Nearly 70 years ago, John S. Chase became the first Black person in Texas to become a licensed architect. Inspired by his late father’s legacy, his son—entrepreneur and educator Tony Chase—has set out to empower the next generation of innovators in the architecture space. According to the Houston Chronicle, Chase, and his wife, Dr. Dina Alsowayel, have gifted the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture with a $1 million endowment.
The donation will go towards creating the John S. Chase Family Endowed Graduate Fellowship, a program designed to recruit HBCU graduates in an effort to diversify the architecture industry. A portion of the endowment will be allocated for the John S. Chase Family Endowed Professorship in Architecture, which aims to cultivate a community of educators that can contribute to the evolution of the school’s program.
John S. Chase had deep ties to the Austin-based school. He made history as the first Black person to earn a degree as part of the institution’s graduate program. He also volunteered at the school and later served on UT’s Development Board.
His son, who founded ChaseSource LP, says the donation is an homage to his parents and hopes it will eliminate financial barriers for scholars looking to pursue a career in architecture.
“My mom passed away almost exactly a year ago, so this, really, is meant to honor both of their lives and legacies. My hope is that it provides an opportunity for lots of deserving kids,” he told the news outlet. “They were a unit. They really were. It would be impossible for me to honor him without honoring her.”
Michelle Addington, the dean of UT’s School of Architecture, added John Chase was a “connector and a community-builder” who “used his pioneering position to create opportunities for others.”
There is a need for more representation in the architecture industry. Research shows of the country’s 100,000 licensed architects, less than 2,500 are Black.