Houston entrepreneur, law professor, and civic leader Tony Chase has committed a gift to The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture that will honor his late father, John S. Chase, FAIA (M. Arch ’52), the first Black graduate of the school and the first Black licensed architect in the state. The investment will help build a pipeline to attract underrepresented communities to the field and bring new voices into the profession.
“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. “This gift is an investment in the transformative power of education in bringing about that change, and will support us as we continue to strive for a richly diverse and inclusive campus.”
The $1 million donation committed by Chase and his wife Dr. Dina Alsowayel will create two new permanent endowments. The John S. Chase Family Endowed Graduate Fellowship will be used primarily to recruit graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to the school and increase representation in the profession. John Chase and his wife, Austinite Drucie Rae Rucker Chase, graduated from HBCUs. The John S. Chase Family Endowed Professorship in Architecture will help recruit and retain outstanding faculty members and support their study of the built environment.
One of the earliest Black students at UT, Chase enrolled in 1950. As a professional, he co-founded the National Organization of Minority Architects and led a flourishing practice with studios in Houston, Dallas, and Washington, DC. His architectural career demonstrates an affinity for democracy, unity, and building community. His earliest works include churches, single-family residences, and small office buildings for the Black community, some located in East Austin. In 1952, he designed the headquarters for the Colored Teachers Association of Texas. In 2018, the building was acquired by UT, carefully restored and updated to house an outreach center for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, which was dedicated as the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building last fall.
“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.”
The new endowments are the latest in a series of initiatives at the School of Architecture that celebrate Chase’s legacy. In 2019, the school hosted Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase, an exhibition curated by the Houston Public Library, and an accompanying panel discussion. In 2020, Professor David Heymann co-authored John S. Chase—The Chase Residence with Houston architecture critic Stephen Fox, which explores the significance of the home Chase designed and built for his family in Houston, both as a work of modernist residential architecture and as a setting for many important social, cultural, and political events. School of Architecture Assistant Professor Tara Dudley is also writing the first biography of John Chase to be published by UT Press next year.
“My father always said, ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” Chase said.
A business and community leader, Chase was also an active volunteer at the university, serving as a member of UT’s Development Board, Commission of 125, the first Black president of The Texas Exes. He received Texas Exes’ Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.
The Chase family continues a tradition of business and civic leadership in Houston and service at UT Austin. Tony Chase is the chairman and CEO of ChaseSource L.P.—a staffing, facilities management and construction firm he founded. He has also built ventures in media and telecommunications that have been acquired by AT&T, Clear Channel Communications, and Leap Wireless. He sits on the boards of CullenFrost Bankers, Inc., Nabors Industries Ltd., LyondellBassell Industries N.C., and Par Pacific Holdings, Inc. as well as several of Houston’s leading nonprofits including the Houston Endowment, Greater Houston Partnership, Texas Medical Center, and the MD Anderson Board of Visitors. He is also a life member of the School of Architecture’s Advisory Council. Mr. Chase’s daughter, Saundria Chase Gray, is a 1986 graduate of the UT School of Law and was a municipal judge for the City of Houston. She is a former member of the Community Foundation Council at the Greater Houston Community Foundation and currently serves on the University of Texas Libraries Advisory Council.