Huston-Tillotson University (HT) is a vital part of Austin’s history, being the city’s first-ever university, founded in 1875, and Austin’s only Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Austin FC, along with Founding Partners YETI, Q2, St. David’s HealthCare, and Netspend, will be honoring Huston-Tillotson’s legacy as part of its 2021 Black History Month actions with a $20,000 donation to HT’s Persistence Is Power student initiative.
“This year, as our Club celebrates Black History Month and the achievements of Austin’s Black community, Austin FC and our Founding Partners are collectively taking action,” said Austin FC president Andy Loughnane. “Through this investment in Huston-Tillotson University, we are investing in Black Austin and the HT students of today who will become the leaders of Austin tomorrow.”
Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, President and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University, acknowledged the donation as an investment in Huston-Tillotson’s students.
"Austin FC's $20,000 investment in Huston-Tillotson University's Persistence Is Power student initiative is yet another indicator of Austin FC’s commitment to scholarship, to community building, and to Austin's oldest institution of higher learning and only Historical Black College and University — Huston-Tillotson University.”
“In speaking with the leaders at Huston-Tillotson University, one of the most impressive things I learned about HT students is they’re taught that persistence is power,” noted Kaitlin Swarts, Austin FC’s Vice President of Community Impact and Executive Director of 4ATX Foundation. “40 percent of HT students are the first in their families to go to college. The difference a college education can make in their lives and their families’ lives is exponential. And while change doesn’t happen overnight, through the power of persistence and with the support of an institution like HT, these students can go on to do great things and shape our community.”
The newest Austin FC Founding Partner, Q2, noted Huston Tillotson’s role in building community.
“Q2’s ability to provide financial support for Austin’s Huston-Tillotson University links directly to our mission to build strong and diverse communities,” said Kim Rutledge, EVP, People at Q2, about her company’s participation. “We recognize the critical importance of identifying exceptional, diverse talent to the success of our company and community. The experiences and skills created at HBCUs develop that talent — and will continue to do so well into the future. Through this gift, we hope to realize ongoing educational opportunities for Austin’s students, especially during these challenging times.”
David Huffstutler, President & CEO for St. David’s HealthCare, also expressed support for HT’s mission.
“St. David's HealthCare seeks to employ creative, successful and resilient individuals who reflect the diversity of the community we serve,” he noted. “We are proud to support Huston-Tillotson University, including its students and educators, who are essential to creating a successful future for all of Austin."
Hollie Castro, SVP, Talent & Environment, Social, and Governance at YETI, commented on the opportunity to invest in an Austin institution during Black History Month.
“In celebration of Black History Month, YETI is honored to join Austin FC and support the important work Huston-Tillotson University does to help their students,” she remarked. “YETI is committed to driving unity and diversity in the outdoors, and that begins by helping our hometown community however we can.”
Netspend President Kelley C. Knutson commented in particular on HT’s educational role to build community. “At Netspend, we firmly believe that education plays a vital role in the advancement of individuals, families and our community,” he said. “This Black History Month, we are proud to partner with Austin FC to support Huston-Tillotson, our city’s only Historical Black College and University, in its mission to positively impact student lives through education and the greater Austin community.”
Dr. Burnette also spoke to the Founding Partners involvement. “Huston-Tillotson University values our treasured partnerships with Austin-based institutions, such as Austin FC, Q2, St. David’s HealthCare, and Netspend. These treasured partnerships champion the hard work and the heart work performed every single day, here at Huston-Tillotson University while simultaneously illustrating an African proverb that has defined my HT tenure, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Swarts also noted that students of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and given that nearly two out of three HT students are Black, that’s an element that the HBCU has had to factor into its navigation of the pandemic. Huston-Tillotson has been going as far as helping some of its students with food, housing, and transportation needs. “They’re taking great measures to keep their students learning and thriving during this time,” Swarts noted.
The inspiration for the gift came from HT being part of United Way’s self-guided tour of East Austin, in which Austin FC participated in January in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. “Huston-Tillotson is right in the middle of East Austin, and many people new to Austin pass by it every day without realizing it or knowing of its historical significance,” Swarts added.
Austin FC and its Founding Partners plan to share stories highlighting the historical legacy of Huston-Tillotson in the coming weeks of Black History Month as part of their ongoing commitment to promote inclusivity through equity in Austin.