$1 Million Gift to Transform Design Programs at The University of Texas at Austin


September 19, 2019
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A $1 million gift will breathe new life in design programs at The University of Texas at Austin and allow the Department of Design to partner more closely with Cockrell School of Engineering to build a program in product design. In a market with few other industrial design programs in the region, the University of Texas is uniquely positioned to leverage its existing strengths and become a leading program in industrial design and product innovation.

UT alumnus Mike Reese has pledged to create the Reese Foundation Excellence Fund for Product Innovation Endowment to benefit the School of Design and Creative Technologies. This gift will support the creation of an historic partnership between the College of Fine Arts and the Cockrell School of Engineering. By bringing together technological innovation and human-centered creativity, the two colleges will develop programs and classes around industrial and product design.

"The School of Design and Creative Technologies is so honored to be the recipient of this generous gift and the endowment it creates," said Doreen Lorenzo, Assistant Dean for the School of Design and Creative Technologies. "Growing our curriculum to include product innovation and industrial design allows us to maintain our competitive stature while growing the mission of our department. It's an absolute privilege to create this academic opportunity for our students with Mike Reese."

The gift will support professional development for existing faculty who have expertise in industrial design, program needs, and newly offered courses. The gift will also support scholarships for students pursuing studies in this area.

"The university has the potential to reshape industrial and product design in the state of Texas, and my hope is that my gift inspires other donors to invest in the future of this program," said Mike Reese.

As early as age 16, Mike Reese was excelling in the fields of art and design as a winner of the prestigious General Motors-sponsored Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild futuristic automobile design competition. Reese attended The University of Texas at Austin, where he received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in 1970. He went on to earn an additional degree in product design from the Art Center College of Design in 1974. Prior to launching his firm Reese International in 1976, he broke new ground with the concept design of The Little Professor, one of the first hand-held digital, educational toys for Texas Instruments. Before starting his own firm, he worked in the aerospace industry as a design engineer for General Dynamics and was also a professor in The College of Architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology. Best known for his innovative aircraft interior designs, Reese and his firm achieved world-class status specializing in the design of private luxury aircraft interiors customized for an international clientele. Created in 1998 by Mike and Pamela Reese, the Reese Foundation has provided philanthropic support to the visual arts, education and the environment.

"Mike Reese has had an extraordinary and truly exemplary career in industrial design, and we're delighted to have his support as our design program evolves and rapidly expands," said College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster. "This transformative gift will support creating even more professional pathways for our students to go out and change the world."

"My education and experiences at UT provided me with a firm foundation that prepared me to eventually create a successful design business and rewarding career. I hope that my gift to UT's Department of Design will help empower today's and tomorrow's students to have successful careers as well," added Reese.

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