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Matches Light a Fire in Liberal Arts

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Sherri and Bobby Patton

Sherri and Bobby Patton’s challenge campaign is matching major gifts to the College of Liberal Arts.

When Bobby Patton, Jr., and his wife, Sherri, announced in September 2016 that they were giving $20 million to the College of Liberal Arts to support excellence, they saw it as an investment in the college’s future — and an opportunity to challenge others to invest in that future.

Alumni have eagerly responded to the Sherri and Bobby Patton Jr. Challenge Campaign and have done so in ways that significantly bolster the Pattons’ intent to help the college recruit top faculty and students.

Robert and Maureen Decherd’s gift will total $1 million with the Patton match, adding to the Maureen Healy Decherd ’73 Teaching Endowment for English. The endowment supports graduate students with summer stipends, funds conferences and research, and provides other assistance.

“Robert and I believe it is extremely important to create the most productive situation possible for graduate students, who are the future of scholarship and teaching,” says Maureen. “This is especially important in literature and writing as the world becomes increasingly focused on science and technology. Balance between the humanities and other fields is crucial.”

Stuart and Betty Ann Stedman joined with the Stedman West Foundation to establish the Stuart W. Stedman Director’s Chair in Plan II with a gift that was matched to total $1.5 million in support of Plan II study abroad, undergraduate research, and internships.

Liberal Arts Building

The College of Liberal Arts offers more than 50 majors in 22 academic departments.

“Plan II took a chance on me when they let me in as a sophomore transfer student in 1976,” Stuart says. “The professors and the curriculum transformed my inquisitive but undisciplined mind into one that could tackle hard material, analyze complex problems, and write persuasively about my conclusions. My mother — also a Plan II graduate — and I are pleased to be able to support the program.”

Carolyn and Peyton Townsend answered the challenge with a pledge that was matched to a total endowment of $200,000 to establish the Carolyn and Peyton Townsend Excellence Fund for the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts & Ideas.

The center aims to help students understand the meaning of liberty through intense, interactive study of great books.

The college will match gifts from $100,000 to $1 million per donor, depending on the availability of funds. Please contact Assistant Dean Kathleen Aronson at 512-475-9763 or mcaronson@austin.utexas.edu for more information.

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