Dallas billionaire Rowling gives $25 million to UT-Austin

Posted Friday, Mar. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Robert B. Rowling, a Dallas billionaire who owns the Omni hotel in downtown Fort Worth, has donated $25 million toward a $116.5 million building project at the University of Texas at Austin's Red McCombs School of Business, the second biggest donation since Houston car dealer Red McCombs gave $50 million.

"My family and I are passionate about the state of Texas, the University of Texas and creating educational opportunities in our state. Texas is the best place in the country to do business," the 59-year-old Rowling said in a statement released by UT. "We hope this gift will encourage the best and the brightest to come to Austin to get their MBAs and be part of the phenomenon that is Texas."

The structure, which will house business graduate programs and add conference and executive education space, will be called Robert B. Rowling Hall. The donation was made in the name of both Rowling and his wife, Terry, who like her husband and son Blake received undergraduate business degrees at UT.

Robert Rowling, who later earned a law degree at Southern Methodist University, controls Dallas-based TRT Holdings Inc., which owns the high-end Omni Hotels & Resorts chain, Gold's Gym International and Tana Exploration Company, among other investments that make him the ninth richest Texan in the Forbes' list of wealthiest people. It estimates his worth at $4.9 billion.

UT said the $25 million donation kicks off a fund-raising effort for the building and an adjoining, 525-space parking garage.

"Robert B. Rowling Hall will be truly transformative, enhancing the quality and reputation of our already highly esteemed graduate programs," said Thomas W. Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School. "The building also helps us plan ahead for continued growth of our influential Texas executive education program, while expanding the breadth of our world-renowned faculty."

A news release said Rowling has served on the University of Texas System Board of Regents and was also chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company. In 2005, he was inducted into the McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame.

"Bob Rowling already has served his alma mater at the highest level of volunteer leadership, and with this gift, he and Terry enter the pantheon of the university's most historically significant supporters," said Bill Powers, president of UT Austin. "This building itself will embody many traits that are key to business success -- flexibility, common areas for interaction, and the ability to take advantage of evolving technology. And we are proud to have Bob Rowling's name on it."

Rowling said in a 2006 interview with the Star-Telegram that he doubted if he could have succeeded as well if he had to do it all over again.

"I tell my kids I couldn't repeat what's happened to me," he said. "If you gave me $10 million free and clear and said, 'OK, go do that,' there's not any chance that I could do it again."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718

Twitter: @bshlachter

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