UTRGV receives $15 million contribution, names college after 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.

“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 yesterday afternoon to a full house at the university’s Performing Arts Center, and the audience cheered as he declared the College of Business & Entrepreneurship will now be named the Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship in honor of the contribution.

The president was joined on stage by UT System Chancellor William McRaven, who visited the Valley for the special announcement, as well as Vackar and his wife, Janet, owners of the Bert Ogden Auto Group.

“This gift will transform this university in ways that nothing has done in the past,” McRaven said. “You’ll look back five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 100 years from now, and you will have influenced thousands and thousands and thousands of young men and women and you will have changed an shift the Valley forever.”

The gift is greater than the combined total annual contributions received by UTRGV’s legacy institutions — UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville — Bailey said, and it will be used to create endowed scholarships for students studying business.

“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.

The 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. Vackar also announced his plans to continue growing that scholarship throughout the years.

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

“We have so much responsibility, and it all has to be from the heart,” Vackar said at the announcement. “I know I haven’t done enough, and I probably will never do enough, but this is the start of what I want to do.”

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dperez-hernandez@themonitor.com