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Turning $1 Million into $3 Million at McCombs

Giving News

A challenge to ensure the long-term success of a dynamic learning experience in one of America’s top business schools.

Challenging times are nothing new in business—or, for that matter, in public higher education. Recognizing this, El Paso native Woody Hunt has issued a challenge of his own to his fellow McCombs School of Business alumni and friends.

Woody Hunt

El Paso native Woody Hunt has issued a challenge to his fellow McCombs School of Business alumni and friends.

Hunt intends to give $1 million to McCombs’ Business Honors Program (BHP). The challenge? In order to receive the gift, the school must raise an additional $2 million in the next five years. The funding will support the new Woody L. Hunt Endowed Excellence Fund for the expansion of BHP student programs, as well as a scholarship aimed at recruiting top students from the Paso del Norte area, comprising El Paso, southern New Mexico, and northern Mexico.

“The Business Honors Program is certainly a significant asset for The University of Texas, McCombs, and the state of Texas,” says Hunt, who is involved in investment, real estate development, and construction as chairman and CEO of Hunt Companies Inc. “I was one of the early participants and have always connected my success going forward with that educational experience.”

Begun in 1960, BHP is both a program and a major at McCombs. The curriculum is modeled after that of the MBA program, giving its 500 students access to smaller classes taught using the case-based model of instruction. About 120 students graduate each year. Program participant Jasmine Bell, who will graduate with an MPA in 2013, says her BHP classes prepared her well for the multiple corporate internships she has landed since her sophomore year. “BHP professors really stand out,” she says. “They don’t focus on memorization—they teach you how to think. They shaped the way I process information and enhanced my desire to learn.”

As a former vice chairman of the UT System Board of Regents and having also chaired the board of directors of the UT Investment Management Company (UTIMCO), Hunt knows that programs like BHP cannot thrive on state support alone. He hopes his challenge and the gifts it elicits will have a lasting impact on the program. “I think it is appropriate, particularly given changes to funding for higher education, to ask alumni who have reaped the rewards of going through such a high-quality program—and have the capacity to give—to help,” he says. “UT Austin is becoming more state-assisted, and less state-supported, so I think the time is certainly right.”

Hunt would like his gift to fund scholarships to students from El Paso and the surrounding area. “My hope here is to try to improve the competitiveness of our region,” he says. “The expectations would be that some of those students will come back and contribute to the community.”

BHP alumni are known for doing just that, as well as giving back to the program that gave so much to them. “The thing about BHP alums is that you never have to ask them to give. They know it matters,” says Robert Prentice, the program’s faculty director. “They know that we wouldn’t be what we are if it wasn’t for their help. We are so grateful for the generosity of Mr. Hunt and the Hunt Family Foundation. These funds and those that we will be raising from alumni and friends of the program will be crucial to the long-term growth and success of the program.”

Two of those friends are Shari and Stuart Schwartz, parents of Jeffrey Schwartz, BBA ’07. Knowing that students from their region often find it impossible to attend McCombs due to financial obstacles, the El Paso couple has wholeheartedly accepted Hunt’s challenge, pledging $10,000.

“Words really cannot express the gratitude we feel for McCombs and BHP in providing a world-class education to our son,” Shari says. “BHP was a phenomenal educational experience and opened unparalleled career choices for him.” Thanks to Hunt, she says, “more students from El Paso and southern New Mexico will have the opportunity to succeed and achieve their dreams as well.”

Learn more about the Business Honors Program and how to support it at

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