Hunt Family Foundation Pledges $5 Million to UTEP

Posted: 08/11/10
In the single largest gift to date in
The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Campaign, the Hunt Family Foundation has pledged $5 million to establish the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness and support graduate programs and research.

UTEP President Diana Natalicio announced the foundation’s gift at a press conference Aug. 10 attended by Woody Hunt, chairman and CEO of Hunt Companies Inc. and its affiliated companies and chairman of the Hunt Family Foundation; his wife, Gayle Hunt, vice president of the foundation; and their son, Joshua Hunt, president of the foundation.

“We are pleased and proud to announce the extraordinary generosity of Woody and Gayle Hunt and the Hunt Family Foundation,” Natalicio said. “It will enable UTEP to achieve its full potential as a source of research at the interface between education and economic development, and to serve as a catalyst for strategically developing the global competitiveness and quality of life of the Paso del Norte region.”

The commitment brings the foundation’s total contribution to the University in recent years to nearly $7 million.

Of the $5 million gift, $1 million—plus a match from the state through the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP)—will establish the Marcus Jonathan Hunt Graduate Fellows Program in Business and an endowed chair in international business. The remaining $4 million will go toward the new Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness, designed to help address the “brain drain” in the Paso del Norte region.

“Our challenge has been as our education has gotten better and better at turning out high-quality graduates, our businesses, the demand side, have not risen to the occasion and created the jobs,” Woody Hunt said.

“My view is that UTEP is the most important institution in our region … The big benefit of what UTEP has done for the community doesn’t really transfer into an economic benefit unless we can come up with high-paying jobs that require those kinds of talents and we can keep the students here,” he added.

Paul Foster, vice chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents and executive chairman of Western Refining, said the Hunts’ leadership and philanthropy helps UTEP on its way to becoming a national research (Tier One) university.

“The entire state has a big push to develop Tier One research universities, and UTEP is clearly one of the seven,” Foster said. “This is just a clear indicator of their leadership role in that position.”

James Huffines, chairman of PlainsCapital Bank in Austin and former chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, said the gift will benefit students by attracting high-paying jobs to the community.

“El Paso is very fortunate to have a university of this quality in town,” Huffines said. “What we need to do is be sure [the students] stay in El Paso once they come to school here and that we don’t export those high-paying jobs to other cities like Houston or Austin or Dallas.”

Natalicio said the University would carefully consider how to best develop the institute, including its organizational placement on the campus.

“Woody Hunt is an extraordinarily thoughtful philanthropist, and we believe that the gift that the Hunt Family Foundation has provided us for the institute should be as thoughtfully executed as the thought that went into the gift itself,” she said.




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