building the future

Entrepreneur gifts $1 million to UT Austin in honor of his father, Texas’ first Black architect

Entrepreneur gifts $1M to UT in honor of Texas’ first Black architect

John S. Chase Houston and sons Tony Chase
John S. Chase stands in front of his family home in Houston with two of his three children, Anthony (left) and John Jr. (right). Photo courtesy the John and Drucie Chase Collection
Tony Chase Houston
Houston businessman Tony Chase has gifted $1M to UT in honor of his father, architect John S. Chase. Photo courtesy of Tony Chase
John S. Chase Houston and sons Tony Chase
Tony Chase Houston

Texas entrepreneur and law professor Tony Chase is no stranger to philanthropy. The founder and CEO of ChaseSource LP — a staffing, facilities management, and construction firm — has long been a generous contributor to myriad city causes. But his newest gift is decidedly personal.

Houstonians Chase and his wife, Dina Alsowayel, have donated $1 million to the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture in honor of his Chase’s father, John S. Chase, FAIA (master’s of architecture ’52). Notably, John Chase is the first Black graduate of UT’s school of architecture and the first Black licensed architect in the state.

This new gift from Tony Chase will create two new permanent endowments. The John S. Chase Family Endowed Graduate Fellowship will be used primarily to recruit graduates of historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, to the school and increase representation in the profession. Meanwhile, the John S. Chase Family Endowed Professorship in Architecture is meant to help recruit and retain outstanding faculty members and support their study of the built environment, according to the university.

John Chase enrolled at UT in 1950 as one of the school’s earliest Black students. He moved his family to Houston in the 1950s and eventually started his own firm — namely because no white architects would hire him. Undeterred, John Chase became the first Black licensed architect in Texas.

In 1952, he designed the headquarters for the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas, according to his bio. UT acquired the building in 2018, restored and converted it to an outreach center for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and dedicated it as the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building last fall.

He went on to design numerous churches, private homes, and eventually — perhaps his crowning achievement — the Texas Southern University campus.

A dedicated business and community leader, Chase was also a passionate volunteer at UT. He served as a member of UT’s Development Board and Commission of 125, and was the first Black president of the Texas Exes. Chase received Texas Exes’ Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.

“Throughout his life and as reflected in his built works, John Chase was a connector and a community builder,” says Michelle Addington, dean of the School of Architecture, in a statement. “Not only did Chase design spaces that brought people together, but he used his pioneering position to create opportunities for others. We are extremely grateful for Tony’s incredible gift and honored to continue John Chase’s legacy of creating opportunities for a whole new generation.”

In 2019, UT’s School of Architecture hosted “Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase,” an exhibition curated by the Houston Public Library and an accompanying panel discussion.

In 2020, professor David Heymann co-authored “John S. Chase — The Chase Residence” with Houston architecture critic Stephen Fox, which explores the significance of the home Chase designed and built for his family in Houston, both as a work of modernist residential architecture and as a setting for many important social, cultural, and political events, according to a press release.

The first biography of John Chase is set to publish next year, penned by assistant professor Tara Dudley.

Following in his father’s footsteps, the prolific businessman and professor Tony Chase is eager to give back with this gift, noting in a statement, “My father always said, ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’”