United States Navy

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.”

Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy Juan Garcia said the Navy’s large presence in Japan for relief, the American and European attacks on Libya and the continued burden of the Iraq War are proof of the branch’s continued relevance and necessity. About 100 people at the Texas Union came to hear Garcia speak as part of Navy Week when, in cities nationwide, members of the Navy work to show taxpayers the return on their investment, he said. The sailors will build homes for Habitat for Humanity, work in soup kitchens and visit hospitals and schools. “It couldn’t be a more timely week to come and tell the Navy story,” he said. “As we sit in this room on this beautiful campus, there are 22 Navy ships and a nuclear aircraft carrier off the coast of Japan doing disaster relief.” At the same time, he said, five Navy ships and two nuclear submarines are off the coast of Libya leading the international coalition to prevent the slaughter of civilians. The Navy also conducts research on global warming in the Arctic Ocean and provides medical care in poor countries. They send doctors to offer medical care, such as cleft surgeries and eyeglasses. He said this is in the interest of national security as well as humanitarian efforts because those shown the sympathy of the nation are more easily convinced that we are there to help. The International Speakers Association, who center around bringing people of international significance to UT to help students connect with the world, sponsored the event, said coordinator Sorit Ganguly. Ganguly said a large portion of the turnout were junior and senior members of the ROTC. Plan II senior Dane Miller said he attended in light of recent events in Libya that involve the Navy. “I view the navy as an important engine for economic growth,” he said. “I don’t think we should be making cuts.” French senior Peter Antosh said he was interested to see exactly what the Navy was doing. “I always want to see what America is up to,” he said. “I want to see how my future earnings will be spent.”