Propelled by a historic month that includes the university's largest-ever gift and a stadium sponsorship, UNT is moving forward in its journey to being recognized as a top-tier public research university offering the best undergraduate education in Texas.
The milestones include a $22 million pledged gift from entrepreneur Charn Uswachoke ('73 M.B.A.) that is the largest in UNT's history. And because of a $20 million naming sponsorship for UNT's new stadium, the university now has a vital partner in Apogee, a campus residential network provider.
The gifts announced this summer also include longtime benefactor Paul Voertman's $8 million bequest — one of the largest bequests ever made to UNT — as well as a nationally significant photo collection and cutting-edge merchandising design software.
The landmark gifts and stadium sponsorship totaling more than $51 million will impact every aspect of the university, with most every college benefiting. They will enhance student learning, support scholarships, create endowed chairs and professorships, sustain faculty with funding for research and creative endeavors, and elevate UNT's prominence in fields ranging from athletics to the arts and music to energy-related materials research.
President V. Lane Rawlins says these milestones will transform UNT from the standout institution it is to one that is at the head of the pack. The university has been making strategic investments to enhance its quality and expand its reach, and the game-changing gifts and stadium sponsorship have catapulted UNT onto a new playing field.
"We're redoubling our commitment to become the best place for undergraduate education in Texas so that our students can excel and compete at the highest levels. As part of that commitment, we've made a promise to students to provide a high-quality education and opportunities to grow," Rawlins says. "These gifts will help us fulfill that promise and give us momentum toward our goal to become the best."
Lisa Baronio, vice president for advancement, says the outside support will enable UNT to widen its margin of excellence.
"For 121 years, UNT has been a driving force in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, which says a lot because it is one of the largest, most economically vibrant regions in the nation," Baronio says. "These kinds of gifts demonstrate that we are an institution on the move. Their breadth and depth represent the strong commitment our donors have to UNT and publicly acknowledge their belief in our mission. If we are at the forefront, it will help businesses, communities and the state."
For UNT to become a leader, it will take committed supporters — those who believe in what the university is doing and where it is going. Uswachoke and Voertman were both students at UNT, and they are now two of the university's most generous benefactors. They have left indelible marks through their longstanding support of students, faculty and the institution.
Uswachoke says he values the education he received and is impressed with how the university has become stronger and expanded into new areas.
"UNT is a top-quality school," he says. "And I want to help the next generation have a better education so that we can have a better world."
Uswachoke's $22 million pledged gift will be divided among the College of Music, the College of Engineering and the College of Business, with $7 million supporting student scholarships, $6.5 million supporting endowed professorships and chairs and $3 million funding touring and recording opportunities for students.
New initiatives also include the $5 million premier Charn Uswachoke Center for Energy Efficient Materials and $500,000 to establish the Charn Uswachoke Graduate Suite in the new Business Leadership Building. Uswachoke also has given the university previous history-making gifts supporting music, business and international endeavors.
College of Business Dean Finley Graves says Uswachoke's gift will make study abroad a vital component of a business education at UNT.
"Mr. Uswachoke's gift will directly benefit students and provide them with the global competence so necessary in today's business world," Graves says. "A global perspective is essential if business students are to become business leaders, and there is no substitute for firsthand experience."
Voertman attended the Demonstration School, a teacher training school on campus, beginning in kindergarten, and continued at UNT through his sophomore year of college in 1947. He has long supported the arts and music at the university.
His $8 million bequest will create the Ardoin-Voertman Endowment Funds, which will be shared equally among the College of Visual Arts and Design, the College of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences. Each college will use a significant portion of the funds to provide student scholarships.
"A college education enriches your life in a lot of different ways, and I wanted to give students the opportunity to experience what UNT offers," says Voertman, namesake of the Voertman Concert Hall in the Music Building and the Richard Ardoin-Paul Voertman Concert Organ in the Murchison Performing Arts Center. "I hope that this gift provides students with the help they need."
Baronio says UNT is fortunate to have the support of two individuals who recognize that UNT's strengths go beyond one facet of the institution.
"They benefited from a well-rounded education and from having varied experiences at UNT, and they want to give students the same opportunity," she says.
Ken Newman ('66), chair of the UNT Foundation board of directors, hopes that Uswachoke and Voertman's support does inspire others to give to UNT. Last fall, Newman and his wife, Ann, established a $1 million trust fund to support the Emerald Eagle Scholars program.
"Mr. Uswachoke and Mr. Voertman have shown that there are so many ways to give to UNT," Newman says. "And they've also shown that when you give to the university in a way that is meaningful to you, you are ultimately helping our students receive a first-rate education."
Athletics is a key part of UNT's push toward greater recognition for excellence. Apogee's $20 million sponsorship of the new stadium, among the largest collegiate athletics naming-rights agreements, is an endorsement of UNT's progress and potential.
Founded by Charles Brady and built from the ground up, Texas-based Apogee is one of the largest, most innovative providers of on-campus residential networks (ResNet) in higher education and is found on campuses across the nation, including UNT's.
Brady appreciates that UNT embodies the same "pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps" ethic that helped him create a multimillion-dollar company.
