Geotimes
Web Extra  Monday, March 4, 2002

$150 million for the geosciences

The University of Texas at Austin announced Saturday that it has received what school officials are calling the largest monetary gift ever made to a single public university. The lucky department? Geoscience.

Retired oilman and geologist John A. Jackson pledged a portion of his estate to the university, also his alma mater. The gift is estimated to currently be worth $150 million.

“I feel very humbled by a person of that much generosity. He's trying to do something that will be beneficial for people long after he's gone and I'm gone,” says William Fisher, a professor of geology at the university and chair of the university’s Geology Foundation, which will manage the donation.

The money will support the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences. Last year, Jackson donated $25 million to start the school, which launched last summer.

“One of the biggest things we’re doing first is trying to put together a more competitive package for graduate students,” Fisher says of the school. “Our idea is to get the best students possible.”

The Geology Foundation, which currently holds $75 million, will also fund post-doctoral research opportunities and the research of its faculty, and will also support research faculty so that they can do more teaching, Fisher says.

The foundation is also launching an initiative to research water issues in the state, what Fisher calls a critical issue for Texas. It is the first of many initiatives the school will pursue, he says.

Fisher adds that he and Jackson have been working together 20 years on forming and funding the school, which combines the university’s Department of Geological Sciences, the Geophysics Institute and the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology.

With the guidance of an advisory council of 48 people representing the energy industry, environmental industry, oil companies and the academic community, the foundation will start planning now for how it will use the gift, which it will receive upon Jackson's death.

“The focus is going to be to try to make it one of the best geological organizations in the country,” Fisher says. “The big job is to measure up to the kind of generosity that is in this gift.”

Kristina Bartlett

Links:

Geotimes story about John A. Jackson
Biography of John A. Jackson
University of Texas announcement
The Jackson School of Geosciences


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