The University of Texas at San Antonio
San Antonio philanthropists Curtis and Phyllis Vaughan's appreciation of the cosmos and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) moved them to fund The Vaughan Family Endowed Professorship in Physics - at light speed.
Mr. Vaughan serves as chairman of Vaughan & Sons Inc., a lumber and building materials company his grandfather founded in 1893. Today, its retail division Alamo Lumber Co., operates throughout South Texas, and its wholesale arm Alamo Forest Products, serves the entire state and many neighboring ones.
"My wife and I wanted to do something for UTSA, a tremendous asset in the community," Vaughan said with characteristic modesty.
In 1948, Vaughan graduated magna cum laude with a physics degree from Harvard University and was elected Phi Beta Kappa. In 1950, he earned a master's degree in business administration with distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Business and was named a Baker Scholar. Mrs. Vaughan is an honors graduate of Simmons College in Boston, where she majored in business.
As grounded as both are in the family business (three of their four sons work there) or community service, the Vaughans' interests are not exclusively Earth-bound. In 1979, they established the Curtis Vaughan Centennial Chair in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a member of the McDonald Observatory and Department of Astronomy Board of Visitors, serving as chairman from 1979 to 1982. Then in 1993, he was elected to the College of Natural Sciences Hall of Honor.
Both recognize the separate disciplines of astronomy and physics have grown exponentially together - hence the aptly named study of astrophysics. "We believe education is important to people of all walks of life, and astrophysics is leading the way in discoveries about our universe," Vaughan said.
|Curtis and Phyllis Vaughan|
While he called astronomy more of a "hobby," Vaughan said the couple met with UTSA President Ricardo Romo about establishing the endow-ment in Spring 2005 and funded it within a few months. The endowment is invested in the Long Term Fund, and a search for a new professor is under way.
The gift demonstrates how community support can change student lives, and, appropriately enough, strengthen UTSA's reputation as a "rising star" among research institutions. UTSA scholars in the field called the Vaughans' gift a successful equation adding dollars and sense. "The Vaughans are not only providing a valuable gift by increasing UTSA's ability to attract world-class scientists, but their support also promises to enhance the education of current and future students," said Patrick Nash, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy.
"Thanks to their generosity, the gifted students who study physics and astronomy at UTSA have an even better chance to become the world's next great scientists, teachers, inventors, and even Nobel Prize winners," Nash said.