UTRGV receives $15 million contribution; names college after Bert Ogden’s Robert Vackar

EDINBURG — As it approaches its one-year anniversary, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received what officials say is the most significant contribution yet: $15 million from Bert Ogden CEO Robert Vackar, officials announced Wednesday.

EDINBURG — As it approaches its one-year anniversary, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received what officials say is the most significant contribution yet: $15 million from Bert Ogden CEO Robert Vackar, officials announced Wednesday.

“This is the most significant philanthropic gift in the history of our institution and legacy institutions,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said. “It will be transformative.”

Bailey announced the donation Wednesday afternoon at the university’s Performing Arts Center and was joined by UT-System Chancellor William McRaven, as well as Robert and his wife, Janet, owners of the Bert Ogden Auto Group.

The gift is greater than the combined total annual contributions received by UTRGV’s legacy institutions — UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville — Bailey said.

The money will be used to create endowed scholarships for students in the College of Business Entrepreneurship, which will now be named the Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship in honor of the contribution.

“This recognition is such an honor,” Vackar said in a news release. “Growing up in Edinburg and living in the Rio Grande Valley has been such a great experience for our family … But after the many years of support our family and our businesses have received from this community, the real honor is being able to give back.”

Endowed funds are used to create permanent scholarships for students by investing the funds and using its earned income for the awards. These endowments can be grown over time by donors and most stipulate that the original amount of the donation, called the corpus, may not be tapped, which allows the endowment to exist in perpetuity.

Wednesday’s record-setting donation marks the third time the Vackar family has contributed to UTRGV.

The first donation of $10,000 came in April 2015 before the university opened its doors and it was also intended for endowed scholarships for business and education students in honor of Robert Vackar’s late sister, Susan Lewis Vackar Clark, who graduated from UTPA in 1963.

The family followed that gift with a $2 million contribution in January 2016 for endowed scholarships for the liberal arts department and the college of business entrepreneurship. It was the greatest contribution received by the UTRGV at the time.

“I really can’t say enough for Bob Vackar,” Bailey said. “He has a great vision for higher education, and he and Janet are transforming higher education in the valley.”

Receiving such donations from within the community is a big step in the right direction, Bailey said, especially at newer universities where there hasn’t really been a culture of philanthropy established.

While outside donations are always welcomed and sought, local donations begin establishing this culture and encouraging others who might be thinking of supporting the institutions and its students, he said.

“We are the Valley’s institution, so we need the Valley’s support,” Bailey said.

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dperez-hernandez@themonitor.com