Anonymous Donor Pledges $50 Million to Attract Preeminent Faculty to University of Houston

Unprecedented Gift Establishes Four New Institutes and Endowment Matching Program

The University of Houston has received a landmark $50 million gift from an anonymous donor to hire distinguished faculty to establish and support four new institutes that will address crucial challenges in the areas of energy, infrastructure, population health and global engagement. Called “Aspire Fund: The $50 Million Challenge,” it is the largest single contribution to UH’s “Here, We Go” philanthropic campaign.

The $50 million pledge creates a matching endowment program to establish endowed chairs and professorships across the university, which will be a first-of-its-kind program for UH. The Aspire Fund challenge is designed to inspire another $50 million in investments from additional  donors, making the total impact as much as $100 million and positioning UH to be nationally competitive in attracting preeminent faculty. 

“What a defining moment it is for the University of Houston and for our city. To receive a gift of this magnitude and for the purpose it is intended to serve is a clear indication that people believe in the potential of the University of Houston to reach new heights. This gift will help us acquire top talent from across the nation to transform our academic and research abilities like nothing we have seen before,” said UH President Renu Khator. “I want to thank the donor for believing in us and for inspiring us to dream big, work hard and build a university of the future!”

The gift establishes four new interdisciplinary institutes. Each is relevant to Houston’s future and will address issues with major societal impact:

  • Institute for Sustainable Energy and Energy Security
  • Institute for Resilient Infrastructure and Smart Cities
  • Institute for Population Health
  • Institute for Global Engagement

The institutes will be led by faculty with internationally recognized credentials, such as members of the National Academies of Engineering, Science or Medicine. An accomplished international executive will be sought to lead the Institute for Global Engagement.

As part of the pledge and to create these prestigious positions, the anonymous donor will provide matching funds to leverage support from other donors. Donors who commit $2 million to establish an endowed chair in one of the new institutes will have their gifts matched by the anonymous donor, doubling the impact to create a $4 million endowed chair. Similarly, $1 million gifts for endowed professorships in the institutes will be matched to create $2 million endowed professorships.  

“With this gift, we will help prepare University of Houston students to thrive in the global marketplace,” said the donor. “Strong faculty leadership is paramount to the University’s success.  This new wave of outstanding faculty will build upon the University’s already exceptional faculty.  We believe this investment will continue the process of motivating students and benefit our great city of Houston through work in the classrooms, institutes and labs.” 

The Aspire Fund and the new institutes will give UH students the opportunity to collaborate with leading scholars in innovative research and discovery worldwide. The institutes, and the faculty members who lead them, will conduct cutting-edge research, lead and contribute to global conversations, and develop and implement real-world solutions and advancements.  Eloise Brice, vice president for university advancement, said the anonymous donor understands the power of intellectual human capital and chose to focus on advancing knowledge on issues that uniquely underpin the social, political and economic future for both Houston and the world.

“This gift creates an environment to attract both the world’s best and brightest faculty and also its top flight students” said Brice. “These new institutes will motivate and educate students to pursue challenging areas of study, particularly in the STEM and health sciences fields. It takes UH to an entirely new level.”

“This visionary philanthropy is a game changer for the University of Houston, increasing its visibility and profile on a local, national and international level. Just imagine the inroads of innovation and discovery that will be possible in this type of environment,” said Tilman Fertitta, chairman of the University of Houston System Board of Regents.

The transformational donation comes in the final year of the university’s $1 billion “Here, We Go” Campaign, which will conclude in August 2020. But the momentum is expected to continue. 

“Challenge matching gift programs of this magnitude have incredible positive impact. They reinvigorate the University as a whole, strengthening our core foundation, academic and research prowess,” said Paula Myrick Short, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

In addition to the anonymous donor’s $50 million gift and the $50 million it is expected to elicit from other donors, the University will seek matching funds available from the state through the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP) and the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI).

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter for excellence in undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation's fourth-largest city and one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse regions in the country, UH is a federally designated Hispanic- and Asian-American-Serving institution with enrollment of 46,000 students.

About the “Here, We Go" Campaign

The “Here, We Go” Campaign is the University of Houston’s first major systemwide fundraising campaign in more than 25 years. Gifts made from 2012 to 2020 will contribute toward the university’s key priorities, including scholarships, faculty support and strengthening the university’s partnership with Houston.