The University of Texas at  Tyler Magazine - Fall 2010

Inspiring Excellence
Five-Year Comprehensive Campaign Focuses on Students, Faculty

Dr. Michael McGinnis

Thanks to generous benefactors in recent years, The University of Texas at Tyler has exploded in growth with new buildings and construction across campus.

But at UT Tyler, it has never been about quantity, rather quality.  Each innovative, state-of-the-art educational facility has been designed with one goal in mind – excellence.

UT Tyler supporters say that focus on excellence goes even deeper. In fact, it is the vision behind Inspiring Excellence: The Campaign for The University of Texas at Tyler, a comprehensive campaign devoted to filling those buildings with quality students and faculty.

“It’s about excellence at the university,” said Dr. Rodney H. Mabry, UT Tyler university president. “This campaign, Inspiring Excellence, will allow us to put the funds together to attract the students that we need to have in our honors program and all across this university to establish this as the place to be for high ability students in East Texas.”

“(UT Tyler supporters) have done a fabulous job of building the backbone of this university. There are gorgeous facilities,” said Inspiring Excellence chair Dr. Lawrence Anderson.  “Now we need to fill those buildings with teachers and students.  I really view this as rounding out the university.”

Inspiring Excellence was launched in 2007 as a five-year campaign with a goal of $30 million.

“This is the largest campaign ever endeavored at UT Tyler and the first comprehensive –everything that comes in philanthropically counts toward our goal,” said Jerre K. Iversen, vice president for university advancement. “We’ve raised over $17 million to date, despite a bad economy, and with more than two years still to go, we are making good progress.”

With dwindling resources from the state legislature, community-funded scholarships and professorships can keep UT Tyler competitive in attracting top students, Iversen said.  Three primary objectives of the campaign are the honors college initiative, endowed scholarships and endowed chairs and professorships.

Inspiring Excellence co-chair Dr. Svetislava Vukelja said, “As a doctor, I’ve seen the result of the quality of education that comes out of UT Tyler – nurses, physical therapists, support staff.  They are really top-notch and I see a tremendous need to support this institution.  We want to make sure that we plant our seeds here, that we receive that which is grown from deep roots in East Texas.”

Two examples of recent contributions to the Inspiring Excellence campaign are the Michael and Elizabeth McNally Professorship in Civil Engineering and the Mobile Go Center.

Michael and Elizabeth McNally Professorship in Civil Engineering

Michael and Elizabeth McNally established a professorship in civil engineering as part of the Inspiring Excellence campaign. McNally is a Tyler attorney while Mrs. McNally, who is better known to everyone as Fritter, serves as vice chair of UT Tyler’s development board and on the committee leading the Inspiring Excellence effort.

“I have been asked why a practicing attorney with degrees in business and law from the University of Kansas would support the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Tyler,” McNally said.

He became interested in UT Tyler’s engineering programs after hearing a speech by Dr. Mabry that cited a huge disparity in the number of engineering graduates in the United States compared to some other nations.

“No doubt, we do need more engineers and scientists,” McNally said.

Even though the McNallys both graduated from the University of Kansas, McNally said they believe it is important to invest in UT Tyler.

“I never imagined that we would make significant contributions to any university other than KU, but that changed when we began to see the qualifications and enthusiasm of the students, to understand the quality of the programs offered at UT Tyler and witness the positive impact that this university has in our community,’’ McNally said. “East Texas is our home.’’

He added, “Endowing a professorship can help ensure a top-notch faculty. Contributing a scholarship can lead to a decision by a bright young high school graduate to become one of those engineers or computer scientists our nation must have to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.”

Dr. James K. Nelson, dean of engineering and computer science, said professorships are important for the continued growth and quality of the engineering school.

“Professorships and other faculty endowments are important for two reasons. First, we want to attract the best faculty we can and retain those that we have hired. Appointment to a professorship is a clear mark of recognized professional accomplishment,’’ Dr. Nelson said.

“Second, through use of the revenue generated by the endowment, the faculty member can continue development of his or her teaching skills, more easily engage students in research and explore emerging research areas that can offer great benefit to the university and state. This is extremely important as funding from traditional sources is strained because of economic conditions.’’

The McNallys, he said, “have been phenomenal supporters of the community and the university. Without gifts like theirs, we would have a very difficult time retaining active faculty who truly engage our students and conduct research.”

The recipient of the McNally Professorship is Dr. Michael McGinnis, UT Tyler assistant professor of civil engineering.

“Dr. McGinnis is an outstanding young faculty member who has clearly demonstrated excellence in the classroom and is building a research program in an area of civil engineering that will provide the university with a unique niche in the state,” Dr. Nelson said.

Dr. McGinnis’ research involves nondestructive testing and material/structural behavior evaluation, especially for hazard events such as earthquakes and fires. Active projects include investigating the deformations, cracking states and moisture movements of concrete in fires, concrete shear wall behavior in earthquakes and the behavior of coupling beams in innovative earthquake resistant systems.

“The McNally Professorship is allowing me to attend the conferences that ensure that I am in contact with the rest of the profession, that I am networking with many of the most prominent engineers in our field and that I have the supplies and tools necessary to build toward my research vision,” Dr. McGinnis said. “I am very grateful to have been chosen for this prestigious honor.”

Mobile Go Center

Do not be surprised if a vehicle resembling a bright, rolling billboard for UT Tyler passes you on the road. It is UT Tyler’s new Mobile Go Center.

This colorful, state-of-the-art informational tool takes a slice of the university to prospective students around East Texas … no matter where they are.

“The UT Tyler Mobile Go Center stops at high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, shopping malls, community centers and other locations to bring college-related information, motivation and assistance directly to students and their families,” said Charlie Hutchins, assistant vice president for enrollment, management, marketing and customer service at UT Tyler.

The specialized Internet-equipped information center on wheels features 15 laptop computers and on-site personnel who help students explore career and college opportunities, apply for student aid and register to take college entrance exams. Angie Copeland is the UT Tyler Mobile Go Center coordinator.

The UT Tyler Mobile Go Center hit the road for the first time in January. Since then, 2,571 students have made use of the facility at 29 different stops.

“This is one way to create additional awareness about UT Tyler and give us more visibility among high-ability students wherever they might be in our region,” Dr. Mabry said.

Hutchins said the Go Center is part of the College for Texans Campaign to support the state’s “Closing the Gaps” efforts to draw an additional 630,000 Texans into colleges and universities by 2015.

The mobile computer center has been funded through two grants from the Texas Pioneer Foundation and UT Tyler Foundation.

Fred Markham, director of the Texas Pioneer Foundation in San Marcos, said research shows that after cost and cultural barriers, one of the major obstacles to higher education is a lack of information.

“In this day and age, there is no reason for the information not to be available for everyone, but I realized that many low-income families don’t have access to the information we take for granted,” Markham said.  “The Mobile Go Center is really an instrument to deliver information to people that might not otherwise be getting it. Many may not show up in the halls of the university, but they might stop by a Mobile Go Center outside the high school or shopping center.

“UT Tyler is in the center of a region that we felt needed this kind of service. I know UT Tyler has done a great job in the region and I’ve been particularly impressed with how they’ve used the Mobile Go Center,” Markham said.



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 Last Published 4/27/11