Mechanical Engineering Alumnus Gives $7M to the Cockrell School

If you’re lucky enough to be at a Longhorn football game during an Alumni Band Day, chances are Rick Church will be there too, proudly playing his tuba in the X of the “Texas” formation. What you may not know is that Church recently made the largest planned gift ever to the Longhorn Band — $12 million, to be exact.

He also committed $7 million from his estate to the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1977. These gifts are in addition to his generous $350,000 pledge to support the Longhorn Band’s Legacy Fund and scholarships. Church’s remarkable generosity to the Longhorn Band and the Cockrell School was motivated by gratitude and appreciation for the people who helped shape his future.

“I want to give to the people who made me who I am — my mentors, my band directors, my professors in engineering,” said Church. “These people gave me everything, and now, I just want to give back.”

rick church

By the time Church was in seventh grade, he knew he wanted to be an engineer. Wisely, he decided to attend The University of Texas at Austin, where he studied under giants such as Kenneth Ralls. He joined the Longhorn Band in 1973, during a time many consider the heyday of Texas football, and served his first two years under the direction of legendary band director Vincent DiNino. After graduating, Church moved to Houston where he launched a successful career in the oil industry and became an entrepreneur.

Like thousands of Longhorn alumni, Church says part of his heart will always be on the Forty Acres. He has a near-perfect attendance record at the Longhorn Band’s Alumni Days and is eager to help other students experience the joys and life lessons of being in one of the nation’s largest and most celebrated marching bands.

"Rick Church's investment in the Longhorn Band is an investment in the entire campus," said College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster. "The band attracts students from all majors across campus and serves as an epicenter of leadership development and artistic and creative excellence for UT students who participate."

Freshman Breanna Portillo, whose parents met in the Longhorn Band, said she was awestruck and inspired when she learned about Church’s donation. “It sent a powerful message to me and motivated me to be a better person,” Portillo said. “I decided that if I became successful one day, one of my goals would be to give back to the things that shaped me, just like Mr. Church.”

As part of his historic donation to the Longhorn Band, Church created the Richard M. Church, Jr. Scholarship in honor of his parents, Nelda Jean and Richard M. Church. The scholarships will be available to current Longhorn Band members with financial need who major in engineering and exhibit a “spirited dedication” to the Longhorn Band.

“Historically, there has been a strong connection between Texas Engineering and the Longhorn Band, beginning with its founding in 1900 by E.P. Schoch, who also founded our McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School. “Rick Church exemplified the extraordinary dedication required to both participate in the band and major in mechanical engineering, and his gift will inspire future generations who follow in his footsteps.”