Change-Maker

Alumna’s gifts to LBJ School boost public service education.
Rachel Dunlap

As the LBJ School celebrates 50 years, graduate Rachel Dunlap shares why she is supporting the school through an endowed scholarship and estate gift. 
Photos: Cary Hazelgrove

“The LBJ School prepares bold, fearless leaders and scholars who are able to adapt well in the face of adversity to improve their communities.”
— Rachel Dunlap, LBJ School graduate

Rachel Dunlap learned to embrace change as a young girl. She was the daughter of a career naval officer who moved his family often to assume new duties. Rachel learned from her father the importance of integrity and leadership. And through his example, she developed a strong belief in public service that led her to The University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

As an LBJ School alumna, Rachel believes wholeheartedly in the school’s mission and has coordinated the establishment of an endowed scholarship and set up an estate gift to support the school and its students into the future. This year the LBJ School celebrates its 50th anniversary and a half-century of impact on public service.

“The LBJ School prepares bold, fearless leaders and scholars who are able to adapt well in the face of adversity to improve their communities,” she said. “I was a student during the ’80s, and many faculty tied back into President Johnson’s administration. I was surrounded by strong mentors who helped me understand the importance of collaborative work.”

Rachel received a fellowship to attend the LBJ School. To pay it forward, she helped spearhead the Class of 1983 Fellowship Endowment (see related below), assembling a steering committee of alumni to grow a fund that will support students in perpetuity.

“Gratitude is a driving force for the fund because most of my classmates received financial aid that made their education possible,” Rachel said. “Public servants tend to be grateful people because they understand sacrifice. They work in the public sector not to earn a high income, but because they believe in the value of service.”

“The LBJ School prepares bold, fearless leaders and scholars who are able to adapt well in the face of adversity to improve their communities.”

— Rachel Dunlap, LBJ School graduate

LBJ Library
Rachel Dunlap with Husband

After earning an MPAff from the LBJ School, Rachel began her career with the Texas Department of Community Affairs under the administration of Governor Mark White. She served as a grant specialist with the Community Development Block Grant program and was assigned to work on public facilities provision to colonias along the border — a role that gave her the opportunity to help change lives for the better.

She then spent 10 years with Texaco, where she was responsible for a range of legislative issues, and later joined Moody’s Investors Service in New York as a vice president and senior analyst. Over the long arc of her career — she is now retired — Rachel was also responsible for media management in both the public and private sectors.

For Rachel, service never ends. She continues to change lives by promoting causes dear to her heart, volunteering on numerous boards and fundraising for nonprofits across the nation. She also recently created a gift through her estate, to be used at the dean’s discretion to support the LBJ School.

“I’m a big believer in unrestricted gifts,” said Rachel. “The dean and decision-makers at the LBJ School know best what the needs are, and I know they will put the funds to good use. It’s not about me; it’s about the mission.”

When she’s not volunteering, Rachel enjoys working on projects with Jim, her husband of 20 years, who is a former president of Texaco USA and senior vice president of Texaco Inc. They divide their time between Santa Fe, Nantucket and Washington County, Texas. Together they have restored five historic homes dating from 1755 to 1932 and currently enjoy hiking the mountains of New Mexico and eating roasted green chile on everything.

Nicolas Homepage px

Meet Nicolas Vander Meer

Recipient of the LBJ School Class of 1983 Fellowship

When Nicolas graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in economics, he took a somewhat unconventional next step. He joined Teach for America and landed a position teaching algebra at Kealakehe High School in Hawaii. During those two years in the classroom, he found his calling in education.

“I really loved it. But I realized that a lot of the good I was doing wasn’t having an effect on the education system as a whole,” said Nicolas. “Once I decided to devote my life to education public policy, I knew the LBJ School was the place I needed to be.”

Nicolas was accepted to the LBJ School, but money was tight. “I wanted to go to graduate school, but the expenses were a huge factor in my decision,” he said. “The fellowship I received from the school’s Class of 1983 changed everything.” Nicolas is one of six students so far to receive support from the endowed fellowship, which was created by alumna Rachel Dunlap and her fellow graduates.

“Because the funds are from a group of alumni, I felt supported by the LBJ School community. There’s a strong sense of legacy — to be supported by LBJ grads and to be a student here during the 50th anniversary of a school that’s had such an impact.”

“I wanted to go to graduate school, but the expenses were a huge factor in my decision. The fellowship I received from the school’s Class of 1983 changed everything.”

One of Nicolas’ favorite moments was orientation. Walking into the LBJ School, he saw the framed pictures of all the classes that had come before him. “I felt a connection to them. We all want to make the world a better place through policy and we all chose the LBJ School for that. I can’t thank Rachel Dunlap and the Class of 1983 enough for giving me this opportunity. I want to follow their lead and give to future generations of this community.”

Get Started

When you include UT in your estate plan, you create global leaders, drive discovery and change the world. You also protect assets, provide for those you love and receive tax-wise benefits.

Texas Leader Magazine

More from this series

Gifts from the Heart

Gifts from the Heart

Betsy Sauer’s gifts honor her family and lead to clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine.

Skip to content