DECEMBER 29, 2021 — Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 9, 2021.
Former Valero CEO and Chairman of the Board Bill Klesse and his wife, Margie, have committed a transformational $20 million gift to The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Engineering and Integrated Design to advance student success through the creation of new endowments for student scholarships, faculty support and programs to promote student success.
In recognition of the gift, The University of Texas System Board of Regents has authorized the naming of the college to the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design.
Bill and Margie Klesse have given a transformational $20 million gift to the UTSA College of Engineering and Integrated Design. The college will be named after the couple in recognition of the gift and years of support.
“Bill and I care deeply about San Antonio and the opportunities that are available for all people through higher education in STEM programs,” Margie Klesse said. “We believe that earning degrees in STEM programs build valuable life and critical-thinking skills, and are thrilled to be able to support the College of Engineering and Integrated Design to continue opening doors for women and students of all backgrounds into these important fields.”
Bill Klesse added, “Margie and I appreciate the difference that the UTSA College of Engineering and Integrated Design is making for students in South Texas, and their families. The university and the college create an environment where all students are challenged with great academic rigor but also supported to help find their own path to success. The future will continue to bring many challenges to economic, reliable and sustainable energy supplies as well as built infrastructures, and we need these emerging new engineers and designers to help us create solutions that will benefit all members of our communities.”
The Klesses’ gift will enable the College of Engineering and Integrated Design to expand its scholarship support for students, create endowments for faculty recruitment and retention, and support student success. These support programs include those offered by the college’s Student Success Center, which provides tutoring, hands-on learning opportunities, leadership programs and professional development to every student in the college.
“We are profoundly grateful to Margie and Bill Klesse. They have always been deeply committed to providing world-class opportunities to UTSA students and faculty members in engineering and design,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “This incredibly generous gift will advance UTSA’s vision to become a model for student success and a great public research university. 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.”
In 2005, Margie and Bill Klesse founded the Klesse Foundation to support scientific, educational, cultural, religious and other charitable organizations in San Antonio. Seven years later, they provided support for 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 support of their education.
In 2017, the Klesse Foundation made a $1 million gift to UTSA to establish the Klesse Unit Operations Laboratory so that a new Chemical Engineering program could be established. This gift enabled the university to acquire state-of-the-art equipment including a two-story distillation column that attracted national attention and to create the Margie and Bill Klesse Endowed Scholarship in Chemical Engineering, which has benefitted 10 top-performing students. The first cohort of 16 students graduated from UTSA with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering in May 2021 and 154 are currently enrolled in the program.
“Bill and Margie Klesse’s support has enabled UTSA to deliver an unparalleled education and valuable hands-on learning opportunities to students that prepare them for careers in this innovative industry,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy. “Their gift is especially impactful at UTSA, a Hispanic Serving Institution that is training a diverse community of leaders and critical thinkers well-equipped for tomorrow’s workforce.”
Bill and Margie Klesse met in the cafeteria while they were students at the University of Dayton. Bill Klesse was studying chemical engineering, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a mechanical engineer. Margie was studying chemistry. Today, Bill Klesse serves on the board of trustees at the university.
In 1969, Bill Klesse joined Diamond Shamrock as a junior process engineer. The firm later became Valero. He built his career there and was progressively promoted, ultimately becoming chief executive officer and vice chairman in 2006. A year later, he was named CEO and chairman, positions he would hold until retiring from Valero in 2014.
Currently, Klesse is a director of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, where he serves on the firm’s Executive Compensation and Environment, Health and Safety committees. He also serves as the director of Calgary-based MEG Energy, where he focuses on sustainable development and production of oil sands in the Christina Lake region of Alberta.
Klesse and his wife remain active in San Antonio, where they continue to support the city’s health care leaders including the UT Health San Antonio Alzheimer’s Institute, the Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and the Cancer Therapy and Research Center.
They also dedicate their time to local nonprofits. Bill Klesse is a trustee of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, and the Briscoe Western Art Museum. He serves on the advisory board for San Antonio Food Bank and on the Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Foundation Board. Margie Klesse is a member of the Mays Cancer Center Board of Governors for UT Health San Antonio, a past member and vice president of the Cancer Center Council Board of Trustees, which supports the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, and a past chair of the Poinsettia Ball, an annual fundraiser benefitting the Friends of Hospice San Antonio.
The UTSA College of Engineering and Integrated Design builds on a history of cross-disciplinary collaboration at UTSA and within industry. It was established this fall by combining the academic departments and the teaching, learning, research and outreach programs of the university’s College of Engineering and College of Architecture, Construction and Planning.
The new college is administratively organized into two schools: one that includes Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Construction Management and a second that includes Architecture and Planning. It also houses three departments: Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. The college is home to approximately 4,300 students, 120 faculty members and 40 staff members, and it is becoming a destination for top faculty members and postdoctoral researchers.
“The College of Engineering and Integrated Design is training the next generation of leaders, guided by experts in the classroom and the laboratory who are nationally recognized in their fields,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of the college. “By enabling our students to learn through an integrated approach that combines engineering and design, UTSA graduates will have the knowledge and competitive skillset they need to meet the challenges their industries are currently facing and will be better positioned to develop innovative solutions for their employers, their communities and San Antonio. This gift by Margie and Bill Klesse will be a key component to realizing our vision for the college, and we are incredibly honored by their continued generosity and support.”
“The impact of this magnificent gift will reverberate far beyond UTSA because graduates of the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design will join a workforce that needs more skilled engineers to improve our communities and make them better places to live,” UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “This gift is synonymous with opportunity because it will cultivate both student success and community success.”
The Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design is the second named college at UTSA. Earlier this year, the UTSA College of Business was named after longtime UTSA supporter Carlos Alvarez.
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