Graduate students studying history at the University of Houston will have an opportunity for a deep dive into the state’s past, thanks to a $1 million endowment created by Houston businessman and philanthropist John L. Nau, III.
“I think if we are going to have an effective understanding of not just the mystique of Texas but the real history and character of Texas, then we’ve got to have effective knowledgeable teachers, and I see the graduate program as being the first step in that process,” Nau said, adding that he anticipated the fellows will pursue careers in education and other fields.
Nau, chairman and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors L.P., the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, and a co-chair of the University’s $1 billion “Here, We Go” Campaign, has long been a champion for history and the humanities in general.
“There’s an old truism that I believe,” he said. “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going. Learning from history, I believe, allows people to understand American values and the formation of the American democracy.”
Antonio D. Tillis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and M.D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies, said the John L. Nau, III Fellowships in Texas History Endowment is a game-changer in terms of support for students with an intellectual interest in Texas history.
“The endowment allows CLASS, through the Department of History, to provide funding opportunities for students to do impactful work that matters to our community,” Tillis said. “In this case, the Nau Fellows will work on Texas history, adding to the rich body of research that already exists on Texas and on Houston.”
Eloise Brice, vice president for University Advancement, said the endowment is a historic and very significant gift and will allow the University to be an academic powerhouse in Texas history. “The University of Houston is committed to providing our students with the well-rounded educations required to produce the global leaders, entrepreneurs and industry innovators of tomorrow,” she said. “This gift will allow the Nau Fellows an opportunity to produce new knowledge about the state’s history.”
Nau described the gift as an investment in the region’s future.
“I see the business environment and the future success of the Houston region intrinsically connected to success at the University of Houston,” he said. “The midlevel and senior managers, whether on the tech side or the energy side, they need to be able to communicate.”
Much emphasis has been placed on ensuring more U.S. students earn degrees in science, engineering and other technical fields. Nau, who earned a history degree at the University of Virginia, said the missing ingredient there is often the ability to communicate, a key strength of liberal arts programs.
“In my business, and in most business environments, you’ve got to be able to communicate,” he said. “I’ve got 1,600 employees. Most of them want to follow a leader that can communicate and inspire.”