Alumnus and UNT System Board of Regents Chairman sets UNT giving record with $30 million gift
In the atrium of UNT’s Business Leadership Building, home to the College of Business — which today is festive with green and white balloons and flower-topped tables adorned in emerald green — G. Brint Ryan (’88, ’88 M.S.) stands before family, university and UNT System administrators, faculty and staff, and donors.
The West Texas native — who, after arriving at UNT from Big Spring in 1982 with little more than $300 and a 1979 tan Dodge Regal, went on to become founder, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based tax services firm and software provider Ryan, as well as chairman of the UNT System Board of Regents — also is surrounded by business students who, much like he once was, are eager to unlock their potential.
He’s here to provide a $30 million key.
“Fanfare, it’s time to go,” says UNT President Neal Smatresk, who stands parallel to a strategically concealed banner affixed to the atrium’s brick wall. As the UNT double brass quintet finishes playing, Smatresk relays what until now was unknown to most of those gathered.
“Today, it gives me incredible pleasure to announce the largest gift we have ever received in our university’s history,” Smatresk says. “Because of his generosity, Brint has agreed to present a gift of $30 million to the UNT College of Business.”
Amidst loud applause and a smattering of “wows,” the banner unfurls to drive home a second revelation: The College of Business, pending approval by the Board of Regents next week, will now be known as the G. Brint Ryan College of Business.
The $30 million gift awarded by Ryan and his wife Amanda will create at least six endowed chairs and provide funding for academic program initiatives over seven years. Among the areas of focus are taxation and tax research, entrepreneurship, finance, logistics, information technology, cybersecurity and behavioral accounting.
“To have someone step forward like the Ryans have is just amazing,” says Marilyn Wiley, dean of the College of Business. “To name the college is associating it with a person and the business success Brint Ryan has had, starting with his accounting degree at UNT, is so amazing. It tells our students, ‘Look at the possibilities, look what you can become.’ It’s an opportunity that resonates.”
The room is buzzing — there are handshakes and congratulations and speculation as to what this kind of money will ultimately do for the College of Business’ reputation and its nearly 5,800 students. For Ryan, though, there’s no question what the money will accomplish: It will provide students hungry for success a clear path forward.
“The legacy’s nice, and I'm going to enjoy that with my family, but what's really important to me is giving back and giving others like me the opportunity to do what I've done,” he says. “I think this gift will be transformational, and I think it’s going to give others an even better foundation to work from than what I had.”
Amanda Ryan, who first met her husband in July 1993, says supporting the university and its students always has been a priority for the couple. She and Ryan, who married in 1996, have long been avid proponents of education, generously donating to various UNT programs throughout the years, while also bolstering organizations such as Helping Hands for Single Moms, which awards scholarships to parents in need.
“If you love Brint, you love UNT — the two go together,” says Amanda, who herself was a first-generation college graduate. “He always talked about what his education did for him. We’ve both lived that experience firsthand. That’s why we’re looking forward to seeing UNT’s College of Business rise to become one of the best in the nation.”
The gift will likely have far-reaching impacts, including inspiring other donors, says C. Dan Smith (’62), a marketing alumnus and former UNT System Regent.
“It’s huge when you get a gift of this caliber,” Smith says. “It will kickstart others to know that they, too, can make a difference by giving. He’s a prime example of what the university does for students — providing them everything they need to be successful.”
Lesa Roe, chancellor of the UNT System, works closely with Ryan in his role as chairman of the Board of Regents. She’s seen firsthand his strength and vision as a leader and has never doubted his investment in ensuring that UNT’s business students learn from the absolute best in the industry.
“This gift is going to have a tremendous impact on thousands of students into the future,” Roe says. “A gift of this magnitude raises the entire stature of our system. I am beyond excited. I am completely ecstatic.”
Provost Jennifer Cowley echoes Roe’s enthusiasm, and in the gift sees the potential for UNT to build upon its already nationally recognized programs.
“The Ryan College of Business will be significantly impactful for UNT,” she says. “It will propel us forward faster, as we will be able to strategically invest. Ultimately, we will be able to give the next generation an even better education.”
And members of the next generation can already picture the opportunities, too. Ryan Padilla, a senior marketing major who attended Monday’s announcement, says he was blown away by the gift’s potential impact.
“This is amazing,” Padilla says. “The magnitude of this kind of gift not only affects me, but students for years to come.”
Graduate student Michael Babich who is working on his master’s in taxation, sees Ryan as an example of what is possible for students in the College of Business.
“This is a person who everyone can look up to — to achieve so much and then to give back. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, to use my degree to give back,” Babich says. “Our accounting department is already ranked high against other universities in the state. Now that we can compete with other universities with larger endowments, it’s going to be fantastic.”
Ryan can’t wait to see what College of Business students can accomplish with the extra resources and support his gift will supply. One of the reasons he loves UNT so much, he says, is that he feels a kinship with its gritty persona: a university filled with determined bootstrappers who consistently find a way to defy expectations.
“UNT is a place where kids come who may not have had every advantage in life,” says Ryan, who had at the end of ceremony was handed a certificate of appreciation that also doubled as the first document bearing the G. Brint Ryan College of Business name. “But we take that raw material and convert it into something that becomes successful and powerful and helps move our society forward.”
— Erin Cristales, University Relations, Communications and Marketing.
Because of @GBrintRyan’s gift, over the next seven years, @UNTBusiness will establish new endowed professorships, strategic academic program initiatives and continue to increase our national reputation. https://t.co/OTWQDYX9bY pic.twitter.com/gfuGQykpgX— Neal Smatresk (@UNTPrez) February 4, 2019
This is awesome...and will shape the amazing future for the UNT G. Brint Ryan COB! I will always think fondly of my time in that program...and am very excited about the future! GO MEAN GREEN!! https://t.co/vJhet2scMs— CMCM_Forever (@CMCM_Forever) February 4, 2019