Black Alumni Network Endows John S. Chase Legacy Scholarship

John Saunders Chase, MAr ’52, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, knew he wanted to be an architect from a very early age. His wife, Drucie Rucker Chase, says that his earliest design—when he was just nine years old—was a tombstone for his grandmother’s grave.

America in the 1950s and 1960s was a tough place for a young black man with dreams of a career in architecture, but Chase managed to break down the racial barriers he encountered one by one.

After a decorated career in the United States Army, where he served in the Philippine Islands during World War II, he was the first African American to enroll in UT’s School of Architecture, graduating in 1952.

He went on to become the first African American granted a license to practice architecture in the state of Texas and the first to be admitted into the Texas Society of Architects and the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Most notably, he was the first African American to serve on the United States Commission on Fine Arts, appointed to that position by President Carter in 1980. His work on that commission helped lead to the creation of the Vietnam War Memorial.

Chase’s buildings now dot the globe, from the United States Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, to the Delta Sigma Theta National Headquarters, to several buildings on the campus of Texas Southern University (Sterling Student Life Center, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. School).

Chase passed away at age 87 on March 29. To celebrate his exceptional achievements and his pioneering determination, the Texas Exes Black Alumni Network has established the John S. Chase Legacy scholarship. The scholarship supports entering African-American freshmen who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership abilities, and financial need. Students with majors in the School of Architecture, the School of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences, or the College of Education are given special consideration.

The honor is especially fitting because the Texas Exes was home to yet another of Chase’s many firsts: He was the first African American to serve as president of the organization.

John and Drucie Chase were married for 61 years and had three children and five grandchildren. “The scholarship would mean a lot to him. It’s showing that he was a trailblazer and he opened a lot of doors—they’re paying tribute to him,” Drucie says. “I hope it will help another student be able to accomplish his dream.”

The John S. Chase Legacy Scholarship will be officially announced on Friday, Nov. 9, during the 4th-Annual Black Homecoming Weekend’s Legacy Dinner, which is sponsored by the Texas Exes Black Alumni Steering Committee. Scheduled for November 9-11, the weekend is an opportunity for black alums to enjoy a fun-filled trip back to the Forty Acres, connect with fellow black alumni, and support current students. All proceeds from the Legacy Dinner will go towards the Black Alumni Network John S. Chase Legacy scholarship fund.

Register for the weekend or learn more on the Texas Exes website.

Photo: Chase in 1996.

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  1. […] the initiative to honor former Texas Exes president and distinguished alumnus John S. Chase by establishing a legacy scholarship awarded to outstanding African-American freshmen. She further connected the Black Alumni Base with […]

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