construction costs of two new engineering and science buildings, as well as for a planned arts complex.
In 2017, UT Dallas celebrated the opening of the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center, a 30,246-square foot facility designed to deepen the connections between students and graduates, as envisioned by Nancy Gundy Davidson and Charles Davidson, whose $15 million gift made the building a reality.
At her request, Margaret McDermott’s $10 million contribution to support undergraduate research resulted in a new name for the Honors College — the Hobson Wildenthal Honors College in 2017.
In 2018, North Texas real estate icon Herb Weitzman and his wife, Donna, established the Herbert D. Weitzman Institute for Real Estate with their $3 million gift to the Naveen Jindal School of Management.
A $5.5 million planned gift from Maurine Johnson, the original first lady of UT Dallas, established the Francis S. and Maurine G. Johnson Distinguished University Chair, as well as seven additional chairs in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 2018.
In 2018, UT Dallas announced the acquisition of the Barrett Collection, an unparalleled assemblage of more than 400 works of Swiss art. Gifted by Richard and Luba Barrett, it is the single largest donation ever made to UTD as well as the largest gift of art to any institution in the UT System.
The entire collection of the Trammell and Margaret Crow Museum of Asian Art, together with $23 million of support funding, was donated to UT Dallas by the Crow family in 2018 to create the Trammell and Margaret Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas.