Tony Chase, a Houston entrepreneur, law professor, and civic leader, is honoring his late father’s heritage and committing a substantial donation to his alma institution by honoring his late father’s legacy and pledging a generous gift to his alma mater.
Chase and his wife, Dr. Dina Alsowayel, will donate $1 million to The University of Texas in Austin’s School of Architecture, according to a news statement. The gift honors Chase’s father, John S. Chase, FAIA, who was the first Black graduate of UT’s School of Architecture and the first Black licensed architect in the state when he graduated in 1952.
“As one of the first Black students to enroll at UT, John Chase helped pave the way for progress and change,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell.
“Then, he brought his considerable talents, creativity, and education together to design special places that brought people together. This gift is an investment in the transformative power of education to bring about that sort of change and impact, and will support us as we continue to strive for excellence delivered through a richly diverse and inclusive campus.”
The new investment’s goal is to give possibilities for underrepresented communities to enter the field of architecture. The John S. Chase Family Endowed Graduate Fellowship will serve as a permanent endowment at the University of Texas at Austin, assisting in the recruitment of graduates from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Furthermore, the fellowship will aid in the retention of faculty members while also supporting their academic pursuits.
John S. Chase enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture for the first time in 1950. After graduation, he was hired as an assistant professor of architectural drafting at Texas Southern University, which launched his professional career. Soon after, he established John S. Chase, AIA Architect, which he later extended to include studios in Houston and Dallas.
Churches, schools, single-family residences, and small public structures for the Black community were among his early architectural designs. He constructed the offices of the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas in 1952, which UT bought in 2018.
In addition, at the AIA meeting in Detroit in 1971, Chase co-founded the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) alongside 12 other Black architects. As a result of his experiences, he became an active volunteer at UT, serving on the Development Board and Commission of 125, as well as being the first Black president of the Texas Exes.
“Throughout his life and as reflected in his built works, John Chase was a connector and a community-builder,” said Michelle Addington, dean of the School of Architecture. “Not only did Chase design spaces that brought people together, but he used his pioneering position to create opportunities for others. We are extremely grateful for Tony’s incredible gift and honored to continue John Chase’s legacy of creating opportunities for a whole new generation.”
“My father always said, ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” Chase said.