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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Opinion

Cullen name synonymous with philantropy


In an age in which the rediscovery of philanthropy in America is coming to the forefront, there are a few people who have never lost the connection to that value. Wilhelmina Daisy Cullen Robertson Smith is a member of not one, but two families with a tradition of philanthropy whose specific gifts and dedication to education in general affects all of us.

The history of the University is inseparable from the history of the Cullen family in this century and the last. From the initial gift of $260,000 in 1938 to build the Roy Gustav Cullen building, so named in memory of Wilhelmina Cullen’s brother, the Cullens have made significant contributions to the development of UH.

Several campus buildings are named for her family, as is the College of Engineering, but the greatest contribution Cullen and her family have made to the students of this community isn’t in the brick and mortar of the campus.’ Hugh Roy Cullen saw the University as a place where area students from economically difficult backgrounds could get a reputable education.

Cullen was a largely self-educated man. He expanded his oil fortune rapidly by taking risks others would avoid and developing deeper drilling techniques through self-education on geologic structures.’ His prioritizing of education and technological advancement is mirrored in donations to the University and in the establishment of the $160 million Cullen Foundation in 1947, of which Smith was a trustee along with her two sisters, Agnes and Margaret.

The Cullen name is emblazoned across the city of Houston’s museums and medical institutions as testament to the active nature of the values Smith’s father passed on to her.’ So too has the name of Robertson had a lasting impact on the city and the University, most visibly in Robertson Stadium, home to the Cougar football and soccer teams. There is also a University of Texas Medical Branch scholarship in her name, honoring her service to the Cullen foundation and its donations to Houston’s medical community.’


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