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From Student to Philanthropist: Abell’s Transformational Gift Creates New Opportunities

From Student to Philanthropist: Abell’s Transformational Gift Creates New Opportunities

On her way to the library, part-time marine science student Mary Abell stumbled upon the bustle of arrangements being made for a Marine Science Advisory Council meeting.  At that time, little did she know that she and her husband, Joe would go on to have a lasting connection to The University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) which would become as strong and lasting as the granite jetties that border the Institute.

The late Dr. Joe Abell, Jr., and Mary Abell, avid supporters of The University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Mary Abell recently gifted the Institute an endowed chair, which will fund new research and staff. Courtesy photo.

In honor of her late husband, Dr. Joe Abell Jr., Mary recently established the Mary Anderson Abell and Joseph Miles Abell, Jr., M.D. Endowed Chair in Marine Science. The new endowed chair is designed to enhance the stature of The University of Texas Marine Science Institute located in Port Aransas, Texas.

Mary and Joe invested in a second home in Port Aransas in 1983, strengthening their bond to the coastal ecology of Texas. When Mary decided in her 30s to enroll as a student for marine science summer courses, it became a natural extension of their annual summer vacation.

"It's a wonderful environment and I'm so proud to have been a student and be a part of it. One of my fondest memories was collecting fish specimens offshore on the R/V Longhorn for a comparative physiology of marine animals' class. My husband Joe was invited to come aboard as the ship physician," recalled Mary with a smile.

It was Mary's membership in the Marine Science Institute's Advisory Council that strengthened their institutional bond. Both she and her husband became unparalleled advocates for UTMSI. After serving as a member on the council for 10 years, Mary's role with the Institute grew even stronger when she joined the staff to become its first Director of Development.

"I just loved being the development director. We had so many opportunities and I was able to accomplish many things that I'm very proud of," said Mary.

Mary Abell and Chancellor Bill McRaven at UT's Marine Science Institute in August.

During her tenure as Development Director, she helped secure a very special National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration program for a federal and state partnership called the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve. It is the only one in Texas and includes 186,189 acres of the local bays and adjacent coastal lands. Mary also was successful in the establishment of the H.E.B Endowed Chair in Marine Science. When her late husband was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Mary stepped down from the development position. She continues her involvement with the Marine Science Institute as a member of the Marine Science Advisory Council and teaches a "Beyond the Books" course on business/etiquette to UTMSI graduate students.

The newly established Mary Anderson Abell and Joseph Miles Abell, Jr., M.D. Endowed Chair in Marine Science will provide the opportunity for the Marine Science Institute to expand and continue remarkable research that will focus on Texas thus making its contribution to the state grow in importance. The chair is a commemoration to her husband and will become a legacy of the teaching and research that first charmed the Abells years ago.

An endowed chair is a substantial gift and will support fellowships and a new professor for the Institute. Learn more about giving opportunities here.

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Tuesday, 07 February 2023

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