AUSTIN, Texas — R. Steven “Steve” Hicks, telecommunications pioneer and vice chairman of the Board of Regents at The University of Texas System, has made a generous gift to advance The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work. In recognition, the university will name it the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.
“By investing in our social work students, Steve Hicks is investing in a fabric that binds communities together. Social work students commit to dedicate their lives to service and enriching the lives of others. In return, UT commits to support them thanks to Steve Hicks’ generous philanthropy,” said Gregory L. Fenves, president of The University of Texas at Austin.
The gift will cement the school’s standing as one of the top 10 graduate programs of social work in the country by significantly expanding the financial support offered to students, enhancing research and teaching in the field of addictions, and developing new programs to equip students with skills in fundraising and philanthropy that are essential for nonprofit and managerial fields.
“I have historically given to organizations that help other people, and helping others is the true essence of social work. When I decided that I wanted to make a lifetime gift, the School of Social Work was the perfect fit, where I thought I could make the most impact. I am not a social worker, but I understand the need to reduce student debt burden so that social work graduates can stay in their careers doing what they love and positively affecting the lives of thousands of people,” Hicks said.
Hicks, who comes from the business world, decided to direct his philanthropic efforts to social work because he recognizes both the critical role that social workers play in society and the fact that attaining a degree often requires taking on substantial debt that cannot be easily paid off on the typical social work salary. This is a significant hurdle that discourages many talented people from entering or staying in the profession.
“This is a transformative gift for our school. Mr. Hicks knows that social workers provide critical services across the life span and across social and economic lines. Thanks to his generosity, more individuals regardless of socioeconomic background will be able to respond to their social work calling with less concern about student debt and will have more freedom after graduating to pursue their passion for helping others and changing the world for the better,” said Luis H. Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work.
The gift totals $25 million, of which $10 million will go to establish a permanent endowment to support student scholarships. Another $5 million will be used as matching funds to encourage additional gifts to support the education of future social workers. The remaining $10 million of the gift will be used to enhance social work education in the fields of addictions, fundraising and philanthropy. This gift is believed to be among the largest ever to a public university’s school of social work.