University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk presented alumnus Jerome Max “Bruzzy” Westheimer Jr. ('65) with the Presidential Wings of Eagles Award at this year's Wingspan Gala, “Viva North Texas,” Nov. 16. The event celebrates teaching excellence, student success and generous alumni and friends.
“Bruzzy is one of our university's biggest supporters. He gives with his heart and provides support across our entire campus spanning the arts, academic scholarships and athletics. Whenever there is a need, he's sure to jump in and help,” UNT President Smatresk said. “I'm so proud of him and honored to present this award to him for all he's done to transform our students' experience and to benefit all of us.”
Launched during the celebration of the 125th anniversary of UNT, the Wings of Eagles Presidential Award celebrates creativity, spirit and innovation at the university. It is awarded to an alumnus or friend who embodies what UNT represents: engagement, generosity and affinity. This is the most prestigious award presented by the President to someone who has made a transformative impact on the university.
Westheimer earned his bachelor's degree in administrative management from UNT. After college, he worked for First National Bank in Dallas for seven years, where he learned all phases of banking. His dad asked him to return home in 1971 to learn the oil business and the importance of helping society through the Jerome Westheimer Family Foundation, whose primary focus is funding education and the arts. He is president of Valbel West, an oil-and-gas producer and family business in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and president and CEO of the Jerome Westheimer Family Foundation.
Westheimer is a life member of the UNT Alumni Association, a member of the McConnell Society, an Emerald lifetime member of the UNT Kuehne Speaker Series Board of Directors and a member of the President's Leadership Board.
He is an avid golfer whose love for the game began as a child when his uncle, Perry Maxwell — one of the most respected golf course designers in the world — ignited a fire that continues today. He has made multiple gifts to the North Texas men's and women's golf programs, including funding customized vans for the teams and a new on-campus practice facility that will encompass a driving range, short-game area, putting green and an indoor meeting space. Construction of the facility will begin in December.
He also has funded curation and digitization resources for the Texas Fashion Collection as part of the Gloria and Bruzzy Westheimer Texas Fashion Collection Research Gallery and he commissioned the campus' SHIELD sculpture by his close friend and late UNT alumnus, Jesús Moroles ('78). He has established scholarships in the College of Visual Arts and Design and the College of Music, an alumni scholarship and the Bruzzy Westheimer Graduate Fellowship in Human Security. Additionally, he started and supports the Westheimer Business Plan Competition and provided funding for the Westheimer Science Research Fellows program, which is specifically designed to support undergraduate research in the Dr. Linda Truitt Creagh Statistician Lab.
For Westheimer, the Westheimer Science Research Fellows Program is personal because it supports Dr. Helen Wang's cancer research. Several years ago he was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and understands the importance of the research happening in the lab.
“I've given scholarships to college students for about 40 years, and one thing I've learned is how important it is to encourage the students to utilize what they've learned in college in the real world,” Westheimer said. “As a student, I decided once I made enough money, I was going to give back. The most important part to me is that my philanthropy goes back to helping students succeed.”
In honor of his support of UNT, Westheimer received the Fred McCain Award from the North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016. His support has enabled more than 1,500 students across the country to attend college and earn their degrees, with his gifts making undeniable impacts across the UNT campus.
Westheimer and his wife, Gloria, reside in Ardmore, Oklahoma.