funding moves

University of Houston receives $6.5M to go toward supporting equity, social justice, and more

The gift sets up a scholarship, an endowed chair, and a lecture series. Photo via UH.edu

A recent gift to the University of Houston will provide support to a couple colleges on campus, including an endowed chair, a scholarship, and a lecture series.

Thomas Michael Panos Family Estate donated $4.5 million — and was matched with an additional $2 million by the University's new "$100 Million Challenge" Aspire Fund. It's the first matched gift of the new fund. The gift includes $2 million to create the Panos Family Endowed Chair in Mechanical Engineering, $2 million to establish a scholarship endowment beginning in 2022 to support need- and merit-based scholarships for full-time undergraduate or graduate students across UH, and $500,000 to support "The Panos Family Endowed Lecture in Equity and Social Justice" in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

"We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Thomas Michael Panos Family Estate. This significant gift will not only help fuel academic success through innovation and discovery, but will support our ability to recruit renowned faculty and expand thought leadership," says Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, in the release. "The additional support for an equity and social justice lecture series is an especially timely and important part of our efforts to increase visibility around these issues."

Thomas Michael Panos emigrated to Houston from Greece and only had a sixth-grade education. His sons — Mike and Gus Panos — both earned college degrees in engineering.

"They were the kind of people who would help anybody," says Scott Harbers, who lived next door to the Panos family decades ago in what is now Midtown Houston, in the release. "As a family of immigrants, I know they would appreciate the diversity of the student body at the University of Houston. They had a tremendous interest in education and equal rights. I'm hopeful that this gift will help advance the lives of students who need help to complete their studies."

The $100 Million Challenge initiative was established in fall of 2019 thanks to an anonymous $50 million donation to the school, and the campaign is set on inspiring another $50 million in support of four areas that will address issues with major societal impact: sustainable energy and energy security, resilient infrastructure and smart cities, population health, and global engagement. Donors who commit $2 million to go toward an endowed chair will have their gifts matched through the program.

"The '$100 Million Challenge' is a transformational initiative to propel our academic enterprise to unprecedented levels of distinction, and this first matching gift launches us," says Eloise Brice, vice president for university advancement, in the release. "The work and research being done at UH, and accelerated through the Challenge, will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for all Houstonians."

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Building Houston

 
 

Electric vans will now be delivering to Houston. Photo courtesy of Amazon

Amazon CEO/occasional space traveler Jeff Bezos is doing his best to supplant a certain jolly fellow from the North Pole as tops for holiday gift delivery.

His latest move: Amazon is rolling out more than 1,000 electric delivery vehicles, designed by electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, ready to make deliveries in more than 100 cities across the U.S. On the Texas good list: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Bezos' juggernaut began deliveries in Dallas in July, along with Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis.

These zero-emissions vans have delivered more than 5 million packages to customers in the U.S., according to Amazon. The latest boost in vehicles now includes Houston and Austin; Boston; Denver; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Madison, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; New York, Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; and Salt Lake City.

Plans for the Amazon and Rivian partnership call for thousands of vehicles on the road by the end of the year and 100,000 vehicles by 2030.

“We’re always excited for the holiday season, but making deliveries to customers across the country with our new zero-emission vehicles for the first time makes this year unique,” said Udit Madan, vice president of Amazon Transportation, in a statement. “We’ve already delivered over 5 million packages with our vehicles produced by Rivian, and this is still just the beginning—that figure will grow exponentially as we continue to make progress toward our 100,000-vehicle goal.”

This all comes as part of Amazon's commitment to reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, as a part of its The Climate Pledge; Amazon promises to eliminate millions of metric tons of carbon per year with it s commitment to 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030, press materials note.

Additionally, Amazon announced plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next five years to further electrify and decarbonize its transportation network across Europe. This investment is meant to spark innovation and encourage more public charging infrastructure across the continent.

“Fleet electrification is essential to reaching the world’s zero-emissions goal,” said Jiten Behl, chief growth officer at Rivian, in a statement. “So, to see our ramp up in production supporting Amazon’s rollout in cities across the country is amazing. Not just for the environment, but also for our teams working hard to get tens of thousands of electric delivery vehicles on the road. They continue to be motivated by our combined mission and the great feedback about the vehicle’s performance and quality.”

A little about the vans: Drivers’ favorite features include a spacious cabin and cargo area, superior visibility with a large windshield and 360-degree cameras, and ventilated seats for fast heating and cooling — a must for Bayou City summers ... or winters, for that matter.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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