University of Houston nets $4.5 million gift from local family estate

The University of Houston Cougars are no doubt licking their wounds after a sound dismissal by Baylor University at the NCAA Men’s Final Four Tournament on April 3. But now, the Coogs have a reason to again roar.

UH has received a $4.5 million gift to establish an endowed chair in the Cullen College of Engineering; a scholarship endowment available to students throughout the University; and an endowed lecture series focused on equity and social justice, which will reside in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

This new gift comes courtesy of the Thomas Michael Panos family estate per, a press release.

Meanwhile, an additional $2 million has been matched by the University’s new “$100 Million Challenge” Aspire Fund — which makes the total impact of the Panos Family Estate gift at least $6.5 million. This is the first matched gift since the fund was established, the school notes.

Breaking down the numbers, $2 million creates a Panos Family endowed chair in mechanical engineering. Another $2 million establishes a scholarship endowment to support need-and-merit-based scholarships for all full-time undergraduate or graduate students. And $500,000 supports “The Panos Family Endowed Lecture in Equity and Social Justice” in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. It’s meant to bring awareness and ideas from local, national and international thought leaders.

A little about the Panos family: In Houston’s early days, elder statesman Thomas Michael Panos emigrated from Greece to the Bayou City with only a sixth-grade education. Thomas and his wife instilled in their children — Mike, Effie and Gus — a passion for education and the importance of giving back, per press materials.

“They were the kind of people who would help anybody,” said Scott Harbers, friend and trustee of the family’s estate, in a statement. (Harbers who lived next door to the Panos family decades ago in what is now Midtown.) “As a family of immigrants, I know they would appreciate the diversity of the student body at the University of Houston. They had a tremendous interest in education and equal rights. I’m hopeful that this gift will help advance the lives of students who need help to complete their studies.”

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