Over the last few years, UTSA has reached new heights in its vision to become the university of the future, rooted in student success, research excellence and innovation.
Multimillion-dollar commitments from San Antonio leaders such as Malú and Carlos Alvarez and Margie and Bill Klesse are creating new opportunities for two of UTSA’s largest academic colleges. Meanwhile, a recent gift from nationally renowned philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett will elevate the institution’s commitment to student success.
Their support will be the key to UTSA’s growth for many years to come.
“A university the size and caliber of UTSA is incredibly important for the economic, cultural and social development of San Antonio,” said Carlos Alvarez, co-chair of the UTSA Campaign Leadership Council. “It’s a major growth engine for the city, a sound and reliable local source for a high-quality employment pool.”
Last year, Alvarez, the founder of The Gambrinus Co. – owner of the Shiner Brewery in Shiner, Texas and Trumer Brewery in Berkeley, Calif. – and his wife, Malú, committed $20 million toward the UTSA College of Business. The gift, a first of its kind for the university, will enable more students access to greater opportunities. The donation will help advance several research-enhancing activities, including establishing endowed faculty positions, graduate research fellowships and undergraduate research programs.
In recognition of the gift, the University of Texas System Board of Regents authorized the naming of the College of Business to the Carlos Alvarez College of Business at UTSA. It was the first named college at the university and the first school of business in the University of Texas System to be named after a Latino.
The university’s second named college would not be far behind.
This past December, former Valero CEO and Chairman of the Board Bill Klesse and his wife, Margie, committed a $20 million gift to the College of Engineering and Integrated Design to create new endowments for student scholarships and faculty support as well as expanded support for student success programs such as those offered by the college’s Student Success Center.
The couple was inspired to give to expand access to higher education STEM programs in San Antonio.
“We believe that earning degrees in STEM programs build valuable life and critical-thinking skills, and are thrilled to be able to support the College of Engineering and Integrated Design to continue opening doors for women and students of all backgrounds into these important fields,” said Margie Klesse.
In honor of the gift, the Board of Regents authorized that the college be renamed the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design at UTSA.
“Margie and I appreciate the difference that the UTSA College of Engineering and Integrated Design is making for students in South Texas, and their families. The university and the college create an environment where all students are challenged with great academic rigor but also supported to help find their own path to success,” Klesse says. “The future will continue to bring many challenges to economic, reliable and sustainable energy supplies as well as built infrastructures, and we need these emerging new engineers and designers to help us create solutions that will benefit all members of our communities.”
Both the Alvarezes and Klesses have been longtime supporters of the Roadrunner community.
“Our family’s initial efforts were on scholarship aid – with emphasis on international students – and later expanded into graduate financial assistance to help UTSA attract the best potential candidates in its efforts to reach Tier One research university status,” says Alvarez, who along with his wife, Malú, have been donors to the university for 20 years.
A university the size and caliber of UTSA is incredibly important for the economic, cultural and social development of San
The Alvarezes’ previous contributions, totaling $7.4 million, have benefited more than 1,000 UTSA students. Their gifts established the Carlos and Malú Alvarez Endowment for Student Success, the Carlos Alvarez Endowment for Graduate Fellowships in Science and Engineering, the Carlos and Malú Alvarez College of Public Policy Endowed Graduate Research Excellence Fund and the Carlos Alvarez Distinguished Presidential Scholars Endowed Scholarship, which will continue to support students in perpetuity.
Alvarez said his family is “proud to support UTSA and its outstanding students, many of whom, like me, are first-generation Mexican American.”
Alvarez attributes his passion for helping and supporting the community to his father and his mentors.
“My father was very involved in Acapulco. I saw how involved he was in Acapulco helping the community,” Alvarez says. “You are naturally influenced by your parents’ example and this education continues as you mature. Being exposed to leading figures such as (the late) Tom Frost, Sam Barshop, Governor Briscoe, Bill Greehey and many others, and seeing firsthand how their philanthropic efforts favorably impacted San Antonio also encouraged our family’s participation.”
Frost was particularly influential to Alvarez.
“Tom Frost was extremely generous with the time, attention and advice he gave me. I guess he took an interest in supporting a young Mexican entrepreneur doing business in the U.S.,” Alvarez says.
In recognition of Frost’s passion to uplift UTSA through philanthropy, Alvarez also made an additional $2 million gift to establish the Tom C. Frost Distinguished University Chair for Business Excellence. This endowment, which is held by the dean of the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, marks the first time in UTSA history a dean would hold two chaired positions.
In 2005, Margie and Bill Klesse established the Klesse Foundation to support scientific, educational, cultural, religious and other charitable organizations in San Antonio. Since that time, the Klesse Foundation has assisted students through endowed scholarships enabling hundreds of students to collectively receive thousands of dollars toward their education annually.
In 2017, the foundation gifted $1 million to establish the Klesse Unit Operations Laboratory — which led to the creation of a chemical engineering program at UTSA that just graduated its first class of students in 2022. The university also used the gift to acquire state-of-the-art equipment, including a two-story distillation column that attracted national attention.
Next on the horizon is the creation of a doctoral program in chemical engineering.
“We are profoundly grateful to Margie and Bill Klesse. They have always been deeply committed to providing world-class opportunities to UTSA students and faculty members in engineering and design,” says UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “This incredibly generous gift will advance UTSA’s vision to become a model for student success and a great public research university.”
These philanthropists’ passion for giving means the university can continue enabling life-changing opportunities for all Roadrunners.
The university’s bold vision has attracted benefactors outside of San Antonio, including a transformational $40 million gift from philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett to benefit the current Roadrunner population and future generations. The couple was inspired by UTSA’s strong commitment to creating pathways to success for students from communities with significant attainment and income disparities, as well as the university’s mission as a Hispanic Serving Institution.
About 75% of UTSA’s students receive financial aid, while 45% receive federal Pell grants. The latter are awarded to students with exceptional financial needs. Fifty-seven percent of the university’s student population is Hispanic.
A plan for allocating the gift to student success initiatives — including enrollment, retention, learning and graduation — is in the works. This plan is expected to expand upon existing student success programs that are especially impactful for students in need.
“UTSA’s student population includes the next generation of leaders who will develop new innovations, businesses and social programs that will be key to ensuring a bright future for San Antonio and for Texas,” says Kimberly Andrews Espy, UTSA provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “As a public, urban-serving university with limited resources, these generous gifts will go a long way in enabling UTSA to create life-changing opportunities for its students and to prepare a diverse pipeline of professionals for the workforce.”