McCombs School of Business, Cockrell School of Engineering receive $60 million donation


When President William Powers Jr. met James Mulva in 1969 while stationed with the U.S. Navy on Bahrain Island, neither man expected the friendship to last. Forty-five years later, their relationship is strong, and Mulva and his wife are donating $60 million to support both the McCombs School of Business and the Cockrell School of Engineering.

On Friday, the University announced James and Miriam Mulva will donate $60 million, which will primarily go toward the new Engineering Education and Research Center and two buildings in McCombs. In 2010, the Mulvas made a $15 million donation to fund the Liberal Arts Building, with a focus on providing resources to the University’s ROTC units.

“Our family has been blessed over the years, and the University has been important to us and to our family members,” Mulva said. “To the extent that we’re able, we’d like to support and give back to the University.”

Mulva, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business at the University, said $40 million of the new gift will be directed toward the McCombs undergraduate and graduate student buildings. The rest of the money will go toward the engineering center. According to Powers, the business buildings must be renovated to better suit modern teaching methods.

“[McCombs is] a sound building,” Powers said. “But the way we teach is very different. There are many more project-oriented breakout sessions — more collaborative work. We need more flexibility.”

Mulva said he considered renovations a priority for the University.

“The existing undergraduate facilities were there when I went to school in the late 1960s, and I can tell you that, over the last 40 years or so, new technologies have developed,” Mulva said. “You need new facilities to be competitive.”

Though it’s only her second week of class, business freshman Lauren Stacy said she has already noticed the emphasis on — and inconvenience of — group projects.

“Our freshman business class is collaborative — we do group work, mainly,” Stacy said. “Our classroom is set up for lectures, so we’re going to have to work up and down the rows.”

 Mulva said he was first approached for the donation by Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost. Until August, Fenves was the dean of the engineering school.

“[Fenves] had been talking to us about how we might be able to help the development of the new engineering facilities,” Mulva said. “Then [Powers] said he wanted to renovate the undergraduate school facilities. We said, ‘Well, maybe we could help with both of those.’”

Powers said he is still surprised he and Mulva are working together so many years after their naval experiences.

“I would have never thought our paths would cross again,” Powers said. “Certainly not in this sense.”