Family of first licensed Black architect in Texas commits $1M to his alma mater 

John S. Chase, the first Black graduate of the University of Texas School of Architecture, will be remembered and honored.

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The family of John Saunders Chase, the first Black graduate of the University of Texas School of Architecture and the state’s first licensed Black architect, is committing $1 million to the college in his honor.

According to The Houston Chronicle, the donation will create two permanent endowments that will improve the representation of Black people in architecture schools and as professional architects.

Tony Chase
Tony Chase, founder, chairman and CEO of Chasesource, is a Houston entrepreneur and law professor. He and his wife, Dr. Dina Alsowayel, have committed to donate $1 million dollars to the University of Texas School of Architecture. The gift honors his father, John Chase, Texas’ first licensed Black architect. (Photo Credit: Tony Chase)

Tony Chase and his wife, Dr. Dina Alsowayel, have created the John S. Chase Family Endowed Graduate Fellowship, which will help recruit historically Black college and university graduates and boost the number of Black architects. Additionally, the John S. Chase Family Endowed Professorship in Architecture will support the recruitment of faculty members and their research.

Chase died in 2012 at the age of 87; his longtime wife, Drucie, died in 2021.

“My mom passed away almost exactly a year ago, so this, really, is meant to honor both of their lives and legacies,” Tony Chase, a law professor and Houston entreprenuer, told The Chronicle. “My hope is that it provides an opportunity for lots of deserving kids. They were a unit. They really were. It would be impossible for me to honor him without honoring her.”

It was only two days after the U.S. Supreme Court opened white college campuses to Black students via the 1950 ruling in the Sweatt v. Painter case that John S. Chase enrolled in the University of Texas. He graduated from the college’s architecture school in 1952.

According to The Chronicle, Chase designed approximately 300 structures — homes, schools, churches, and other buildings. He opened his own firm after convincing the state to allow him to sit for the licensing exam when no other Texas agency would hire him.

“Throughout his life and as reflected in his built works, John Chase was a connector and a community-builder,” Michelle Addington, dean of the University of Texas School of Architecture, told the news outlet. “Not only did Chase design spaces that brought people together, but he used his pioneering position to create opportunities for others.”

The Chases had three children: Tony, Saundra Chase Gray and John S. Chase III, who is deceased.

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