While it is common to complain today about the high cost of a college education, a 1978 graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington credits his success in large part to learning a hard lesson at an early age. And he is grateful to that institution. To show his gratitude, Dallas oil billionaire Kelcy Warren recently gifted the university with $12 million. It is the largest single donation the college has ever received.
Warren grew up in Gladewater, Texas, the youngest of four boys in a working-class family. His parents stressed the importance of education, as well as teaching the value of hard work and self-reliance. He graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington, intending to study engineering. He relates that finances were a “chronic worry” for the family, and that he earned money at odd jobs from the age of 12 on.
He admits that he enjoyed the freedom of college a little too much, and he flunked out at the end of his freshman year. His father offered him a way forward — return home and work with him at oil field jobs during the day and attend night classes at the local junior college.
When Warren was again accepted by UTA, he was not only able to pay for his classes, but he did well and he never forgot the lesson. He graduated in 1978 with a degree in civil engineering and was hired by Lone Star Gas as a pipeline design engineer. After that, he was involved in the commercial aspect of energy development. In 1996, Warren became a founder of Dallas-based Energy Transfer and still serves as its CEO. The company has a diversified portfolio of publicly-traded energy partnerships, and deals with the treatment, processing and transport of natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products, and crude oil.
He stated, “I am honored to give back to the institution that has played such a pivotal role in advancing my educational and professional journeys.” The executive points to the “critical need for highly skilled graduates” to help manage the state’s energy resources. The funding will establish an innovative resource and energy engineering (REE) program designed to meet that need.
Kelcy Warren, who also serves on the University of Texas Board of Regents, is confident that his gift will help “fuel faculty and research excellence” at UTA’s engineering program, according to the official university statement. In addition, it is expected that the initiatives made possible by the monetary gift will “help elevate UTA to the forefront of the growing resource and energy engineering (REE) field.”
Initially, three endowed positions will be established:
- The Kelcy Warren Endowed Professorship in Resource and Energy Engineering, will be used to recruit and retain a “world-class” faculty member as the program’s head, and
- Two Kelcy Warren Endowed Faculty Fellowships for distinguished scholars will enhance the REE educational experience for all students.
The funding will also create a Kelcy Warren Career Experience Center that is expected to offer undergraduates opportunities to engage in experiential learning through both internships and co-ops, and the money will support a new state-of-the-art lab space, with equipment that can provide both faculty and students with resources to explore solutions to the most pressing energy challenges in today’s world.
Scholarship support for REE undergraduates, known as Warren scholars, is also envisioned, as well as fellowship support for graduate students interested in energy industry careers. They will be named Warren fellows. to be named Warren fellows.
Finally, part of the $12 million gift will support research experiences designed to prepare engineering undergraduates for success in the energy industry or in other high-demand fields. This is not the first time that Kelcy Warren has been in the news for his philanthropic efforts. In 1997, he funded a UTA endowment in honor of Dr. Syed Qasim, a professor who had encouraged him to apply for a National Science Foundation research grant. He was awarded that scholarship and won the top award for his project.
That was a turning point in his life and he considers his current gift to UTA a way to “pay it forward.”