$4.5M Gift Supports Student, Faculty Success and New Lecture Series on Equity and Social Justice

Transformative Gift Initiates First Matching Gift by ‘$100 Million Challenge’ for Total Impact of at Least $6.5M

student engineering

The University of Houston has received a $4.5 million gift from the Thomas Michael Panos Family Estate to establish an endowed chair in the Cullen College of Engineering; a scholarship endowment available to students throughout the University; and an endowed lecture series focused on equity and social justice, which will reside in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. An additional $2 million has been matched by the University’s new “$100 Million Challenge” Aspire Fund. This is the first matched gift since the fund was established, making the total impact of the Panos Family Estate gift at least $6.5 million. 

Panos Gift Breakdown:

  • $2 million creates the Panos Family Endowed Chair in Mechanical Engineering. The gift was matched one-to-one by the “$100 Million Challenge,” doubling the impact. A search is underway for the endowed chair who will be a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering, with a focus in the area of sustainable energy and energy security.
  • $2 million establishes a scholarship endowment to support need and merit based scholarships for full-time undergraduate or graduate students across the University. UH will begin accepting applications for the scholarship in the 2022 academic year.
  • $500,000 supports “The Panos Family Endowed Lecture in Equity and Social Justice” in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to sustain ongoing conversations on contemporary topics that are relevant to society and bring awareness and ideas from local, national and international thought leaders.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Thomas Michael Panos Family Estate. This significant gift will not only help fuel academic success through innovation and discovery, but will support our ability to recruit renowned faculty and expand thought leadership,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “The additional support for an equity and social justice lecture series is an especially timely and important part of our efforts to increase visibility around these issues.”

The Panos family was an integral part of this city’s fabric during Houston’s earliest years of expansion, according to Scott Harbers, friend and trustee of the family’s estate. Though Thomas Michael Panos emigrated from Greece to Houston with only a sixth-grade education, he and his wife instilled in their children— Mike, Effie and Gus— a passion for education and the importance of giving back. Mike and Gus Panos both earned college degrees in engineering. All have since passed away.

“They were the kind of people who would help anybody,” said Harbers, who lived next door to the Panos family decades ago in what is now Midtown Houston. “As a family of immigrants, I know they would appreciate the diversity of the student body at the University of Houston. They had a tremendous interest in education and equal rights. I’m hopeful that this gift will help advance the lives of students who need help to complete their studies.”

$100 Million Challenge

In fall 2019, the University received a landmark $50 million gift from an anonymous donor to establish the “$100 Million Challenge” Aspire Fund, designed to inspire another $50 million in investments from additional donors to support the University’s bold future in research and scholarship relevant to Houston’s future in four areas that will address issues with major societal impact:

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

“The ‘$100 Million Challenge’ is a transformational initiative to propel our academic enterprise to unprecedented levels of distinction, and this first matching gift launches us,” said Eloise Brice, vice president for university advancement. “The work and research being done at UH, and accelerated through the Challenge, will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for all Houstonians.”

Donors who commit $2 million to establish a new endowed chair will have their gifts matched by the anonymous donor, doubling the investment to create a $4 million endowed chair. Similarly, $1 million gifts for new endowed professorships will be matched to create $2 million endowed professorships.