The university has received the largest gift in its 108-year history – a $55 million commitment from three families that will help fund the construction of a major science complex and two stadiums.
The donation will lay the foundation for ACU’s Vision in Action initiative, the newest approach to the university’s 21st Century Vision developed in 2008. The initiative includes plans for three new facilities for the university’s science and humanities programs and two new athletic facilities for football, track and field and soccer.
“One of the priorities of our Vision also is creating spaces to strengthen the community aspect that makes our campus so unique” said Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university. “Thanks to God’s provision through these donors, we are delivering on our promise.”
The $55 million in donations includes $10 million from Kay Onstead, widow of former trustee Robert Onstead, $15 from alumni Kathy and David D. Halbert, and $30 million from April and Mark Anthony. The gift from trustee April Anthony and her husband is the single largest donation in the university’s history.
The $10 million given by Kay Onstead will go toward the construction of a science building in her husband’s honor where the Foster Science Building now stands.
While Robert Onstead never attended ACU, he became a prominent member of the Board of Trustees and served for 26 years. After majoring in sciences, he took an alternate route and became the co-founder of Randalls Food Markets, a thriving grocery chain throughout Texas. His son, Charles Onstead, now serves on the board.
In a videotaped interview with university marketing officials, Kay Onstead said she believes it’s important to give back when you can to help other people.
“We have been so blessed,” Kay Onstead said, “and I believe that when God blesses you, you need to use those blessings in the very best way.”
The Onsteads are not new to supporting the university financially. In addition to serving as models and mentors for countless people, the family has helped fund many projects around campus, including the Teague Center, Hunter Welcome Center and the Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Of course, the best known of their projects is the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building. In addition, the family has helped to make scholarships more available to students in need.
“I want the students at ACU to know that we truly love them,” Kay Onstead said. “I pray for my students, and I want them to have a good life, and I want them to be successful in life, and that means to be successful Christians, not just financially successful.”
Her donation was the sixth largest in ACU history.
Kathy and David D. Halbert donated their $15 million contribution for a new science building through the Caris Foundation. They donated in honor of the late Dean and Thelma Walling, David’s grandparents.
Dean Walling was an ACU trustee for seven years and was a founding chair of the National Development Council during the 1960s and ’70s Design for Development campaign. Over 15 years, the campaign raised $33 million to establish many of the well-known buildings on campus, such as Moody Coliseum, Gibson Center, McGlothlin Campus Center, Brown Library, Don H. Morris Center and the Walling Lecture Hall.
In his interview with the university, Halbert described his grandfather’s commitment to ACU.
“My grandfather was very passionate about Abilene Christian University and really lived the latter part of his life for the university, lived and breathed and talked about it all the time,” Halbert said.
“Dean Walling was larger than life to me, certainly, he was my grandfather,” Halbert said. “He was a powerful, confident, opinionated, strong-willed person that I looked up to very much. He always encouraged me to do more than I could imagine.”
In his many years working in the American healthcare system, Halbert recognized a need for compassionate healthcare providers and looked to ACU.
“The United States, in general, needs to have a greater emphasis in science. I’m personally passionate about it. I think there is a whole new world coming about right now,” he said, “and I would love to see the university to be a part of that.”
His wife Kathy Halbert told university marketing the donation was more than just contributing to the funds.
“The Walling-Halbert legacy, giving and caring and nurturing, is just an extension of what Jesus told us to do,” she said. “And it’s not because it was a command, it was because he knew it would make us be blessed and it would bless others.”
The $30 million gift from April and Mark Anthony surpassed the previous record of $26.37 million donated to earn the spot as the largest single donation given to the university.
The Anthonys gave $15 million for the construction of a new football stadium, $7 million to the College of Business and Administration, $5 million for the science building and $3 million in undesignated funds.
The family is a long-time friend of the Onsteads and donated to the construction of the science building as a tribute to Robert Onstead.
During his time at ACU, Mark Anthony was a student-athlete, and told university marketing in his interview about his passion for the athletic department’s contribution to the ACU experience.
“On the athletic side, students have been clamoring for a new stadium for a long time; alumni have as well,” Mark said. “And I think this is going to bring the alumni group, current students and faculty together into a first-class facility that everyone will be proud of.”
Both of the Anthonys studied in COBA and said they hope their donation will continue their family’s legacy in addition to ACU’s.
“The mission of the university is not to just reach within, but to reach out, to reach out to new people, to show Christ throughout the world,” Mark Anthony said. “ACU has done a fabulous job at doing that and will continue to do so, and these facilities will be a part of that.”
However, before any ground is touched, all funds for the construction must be raised.
Schubert said all the donors serve as the cornerstone funders of the Vision in Action initiative, and he hopes their generosity will inspire other alumni and friends of the university to participate and contribute to the last $20 million that must be raised.
“Very few people, obviously, have the ability that these three families have demonstrated, so what you always need are the people who come in to be the champions for a project,” he said. “Well, we have that in the Onsteads, the Anthonys and the Halberts.”