Sealy & Smith Foundation honored for altruism with Board of Regents’ Santa Rita Award

AUSTIN – Through its financial and strategic support of The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the Sealy & Smith Foundation has ensured residents of Galveston have access to first-class health care for the past 125 years.

The UT System Board of Regents announced Thursday that the foundation will receive the Santa Rita Award for its continued and deep commitment to UTMB and the Galveston community. The Santa Rita Award is the highest honor bestowed by the UT System Board of Regents.

The foundation has contributed almost $900 million to support medical education and the delivery of health care at UTMB, including funding for construction of its hospitals, its biosafety lab and state-of-the-art medical equipment. The Sealy & Smith Foundation is also the largest single entity contributor to a UT System institution.

“The foundation’s long history of support for and contributions to UT System is unique and legendary,” Regents Chairman Paul Foster said. “In many respects, it’s through the vision and strategic direction of the Sealy & Smith Foundation that UTMB serves Galveston, the state of Texas and the nation as a premier health institution.”

The foundation will be honored by the Board of Regents later this year in Galveston.

“On behalf of the Sealy & Smith Foundation, we are honored to be receiving the prestigious Santa Rita Award from the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System,” said John Kelso, president of the Sealy & Smith Foundation. “We are grateful to the UT System for its continuous commitment to excellence and bestowing this award to the foundation.”

The Sealy’s family contributions to Galveston date back to before 1890 when a bequest by John Sealy, a successful businessman, was used to build John Sealy Hospital. The construction of the hospital played a critical role in the state’s decision to finally build a medical school in Galveston that would later become UTMB.

John Sealy’s children, John Sealy and Jennie Sealy Smith, and Jennie’s husband, R. Waverley Smith, established the Sealy & Smith Foundation in 1922. Today, UTMB includes the current John Sealy Hospital and 24 buildings and facilities donated or owned by the foundation. The foundation also has given $27 million for 27 faculty endowments and established the John Sealy Memorial Endowment Fund for Biomedical Research with a $25 million donation.

Most recently, the foundation committed $170 million toward construction of the Jennie Sealy Hospital, which is expected to open in 2016.

The Santa Rita Award, first presented in 1968, is named for the Santa Rita No. 1, the first producing oil well on University Lands in West Texas. The well hit oil in 1923 and jumpstarted the growth of the Permanent University Fund, which has provided a unique and critical funding stream for The University of Texas System and its institutions.

Over the past 47 years, the Santa Rita Award has been presented to 24 recipients including: James Huffines; former Texas Gov. William P. Clements and his wife, Rita; former Gov. Dolph Briscoe, Jr.; Bernard Rapoport; Frank Denius; Margaret McDermott; Wales H. Madden, Jr.; Peter T. Flawn; former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock; Jack S. Blanton; Jess Hay; Larry Temple; Peter O’Donnell, Jr.; former Lt. Gov. William P. Hobby; J. Erik Jonsson; Mary Moody Northen; John H. Freeman; John W. McCullough; Cecil H. Green; Harry H. Ransom; Eugene McDermott; Hines H. Baker and Ima Hogg.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and an enrollment of more than 214,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $15.6 billion (FY 2015) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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