Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, and his wife, Renda, have made a personal pledge of $5 million to support the Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC), a 430,000-square-foot facility that will transform the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.
When completed in 2017, the EERC will house advanced teaching, research and student project spaces that will foster multidisciplinary collaboration among students and researchers in the Cockrell School's seven departments and among thought leaders across the UT Austin campus.
"Renda and I could not be more excited about what is happening at the Cockrell School, and we are delighted to support the Engineering Education and Research Center, which, when completed, will be one of the great engineering education facilities in the country," Tillerson said.
"Under the strong leadership of President Bill Powers, Provost Greg Fenves and Cockrell School interim Dean Sharon Wood, we believe UT Austin is well-positioned to produce the next generation of engineering leaders."
Tillerson received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from UT Austin in 1975, and his sons, Robert and Michael, are graduates of the Cockrell School. He is a member of the school's Engineering Advisory Board and of the UT Development Board, and he is a life member of Texas Exes and the Cockrell School's Friends of Alec program, which raises annual fund donations. Beginning with his first gift in 1978, Tillerson has been a devoted supporter of many UT Austin departments, programs and services for students.
"Rex and Renda have been loyal friends of the university, and we are grateful for this generous gift in support of the research, teaching and collaboration that will thrive in the EERC," said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. "Their commitment demonstrates a strong belief in our ability to educate and develop engineering leaders who will change the world."
As an alumnus, Rex Tillerson knows the Cockrell School well. He recalled the time he spent studying in the university's current engineering buildings and expressed the importance of new facilities for current and future students.
"The Engineering Education and Research Center will expand hands-on, project-based opportunities within the Cockrell School and will provide the kind of learning environment that suits the needs of students today," Tillerson said. "That's why Renda and I have made the commitment to support the center."
The Tillersons' gift comes at a significant time for the Cockrell School. Last month, the school announced a rise to the top 10 in U.S. News and World Report's 2015 graduate program rankings, and in January, the school announced a $20 million gift from the Mulva Family Foundation for the EERC.
"The Cockrell School has had an exceptional year in 2014, and with support from leaders and loyal alumni like Rex Tillerson, we are excited about where we're headed," said interim Dean Sharon L. Wood. "We thank Rex and Renda for their generous gift, which inspires all of our faculty, staff and students."
Tillerson began his career at Exxon Company in 1975 as a production engineer. He became chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil in 2006. In 2013, Tillerson was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
The Tillersons' gift comes as the university nears completion of the Campaign for Texas later this year. So far, UT Austin has raised more than $2.82 billion toward its $3 billion campaign goal.
Both Tillerson and ExxonMobil have shown an ongoing commitment to the success of the Cockrell School of Engineering and have an extensive history of supporting academic programs and functions across The University of Texas at Austin. ExxonMobil has contributed more than $55 million to the university since 1975. Of that total, nearly $17 million has gone to engineering programs.