The University of Houston Magazine

Valenti School Gets Financial Boost

Jack J. Valenti School of Communication receives
$1.5 million to help with expansion.

Lance Funston

Financial support of $1.5 million to the University of Houston Jack J. Valenti School of Communication from alumnus Lance Funston has triggered an outpouring of support from Texas and beyond.

To spark community participation, Funston (’67), chairman and CEO of TelAmerica Inc. in Philadelphia, offered his financial support via a two-to-one match, to add a media communications center to the existing facility. To date, more than $3 million has been raised to support the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication capital project and student scholarships, though some matching funds are still available through Funston’s challenge.

The addition to the existing facility will include a tate-of-the-art student television production studio, audio and video editing suites, a technology classroom, and a grand entrance to the school. Construction will begin in 2010.

“Financial support from alumni, such as this from Mr. Funston, are essential as the university moves forward in its quest to be the state’s next top-tier research university,” says UH President Renu Khator. “This helps achieve our goals for the Valenti School and inspires other alumni to invest in their alma mater and in the success of our creative and hardworking students.”

The school’s planned expansion is designed to help better accommodate its growing enrollment. As of 2009, the Valenti School has more than 1,500 communication majors each year, making it one of UH’s largest academic units.

“Students choose the Valenti School over other programs for our competitive, well-rounded curriculum and for the opportunities in Houston’s thriving communications work force,” says Beth Olson, the school’s director.

The university renamed the school in honor of UH alumnus Jack J. Valenti (’46, Honorary ’02), who died in 2007. “I am honored to be a partner with the University of Houston in a way that improves the teaching and learning environments for the students, while at the same time honoring the remarkable legacy of my good friend Jack Valenti,” Funston says.

ExxonMobil Gift Makes it Possible to Triple the Impact

Exxon Mobil Foundation President Gerald McElvy and UH President Renu Khator Thanks to ExxonMobil’s employee gift-matching program, 2008 also was a good year for the University of Houston, which received $385,891 from the corporation’s charitable arm.

Gerald McElvy (’75), Exxon Mobil Foundation’s president, says this year’s gift reflects an increase of about $75,000 over a year ago.

“The continuing financial support from the people of ExxonMobil is made even more significant thanks to the company’s policy of tripling those already generous gifts,” says UH President Renu Khator.

ExxonMobil and its employees, retirees, surviving spouses and directors donated more than $36 million to 900 U.S. colleges and universities through the foundation’s 2008 Educational Matching Gift Program. Seventy-three Texas institutions received a total of $8.33 million.

“These donations are a remarkable testament to the value ExxonMobil employees and retirees place on higher education,” says McElvy. “We’re investing in the future, campus by campus, by providing these much-needed dollars for colleges and universities to increase their level of excellence.”

Through the matching program, donors may pledge up to $7,500 per year to colleges or universities with which they are affiliated. Donations are matched on a 3-to-1 basis.

To date, ExxonMobil’s various contributions to the University of Houston System, including matching gifts, total about $14.8 million.

“The ExxonMobil program is the premier corporate matching-gift program in the country for the benefit of higher education,” says Michael Rierson, UH vice president for university advancement. “The University of Houston is grateful for the continued investment in the future of our students, faculty and programs by ExxonMobil employees and retirees.”

“Exxon Mobil Foundation funds math and science programs to respond to the nation’s growing need to produce more engineers and scientists and to develop more highly qualified math and science teachers. We support programs that encourage women and minorities to become scientists and engineers,” McElvy says.

Opening Doors for Future Cougars

When UH offered Arthur Meeks (’91) the opportunity to advance his career through education, it changed the course of his life.

Today, Arthur and his wife, Stephanie, are grateful for UH’s help and are determined to provide similar opportunities for others.

Arthur and Stephanine MeeksIn the early 1970s, Arthur was a draftsman at Houston Engineers. To advance in his career, he decided to take courses at the College of Technology, where he earned his degree in manufacturing systems-engineering technology — all while working full time. Throughout the years, he has held several managerial positions and currently is the senior engineering supervisor at Weatherford International.

While Arthur attended classes, Stephanie often walked the UH campus with their three young boys and spent hours in the stacks of the M.D. Anderson Library.

She has worked as a development officer for several nonprofits, including UH (1996–2004). She now is the director of donor relations at KSBJ radio station.

The Meeks family has established a legacy of opportunity for generations to come. Arthur has helped secure funds for the university as a board member of the Technology Alumni Association. He also gives unrestricted gifts each year. Stephanie remains an active library donor. Both have designated a percentage of their estate to UH in their wills: Arthur to the College of Technology and Stephanie to the UH Libraries.

“I want others to have the opportunity to hold down a job and take courses to benefit them in that job,” says Arthur; and Stephanie hopes to “leave a little bit of a legacy to help the library function in the future.”

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