Main page content
Statement from Chancellor Milliken on the death of Peter O'Donnell, Jr., UT benefactor and Texas visionary
Peter O’Donnell, Jr. was perhaps the most influential Texan of his generation. Few people have done as much to advance the State of Texas as a powerhouse for research and innovation. In many ways, he helped shape the Texas we all share today. Through decades of strategic philanthropy alongside his beloved wife Edith, he launched moon-shot advancements in math, science, computing and the arts. These investments helped UT Dallas become a top-tier research institution and catalyzed the public-private partnerships that have made UT Austin and the City of Austin a world-leading center for technology. And his most recent act was ensure that UT Southwestern would become a premiere institution for advancements in the neurosciences.
Peter cared about the future and approached it with deep strategic thinking. His investments were designed to nurture the kind of bold, original thinking that has become a hallmark of the UT System. Despite not attending a UT institution, he was a dogged supporter of UT, Edith’s alma mater. That support was given with an eye to the skills and industries that will keep Texas vital and growing not just in the years to come, but far into the future. What’s more, for many years his donations were anonymous. His commitment was to the people of Texas, and he never wavered from that.
It is difficult, impossible perhaps, to calculate the impact the O’Donnells had. Their gifts endowed hundreds of chairs, professorships, and fellowships across the UT System and led to the construction of state-of-the-art facilities for the research and teaching that will remain central to the growth and prosperity of Texas for generations to come. Far more than donations, Peter challenged others to step up and set far-sighted priorities. His good works may never be repeated, but his vision and leadership can be emulated. I know that I will look to his example of transformational actions and investment.
His influence touched every corner of this state, changing it for the better. That is the core of our mission of service, and his memory will serve as a beacon for all of us.