In honor of a $40 million donation from the Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation, the School of AHT has been renamed the Harry W. Bass Jr. School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology.
As part of the New Dimensions campaign, the donation will be used to expand the Bass School and construct Phase 2 of the Athenaeum– a 680-seat performance hall. The Bass Foundation, a leading organization in philanthropy, had previously funded multiple Dallas institutions in the fields of education, arts and community service.
“I think they took interest in our recently created school of arts, humanities and technology,” UTD president Richard Benson said. “They approached UTD some months back to express interest in what we’re doing in two arenas. One is the creation of a new arts and performance complex, or the Athenaeum… and then also the founding of this new school, which was formed by the way of merger between arts and humanities and the old arts, technology and emerging communication, or AHT.”
In his inauguration speech, Benson said he hoped to add an A in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Management) and form STEAMM by making UTD acquire a significant presence in the arts. Following the acquisition of the Crow Museum of Asian Art, which will anchor visual arts, the performance hall is set to open in 2026 and it will expand UTD’s performing arts department.
“It will forever change UTD in a way that’s positive,” Benson said. “And by the way, this is not a zero-sum game. In other words, we don’t have to subtract from science, technology, engineering, math, and management in order to do this. It’s also important that we are now going to be a major arts center in North Texas. When the DART line opens, which will be a little bit after our Athenaeum first opens up, that’ll be a great one-two combination to bring people to campus. I’m really looking forward to it.”
BAHT Dean Nils Roemer said the donation will allow the creation of new scholarships and fellowships along with supporting study abroad programs. It will also support the creation of new rehearsal rooms for music students and fund digital arts projects.
“I think for our undergraduates and for our graduate students there will be a wide range of ways of supporting them financially… [by] creating more opportunities and funding of opportunities for our labs and centers where students are engaged.” Roemer said. “But that’s more via the kind of support for faculty as well as institutions like our labs and studios and centers, but undoubtedly also will benefit our students. The money will also be able to enhance some of our public events programming, both for the benefits of our students, but also the wider campus community as well as the community beyond our campus.”
Benson said that the combination of arts and performance with high technology degree options, as a result of the donation, would open doors to new degrees, certificate programs, and curricular options with the Dallas Museum of Art and the Crow Museum. Roemer added that the university is planning to hold a celebration with the donor, faculty and students in September.
“Once we have this museum in place, we could be training our students in how you curate art, how you preserve art, how you display it,” Benson said. “Maybe in the future, maybe they might work for a museum themselves. We don’t have a football team, but we are going to have one of the most enjoyable homes for the arts and performance. I think where UTD is going, we are going to be a very attractive place [not only] for future students, but also for future faculty and staff.”