College of Liberal Arts receives $20 million donation from alumni

Quanit Ali

The College of Liberal Arts is set to receive a $20 million donation from UT alumnus Bobby Patton Jr. and his wife Sherri, the largest donation to date since the Campaign for Texas fundraising event in 2014.

David Ochsner, COLA director of public affairs, said COLA will be looking to allocate the donation into three main categories: faculty endowments, graduate studies endowments and investing in experiential learning initiatives for graduate students in COLA. Since several COLA programs are ranked nationally, Ochsner said they are looking to build on the success of those departments.

“A gift like this really is transformational,” Ochsner said. “Bobby told me, ‘I don’t really see this as a gift, but as an investment into the liberal arts.’”

Patton, who serves on the Advisory Council for COLA and co-owns the LA Dodgers, attributes his business success to being able to critically evaluate and analyze, a skill he acquired in liberal arts courses.

Ochsner had previously spoken with Patton, a former Plan II student who graduated with a business degree, and said Patton believes his liberal arts education had an impact on the person he has become. 

“[Patton] recalled his liberal arts experience and understood that it was very important to making him the successful investor he is today and that’s why he wants to give back,” Ochsner said.

Ochsner said the donation may help change the perception of COLA at a time where liberal arts degrees are undervalued. He said people shouldn’t choose between STEM or liberal arts, but rather be fully educated in a wide variety of curriculum.

“The things we’re always trying to tell our alumni and also prospective students is that the notion a liberal arts major is not going to be making as much money as someone else or is not as employable is completely false,” Ochsner said.

Miles Wilson, Liberal Arts Council president and religious studies junior, said the donation could fund scholarships and study abroad programs. Wilson said historically a large portion of donations go towards large scale University projects, but allocating the money to student initiatives could change that.

“That’s what really got me excited,” Wilson said. “I mean the amount is mind-blowing, but the fact that it could be going towards student programs is phenomenal.”

Anjana Menon, international relations and global studies freshman, said the grant could help economically disadvantaged students.

“If the money does end up going to study abroad it would be extremely beneficial to those who think they can’t afford it,” Menon said.

Ochsner said as the donation arrives and budgeting begins, COLA will develop a clearer picture on how to best utilize Patton’s donation.