Son of John S. Chase gifts UT School of Architecture $1 million to support underrepresented students

Hope Unger, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 11, 2022 flipbook.

To honor his father John S. Chase, Tony Chase committed a gift of $1 million to the UT School of Architecture to support underrepresented graduate students and faculty. John S. Chase was the first Black student to graduate from the School of Architecture in 1952, and he was the only licensed Black architect in Texas for a long time, Tony said. 

“Anyone who knew my dad knew that he was a man who walked on every level of life: political, professional, civic, philanthropic,” Tony said. “My childhood was replete with that. There were always … various people of influence around because my dad really thought it was important to be a part of all of those types of circles.”

Tony said his father mentored minority architects in Texas and felt a commitment to aiding their careers. The John S. Chase Family Endowed Graduate Fellowship, one of two endowments created by the gift, is intended for underrepresented graduate students who received their undergraduate degrees from historically Black colleges, Tony said. 

“It’ll benefit minority students, obviously, by giving them an economic opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Tony said. “But it’ll benefit (the) greater majority of students who will then have the benefit of knowing, working with and socializing with students from underrepresented communities that they otherwise might not have (met). To me, I think that benefits society as a whole.”

Tony said he gave the School of Architecture its own discretion in how to disperse the funds, which are only available to graduate students and faculty in the School of Architecture. The gift goes towards the John S. Chase Family Endowed Professorship in Architecture as well as the graduate fellowship.

Tara Dudley, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture, said she is currently writing a biography on John S. Chase’s work and life. 

“A lot of people across different constituencies (and) demographics, are able and will be able to appreciate his story,” Dudley said. “It’s just fantastic to be able to have this task placed in my lap, and it was a no-brainer when I was asked.”

Dudley said that while she attended UT as a graduate student, she received the John S. Chase scholarship, a past award offered to graduate students. 

“I was a recipient a couple of semesters of that award,” Dudley said. “As part of my thank you in recognition of that award, that honor, (I) had to write a thank you letter to Mr. Chase, and he always wrote back. It was wonderful to have that connection with someone who was being supportive, not only of me, but other students’ education in the School of Architecture.”

Victoria Chaney, diversity and equity chair for the Graduate School of Architecture Representative Council, said the school has been analyzing architecture through promoting equity, social justice and intersectionality. 

“I would really love to see more students of color and BIPOC students within the UTSOA campus and community … supporting designers and allowing them to have the opportunity to alleviate some of the costs associated with architectural education and allowing for new voices to emerge in the design community,” architecture graduate student Chaney said. “That’s really what I hoped would be the legacy of this endowment.”