Saying it wants to expand its hiring pool, San Antonio-based construction and engineering firm Zachry Group agreed this week to donate $25 million to Texas A&M University’s engineering college.
The gift is the largest single donation the company has given in its 90 years. It’s also one of the biggest contributions that A&M has ever received.
“This generous gift will be transformational, impacting students in many ways,” Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering, said in a statement.
The company hopes the money will buoy A&M’s Dwight Look College of Engineering’s aggressive plans to double enrollment and become the largest engineering school in the country. Zachry officials say they support that expansion effort because the company needs more qualified graduates to hire.
“The timing couldn’t be better because of the college’s ambitious plans for growth coinciding with our increased demand for engineers,” said A.J. Rodriguez, vice president for external affairs at the company.
The donation is earmarked for three particular purposes. It will help pay for additions and renovations to the university’s new Engineering Education Complex, a $168 million structure that is under construction and is expected to open in 2018. The donation will also help pay for a new program in the college designed to develop students into leaders. And it will fund a new program that will hire teachers based on their work experience instead of traditional academic credentials.
Zachry, which has about 20,000 employees, hired about 100 engineers last year. It expects to bring on more than that in 2015. But finding enough qualified applicants for those jobs is hard, company officials said, so boosting A&M will help both the company and the state.
The company chose to give to A&M specifically because it already has an expansion plan in place, Rodriguez said. The university's goal is to have 25,000 engineering students by 2025. That would almost double current enrollment in engineering programs.
There is also a personal connection between the Zachry family and the university. H.B. “Pat” Zachry Sr., who founded the Zachry group of companies, graduated from A&M in 1922. For decades, students have attended classes in a north campus building with his name.
His grandson, John B. Zachry, is the current chairman. He graduated from A&M in 1984.
Disclosure: Zachry Group and Texas A&M University are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.