ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, a UT alum, and his wife Renda Tillerson donated $5 million to help fund the Cockrell School of Engineering’s new research center, which will centralize engineering student services and include new research laboratories.
The center is part of a $310 million project to replace the current Engineering-Science Building on San Jacinto Street with a new research center. The demolition is scheduled to begin in September, and the center is scheduled to open in August 2017.
Cockrell school interim dean Sharon Wood said she believes having alumni who are willing to donate to better the education of future students shows the value of the education they received.
“It’s really inspiring to know that these alumni that are so successful … have chosen to invest in us,” Wood said.
John Ekerdt, associate dean of the engineering school, said he believes alumni understand how use their engineering degrees to become successful — allowing them to contribute to future students’ success.
“These alumni are making investments in the students of today and of the future so they can make contributions in their own careers,” Ekerdt said.
According to Ekerdt, the new research facility will allow for expanded learning, focusing on collaboration between students.
“This building is designed with a mission of new education, collaborative spaces and new forms of learning,” Ekerdt said. “It will be a site for the discovery of new knowledge.”
According to Wood, projects such as the research center would not be possible without generosity from alumni.
“We depend on our alumni to help us move forward, especially in these difficult financial times,” Wood said. “It would definitely not be possible without their generosity.”
Witnessing successful alumni give back to the school allows students to see their own abilities, according to Wood.
“It helps students understand and see the potential that they have as they grow and their careers continue,” Wood said.
Petroleum engineering sophomore Nick Lavigne said alumni like the Tillersons make him proud to be a part of the engineering school.
“It’s really cool to see successful engineers come out of UT,” Lavigne said. “I can say I’m getting the same education as some of the most successful people in the country.”