The University of Texas at San Antonio will rename the College of Engineering and Integrated Design after former Valero CEO Bill Klesse and his wife, Margie, in honor of their $20 million donation to the school, the university announced Thursday.
The Klesses’ gift will enable the school to expand its student scholarships, create endowments to recruit and retain faculty and support programs to promote student success. That includes those offered by the college’s Student Success Center, such as tutoring, hands-on learning opportunities, leadership programs and professional development.
“Every major city needs a major university, and a major university needs support from its community,” Bill Klesse said Thursday. “I do feel a strong commitment to the town I live in and to help the school.”
This is the second $20 million donation UTSA has received this year. Businessman Carlos Alvarez and his wife, Malú, made a similar donation in March, and the university renamed the business school after him. The Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design is the second named college at UTSA.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said in a statement that the Klesses remain committed to providing “world-class opportunities to UTSA students and faculty members in engineering and design.”
“This incredibly generous gift will advance UTSA’s vision to become a model for student success and a great public research university,” he said in the statement. “I am so happy for our College of Engineering and Integrated Design; this gift will expand our innovative academic and research programs in the college — preparing graduates to go out and change the world.”
This isn’t the first time the Klesses have invested in UTSA.
In 2005, they founded the Klesse Foundation to support scientific, educational, cultural, religious and other charitable organizations in San Antonio. Seven years later, they helped establish the Diamond Shamrock Legacy Endowed Scholarship within the UTSA College of Engineering. Since the scholarship’s inception, 15 UTSA students have collectively received over $22,000.
In 2017, the Klesse Foundation donated $1 million to UTSA to establish the Klesse Unit Operations Laboratory, which created a new chemical engineering program. The gift allowed the university to purchase updated equipment, including a two-story distillation column, and to establish the Margie and Bill Klesse Endowed Scholarship in Chemical Engineering. So far, 10 top-performing students have benefitted from the scholarship.
The first cohort of 16 students graduated from UTSA with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in May 2021, and 154 are currently enrolled in the program. Klesse said while he is supportive of STEM education and engineering in general, he believed the university needed the chemical engineering major to round out the engineering program.
“Engineering helps people think. You have to be organized to be successful in engineering,” Klesse said. “You can make a decent living for yourself and your family.”
He encouraged engineering students to take the opportunities offered to them. Klesse started out as a process engineer for Diamond Shamrock, which later became Valero, before ascending to CEO. He retired from Valero in 2014.
Klesse said he hopes this gift helps the many first-generation students at UTSA and encourages more students to enroll in the engineering school, especially women. He said there were no women in his engineering classes at the University of Dayton.
In the fall 2021 semester, 4,241 students enrolled in the Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design, and 31%, or 1,296, were women. Of the 508 students enrolled in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, 250 or 49% were women.
UTSA established the College of Engineering and Integrated Design this fall by combining the academic departments and the teaching, learning, research and outreach programs of the university’s College of Engineering and the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning. About 4,300 students are enrolled in the college, and 160 faculty and staff members work there.
Disclosure: Margie and Bill Klesse are San Antonio Report supporters.