$1 million Vackar gift to benefit UTRGV mass communications students

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Robert and Janet Vackar react as they listen to a speech as they donate to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley for scholarships for students who pursue a degree in Mass Communications and other fields on Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

McALLEN — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley expects a $1 million gift from Robert C. and Janet Vackar announced Wednesday to double the amount of scholarships for students studying mass communications from 40 to 80 annually.

The gift to UTRGV’s college of liberal arts will be an addition to the Janet Ogden Vackar Spirit of Philanthropy Endowed Scholarship, established in 2016 and described as a “seminal event” in the university’s history.

At a ceremony Wednesday, UTRGV President Guy Bailey described the new gift as life changing for both undergraduate and graduate students who will benefit from it.

“Think about this, you’re doubling the number of students — doubling the number of students — who can go to school, who can graduate with minimal debt,” he said. “It’s a tremendous gift. Not just to UTRGV, but to our students and to the entire Rio Grande Valley. So thank you so much for that, we deeply appreciate it.”

Robert Vackar holds a picture of his sister Susan Louis Vackar Clark, alongside Janet Vackar as he speaks during a news conference to donate to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley for scholarships for students on Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The Vackars made the gift in the memory of Robert’s sister, Susan, an alum of the university’s predecessor institution who died in 1997. Studying communications at the university in the wake of that tragedy, Janet said, proved to be an outlet that helped with her grieving process.

Marketing and public relations would prove to be a passion for Janet in the Vackars’ car dealership empire, Bert Ogden Auto Group.

“So that communications department was really important to me …” Janet said, describing Susan, a lifelong teacher. “So I’m so grateful to give another donation to help students achieve because the Valley has been so good to us and I wouldn’t want anyone to be that smart and that dedicated and not be able to go to college.” One of the benefactors of the Vackars charity was on hand Wednesday.

Desiree Villanueva, a recipient of the Janet Ogden Vackar Spirit of Philanthropy Endowed Scholarship who’s majoring in mass communications, told the crowd to remember her name. She said they’d be seeing it on TV in a few years, in part due to aid from the scholarship.

“This scholarship is a tremendous help as I further my education at UTRGV,” Villanueva said. “After graduation in 2026, I aim to establish myself as a journalist for a local new station here in the RGV.”


To see more, view Monitor photojournalist Joel Martinez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: $1 million Vackar gift to benefit UTRGV mass communications students