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$20 million gift to UH College of Nursing from Andy and Barbara Gessner
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$20 million gift to UH College of Nursing from Andy and Barbara Gessner

The University of Houston (UH) has announced that it’s received a $20 million gift from alumnus Andy Gessner and his wife Barbara in support of its College of Nursing.

In recognition of the Gessner’s gift, which will be used to support several nursing education initiatives, including endowed professorships, research funding, student scholarships and fellowships, and support for adjunct faculty, the university will rename its nursing college the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing.

Three endowed professorships will be established with the gift, and two of them will be matched one-to-one as part of the University’s “$100 Million Challenge” for chairs and professorships.

“Our college of Nursing has been a leader in preparing highly skilled nurses for the workforce, and this comprehensive gift from Andy and Barbara Gessner will take it to the next level,” said UH President Renu Khator.

Both of the Gessners’ mothers were nurses, a factor that helped inspire the gift. “We believe in nurses and we need more of them right now,” said Andy Gessner, who earned his undergraduate degree from UH in 1968. “We’re all going to need a nurse at some time in our lives, and there’s just not enough in the workforce or being educated for the future. The primary intent of our gift is to make more nurses available when we need them, now and in the future.”

“The silver tsunami is coming,” said Barbara Gessner, in the university’s announcement. “We are certainly going to need more nurses as the population gets older, so the medical profession will be put to the test. It’s always been an honorable profession, and we believe in that tender, compassionate care that nurses provide.”

Like many states, Texas is struggling with a nursing shortage, owing in part to high turnover in the field following the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas is projected to have a shortage of more than 57,000 registered nurses by 2032.

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Current enrollment at the Gessner College of Nursing is 375 students, an increase of 141% since 2018. In 2020, 100% of the college’s first-time test takers passed the nursing licensure exam.

Andy Gessner earned his undergraduate degree in business administration from the University of Houston in 1968. After working for many years at Industrial Air Tool, he eventually became co-owner and president, growing the company into one of the leading supply businesses in the oil industry. Barbara Gessner graduated from Texas Woman’s University, and has been an active supporter and volunteer for several causes in the Houston area.

The Gessners have been long-term contributors to the University of Houston, making previous gifts for nursing scholarships, athletics, and support for students in the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the university. They are members of the University’s National Development Council philanthropic advisory board.

“Our legacy will not be about what we did, it’s what this gift will do,” said Andy Gessner, as part of the gift’s announcement. “We hope that in the coming years, the Gessner College of Nursing will be recognized for excellence and for creating more nurses.”

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