UNT alumnus pledges largest gift in university history

By: 
UNT News Service
President V. Lane Rawlins and Provost Warren Burggren react to the announcement of the $22 million pledged gift from UNT alumnus Charn Uswachoke.
President V. Lane Rawlins and Charn Uswachoke made the announcement via video conference between UNT and Thailand on Aug. 15.

The University of North Texas today announced the largest gift in the history of UNT with a pledge of $22 million from entrepreneur and alumnus Charn Uswachoke. The pledged gift focuses on enhancing UNT's already outstanding student experience while elevating UNT's prominence in music, engineering and business.

"I wanted to help the next generation have a better education so that we all can have a better world," Uswachoke said. "UNT is a top-quality school and continues to grow and strengthen as it expands into new areas."

Quest for excellence

UNT President V. Lane Rawlins said Uswachoke's pledge is significant for its size, breadth and unmitigated support of the university's quest for excellence in providing a student-focused, high quality education and growing as a major public research university.

"Mr. Uswachoke knows how committed UNT is to becoming one of the best universities in the nation and to transforming our students in the process. He experienced that dedication while earning his MBA here and he's supported our progress through the years. He also understands that it will take a legion of supporters for UNT to accomplish our goals, so he is leading the way," Rawlins said. "His pledge, combined with all of the other gifts that have come in this year, are propelling us on a path of excellence."

Supporting students and faculty

Provost Warren Burggren said Uswachoke's pledge has the one-two punch of supporting students through scholarships and faculty through research support and endowed professorships and chairs. Some of Uswachoke's pledged gift dollars are expected to qualify for matching funds under the state's program to help emerging research universities, such as UNT, become national research universities, which would further boost the impact of his pledge.

"Mr. Uswachoke's commitment directly impacts our students and the quality of their education, which is where we always want to focus our efforts. Just as importantly, the initiatives he is supporting will make UNT a far more competitive institution because they sustain students and faculty who are at the top of their game," Burggren said.

Uswachoke's $22 million pledge will be divided among UNT's world-renowned College of Music, the College of Engineering and the College of Business.

The College of Music will receive $10 million:

  • $5 million for endowed professorships and chairs in music
  • $3 million to fund touring and recording opportunities for students
  • $2 million for highly sought-after, competitive scholarships in music

The College of Engineering will receive $6.5 million:

  • $5 million to create the Charn Uswachoke Center for Energy Efficient Materials, a center that will help UNT and its materials science and engineering department become a leader in energy-related materials research.
  • $1.5 million to create an endowed professorship in materials science and engineering to attract a top researcher to head the center.

The College of Business will receive $5.5 million:

  • $5 million to fund the Charn Uswachoke Scholarships for Study Abroad for undergraduate and MBA students
  • $500,000 to establish the Charn Uswachoke Graduate Suite in the new Business Leadership Building

Previously, Uswachoke donated $1 million in 1995, the largest cash gift up to that time. He quickly followed with a $1.2 million gift that same year. The gifts supported music, business and international endeavors.

Unprecedented giving

Uswachoke's pledged gift is the latest in a series of multimillion dollar gifts recently announced by UNT, beginning with the Ken and Ann Newman $1 million trust supporting the Emerald Eagle Scholars program last fall. In the past month commitments and gifts have included:

  • $20 million sponsorship from Apogee for naming rights of UNT's new football stadium, scheduled to open Sept. 10.
  • $8 million bequest from UNT benefactor Paul Voertman. The Ardoin-Voertman Endowment Funds will be divided among the College of Music, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Visual Arts and Design at UNT with each getting one-third.
  • Donation of the nationally significant Joe and Junebug Clark photography collection. The estimated value is $1.6 million. UNT will curate, digitize and archive the collection for educational purposes. The collection contains millions of items including film, prints and advertisements.
  • Donation of software valued at $1.22 million from vrSoftware Ltd., to the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism's merchandising degree program. Mockshop, the company's three-dimensional program, allows students to create layouts and plans for store concepts with the same software used by international retailers.
  • "These types of gifts are so important to a university's sustained growth," said Lisa Baronio, vice president for advancement and director of development for the UNT Foundation. "They allow us to build on and maintain our rich history of excellence."