doing dad proud

Successful Houston businessman donates $1M to UT in honor of his father — Texas' first Black architect

Houston businessman Tony Chase has gifted $1M to UT in honor of his father, architect John S. Chase. Photo courtesy of Tony Chase

Houston entrepreneur and law professor Tony Chase is no stranger to philanthropy. The founder and CEO of ChaseSource LP — a staffing, facilities management, and construction firm — has long been a generous contributor to myriad city causes. But his newest gift is decidedly personal.

Chase and his wife, Dr. Dina Alsowayel, have donated $1 million to the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture in honor of his late father, John S. Chase, FAIA (M. Arch ’52). Notably, John Chase is the first Black graduate of UT’s school of architecture and the first Black licensed architect in the state.

This new gift from Tony Chase 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 (HBCUs) to the school and increase representation in the profession. Meanwhile, the John S. Chase Family Endowed Professorship in Architecture is meant to help recruit and retain outstanding faculty members and support their study of the built environment, according to the university.

John Chase enrolled at UT in 1950 as one of the school’s earliest Black students. He moved his family to Houston in the 1950s and eventually started his own firm — namely because no white architects would hire him. Undeterred, John Chase became the first Black licensed architect in Texas.

In 1952, he designed the headquarters for the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas, according to his bio. UT acquired the building in 2018, restored and converted it to an outreach center for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and dedicated it as the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building last fall.

He would go on to design numerous churches, private homes, eventually — and perhaps his crowning achievement — the Texas Southern University campus.

A dedicated business and community leader, Chase was also a passionate volunteer at UT; he served as a member of UT’s Development Board and Commission of 125, and was the first Black president of the Texas Exes. Chase received Texas Exes’ Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

In 2019, UT’s school of architecture 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, according to a press release. The first biography of John Chase is set to publish next year, penned by assistant professor Tara Dudley.

Following in his father’s footsteps, the prolific businessman and professor Tony Chase is eager to give back with this gift, noting in a statement, “My father always said, ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”


John S. Chase stands in front of his family home in Houston with two of his three children, Anthony (left) and John Jr. (right). Photo courtesy the John and Drucie Chase Collection

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Nancy and Rich Kinder gifted $50M to their eponymous center. Photo courtesy

Houston’s most generous couple has once again gifted a massive sum to a local institution. Rich and Nancy Kinder’s Kinder Foundation has donated $50 million to Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, the organization announced.

The Kinder's generous grant will assist the institute’s focus on what it dubs “inclusive prosperity” — that is, “ensuring that everyone can contribute to Houston's success and share in its opportunities.”

This new grant follows the approximately $30 million he Kinder Foundation previously gifted Rice’s Kinder Institute and its affiliates to facilitate its headquarters.

“Over the past decade, the Kinder Institute has played an integral role in shaping Houston,” said Rich Kinder, chairman of the Kinder Foundation. “However, we can do more to inform and more directly address the challenges our communities face, particularly in the areas of housing, education, economic mobility, health and population research.”

To that end, the Kinders’ funds will ensure the institute can assist its partners regardless of their ability to pay for research. Funds will also help the institute respond to community research needs quickly during times of crisis — such as a catastrophic storm or pandemic — when funds aren’t readily available.

Kinder Institute director Ruth López Turley calls the grant “a gift to all of Houston,” speaking to the institute’s work to improve lives through data, research, engagement and action.

“Inclusive prosperity doesn’t just happen spontaneously,” she noted in a statement. “It requires an explicit effort informed by research. Lots of organizations are working hard to make things better, but most of them have very limited research capacity, and that’s what the Kinder Institute is primed to do.”

Founded in 2010, the institute has evolved into a leader in research, data, and policy analysis of critical issues such as housing, transportation, and education. The institute also releases the familiar Kinder Houston Area Survey, which charts significant changes in the way area residents perceive and understand Houston’s ongoing challenges and opportunities.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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