The Senior Class Endowment: Starting a Legacy

Give Online button graphic with a picture of the six chemical engineering students in front of the Chemical & Petroleum Engineering BuildingSix chemical engineering seniors have each pledged $5,000 over five years to seed an endowment that will allow funds for undergraduate research opportunities and teaching incentives in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering within the Cockrell School of Engineering. Seniors Daniel Horne, Colin Gentry, Matthew Ferris, John Wilbur, Camila Bastidas and Dan Dietz have been working together for the last several months to create this endowment which will  be funded and used by undergraduate chemical engineering students.

This fund will honor, and represent, every year’s senior class by supporting tutors and teaching assistants for critical chemical engineering courses. Once the fund reaches $500,000 it will also provide undergraduate research opportunities.  The impact of this endowment, however, will not end with the senior class of 2013, as the next three classes of students have been challenged to give when they are seniors—beginning a continuous cycle of senior class gifts to the department. Alumni have also been asked to honor their senior classes. In addition to the group’s total donation of $30,000 spread over five years, two alumni have agreed to match their donations up front. Horne is asking his classmates and alumni to make a gift in honor of their senior class to help the fund grow as the group’s main goal is for others to continue adding to the fund with each graduating class contributing what they can.

An endowment works as a principal amount of money that remains in an investment account and continues to grow through interest returns. About 5 percent of the endowment is distributed each year in perpetuity. This endowment will initially benefit undergraduate students who want to gain valuable experience working alongside faculty in research labs.

Horne, who had the initial idea for the endowment, was inspired by the Challenge For McKetta, proposed at former Cockrell School dean John J. McKetta’s 95th birthday celebration in 2011. The challenge was a $25 million fundraising campaign to name the department after McKetta. After the campaign passed the $10 million mark in 2012, the department celebrated with a formal dedication ceremony. The fundraising has currently reached around $15 million.

Horne had planned to donate $1,000 by the time he graduated, but under the guidance of Michael Barasch, assistant director for development at the Cockrell School, Horne decided to reach out to friends and work out a way that he and other undergraduates could continue giving back, rather than just giving a one-time donation.

“The six of us really want to stay involved,” Horne said. “We really love the department and want to be involved for the rest of our lives. This is a way for us to do that.”

It will be up to each chemical engineering graduating class to continue encouraging classmates to give back sooner, rather than later on in life. As the fund gets bigger, the group plans to expand the fund’s reach, eventually providing teaching incentives for undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants.

“It has been thrilling to see the enthusiasm and leadership of this group as they organize and join others in creating a legacy that will benefit future generations of chemical engineering students in our program,” said McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Chair Thomas Truskett.

Class of 2013 graduates that pledge $1,000 or more by December 31, 2014 will be recognized as major contributors on a founders’ plaque that will be placed in the undergraduate office hallway. Until a permanent plaque is in place, contributors’ names will be temporarily showcased on a nearby bulletin board—we hope to see your name up there.

Join these seniors in supporting the McKetta of Department of Chemical Engineering and helping to provide an excellent education and university experience for future ChE students. Make a gift online through the UT giving site where all you have to do is enter your gift amount in the first box, everything else is pre-populated for you, and hit continue. Questions? Contact Michael Barasch at 512-471-0469.

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