"We're proud to partner with UNT on the new football stadium. Apogee has a deep appreciation for UNT and its 121-year legacy here in Texas. We've been watching the university grow rapidly as we grew as a company," Brady says. "Both UNT and Apogee are dedicated to elevating the student experience through innovative, technology-based learning, so culturally it was a great fit."
Athletic Director Rick Villarreal says the Apogee partnership will go a long way toward making UNT a leading destination for sporting, cultural and entertainment events.
"Apogee Stadium is the physical embodiment of a collective vision to build a world-class facility to inspire and foster our athletes and students," Villarreal says. "We are extremely pleased to have found in Apogee a long-term partner who shares our vision and values and is fully committed to the university community."
With the new stadium and new football coach Dan McCarney, UNT has the right ingredients for a strong program, Rawlins says.
"UNT's Apogee Stadium represents an exciting milestone in our growth as a university that is dedicated to fostering the three A's — academics, athletics and the arts — and to being the leading university serving the needs of the North Texas region," Rawlins says.
UNT's stature also is increasing through its reputation as a guardian of history. Already a hub for world-famous music collections and vital government-related and historical digital collections, UNT now also will house a culturally iconic collection from father and son photographers Joe and Junebug Clark.
The Clarks have created a collection that represents one of the most extensive family archives from the golden era of American photography. Their work has been featured in Life, National Geographic, Look and Newsweek.
UNT will receive the complete family collection as a gift from Junebug and Kay Clark and Art and Charlotte Hancock. Art Hancock is a former Jack Daniel's Distillery marketing executive, and the Clarks were the photographers for the iconic campaign that powered the Jack Daniel's brand into the world's No. 1 selling whiskey.
In addition to chronicling 40 years of Jack Daniel's history, the collection contains all of Joe Clark's work since the 1930s, which includes famous figures and coverage of Detroit's emergence as an auto capital.
"My dad believed in 'pictures that tell a story.' His life's work will now be cared for and available to be explored and to inspire people for years to come," Clark says. "It couldn't have fallen into better hands or found a better home."
The collection contains millions of items including film, prints and advertisements, which UNT will curate, digitize and archive for educational purposes. A long-term goal and the hope of the donors is that UNT will establish a permanent exhibit in Lynchburg, Tenn., home of the Jack Daniel's Distillery, and develop partnerships across the nation for using the images to teach students.
Students studying photography, advertising, public relations and other fields in the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism will be able to learn from the collection, says Roy Busby ('59, '66 M.B.A.), interim dean of the Mayborn School.
"The Clark photography collection is so significant because it will touch every part of our program," Busby says. "It will really influence the future of the Mayborn School and all of our students and faculty."
While all of the milestone gifts will bolster students' education, one will have an immediate impact in the classroom. Starting this fall, students in the School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management's merchandising program will be able to create layouts and plans for stores with the same software used by international retailers, thanks to a gift to the school from vrSoftware Ltd.
Founded in 2003, England-based vrSoftware is a leading provider of software for visual retailing. The company donated its program Mockshop to help merchandising students master sales floor design. Mockshop allows students to build three-dimensional virtual stores, choosing everything from paint colors to merchandise.
The company says more than 100 retail clothing store chains and more than 70 sportswear and clothing brands and wholesalers use Mockshop, including Calvin Klein, Columbia Sportswear, Dillard's, JCPenney, Macy's and Tommy Hilfiger.
Chasya McClure, a senior home furnishings and digital retailing major, is excited about the new software and adding to her skillset.
"The program is related to real life, and it's the industry-standard program," she says.
The Mockshop donation and licensing agreement, which includes annual software updates for the next 10 years, is equivalent to a $1.22 million gift. The partnership developed after Tammy Kinley, chair of the division of merchandising, met a company representative at a conference.
Judith Forney, dean of the School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management, says the Mockshop software will enable merchandising students to become skilled in an advanced technology that enhances visual merchandising, which is one of the most important aspects of connecting stores, buyers and products.
"We make it a point to provide students with an education that encompasses fundamental knowledge of their field and hands-on experience," Forney says. "A gift like the one we received from vrSoftware makes our students' education even more competitive and relevant."
The landmark gifts signal that UNT's stock is rising, and they will fuel the university in new ways. Some of the gift dollars are expected to qualify for matching funding under the state's program to help emerging research universities become national research universities, which would further boost their impact.
Giving and total commitments to UNT have risen strongly since 2005, and the number of higher-end gifts is steadily climbing upward. The latest round of big-ticket gifts is expected to fuel overall giving at the university.
"This is a banner year for UNT," Baronio says. "The breadth and types of gifts coming in will help us move fundraising forward and show alumni, friends, corporations and foundations that UNT is a great partner and should be their university of choice."
Provost Warren Burggren says that the gifts support learning, teaching and scholarship — all of the things that are fundamental to UNT's mission as a public research university.
"These gifts directly impact our students and the quality of their education, which is where we always want to focus our efforts. Just as importantly, many of the gifts will make UNT a more competitive institution because they sustain students and faculty who are at the top of their game," Burggren says. "These gifts will allow us to advance in so many ways and impact so many people."
— Nancy Kolsti and Leslie Wimmer contributed to this story