The Welch Foundation was established in 1954 by Robert A. Welch, a millionaire who had a passion for chemistry and for Texas. This semester, the Welch Foundation is giving $1.5 million to UTSA to establish the Robert A. Welch Chair in chemistry, pushing the university closer to Tier One status.
Welch attained success and fortune in the oil and mineral industry and believed chemistry was important to the betterment of the world. His will states, “I have long been impressed with the great possibilities for the betterment of mankind that lay in the field of research in the domain of chemistry.”
His foundation provides research grants, endowed chairs and departmental programs. The foundation also hosts an annual conference, where leading chemists sponsor the Welch Award in chemistry, focusing primarily on scientific advancement in Texas.
UTSA is on a mission to find a distinguished scientist that will help the university in the advancement of the sciences. Not long ago, the Texas legislature passed a bill that would give millions of dollars in funding to emerging schools in research across the state. UTSA was one of six schools scheduled to receive these funds.
UTSA has provided $1.2 billion to the local economy. The school also has nearly 81,000 alumni and has increased research spending by 97 percent within the last five years—placing it as the second research institution in the UT System. The additional funds from the Welch Foundation will allow UTSA to reach their goal of receiving a $400 million endowment.
“The funds will be combined with another $1.5 million from UTSA to form a $3 million endowment to attract and support a world-class chemist,” George Perry, Dean and Professor of the College of Sciences, said. “This recruitment will increase the number and quality of research opportunities for UTSA students. It will also raise the profile of chemical research at UTSA.”
Waldemar Gorski, chair of the Department of Chemistry, explained what this gift means for UTSA.
“We are looking for an internationally recognized scientist to join the Department of Chemistry as the Robert A. Welch Endowed Chair,” Gorski said. “Preference will be given to individuals whose research is at the interface of chemistry and biology with an emphasis on biomedically relevant chemistry. The Welch Chair’s endowment will support the candidate’s research efforts including research personnel, travel to scientific meetings, chemicals, instrumentation and laboratory supplies.”
Students are also weighing in on the topic of greater advancement for UTSA.
“As a student at UTSA, I am excited to see our efforts in reaching Tier One research status. This is an important step forward for the College of Sciences,” senior political science major Richard C. Rodriguez said. “The sheer amount shows how important research is for our university. This is exactly the sort of opportunity the university needs to show our dedication to higher education and commitment to discovery in the world of science.”
The College of Sciences plans to recruit a chemist as soon as possible to begin intensive research here at UTSA. Mr. Gorski also mentioned that they “also anticipate that the Welch Chair will establish productive research collaborations with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and Southwest Research Institute.”