Over the past year, two extraordinary Cockrell School alumni have made transformative gifts in support of two engineering departments — Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and Mechanical Engineering — boosting their respective resources and positioning them for success well into the future. And in recognition of the investments, both departments were officially named in their honor, in perpetuity.


The Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering

After earning his master’s degree in petroleum engineering and his bachelor’s degree in geology from UT Austin, Jeffery Hildebrand went on to found Hilcorp Energy Company, one of the largest and most successful privately held oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the U.S.

Group photo of the Hildebrand family at the Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering renaming event
Hildebrand Gift Announcement 2017

Believing that he owes a great deal of his success to his UT professors and the education he received on the Forty Acres, Hildebrand and his wife, Mindy, who earned her bachelor’s degree in management from UT’s McCombs School of Business, decided that now is the optimal time to make an impact. Through their gift to Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, the Hildebrand family provided significant resources for student and faculty initiatives and new teaching and research technologies.

“This department is already a destination for the best and brightest,” Hildebrand said. “But more important than the accolades is our responsibility to put our graduates at the helm of discovery, innovation and industry leadership and to use our precious natural resources to power the world in the most effective way possible. There is no question in my mind that UT will be an outstanding steward of these resources for decades to come.”

Home to the nation’s top-ranked petroleum engineering program, the Hildebrand Department’s alumni, faculty and students are well known throughout the energy community for their leadership, accomplishments and contributions. In addition to student and faculty support, the family’s gift will establish additional academic-industry partnerships and community outreach initiatives that advance technologies, develop energy industry leaders and share the story of energy with a broader audience.

The J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering

The front of the Engineering Technology Center Building highlighting the J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering sign

Like the Hildebrand family, J. Mike Walker believes in the value of a world-class education —and he knows that the Cockrell School can provide it. A high school valedictorian, Walker graduated at the top of his undergraduate mechanical engineering class at Texas A&M University, received a National Science Foundation fellowship to pursue his master’s degree at UT Austin and earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M with a 4.0 GPA.

Walker has translated his excellence as a student into a successful career. In 1981, Walker co-founded Dril-Quip, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of offshore drilling and production equipment. When he retired from his role as chairman, president and CEO in 2011, Dril-Quip had a market cap in excess of $4 billion. And through generous gifts to the mechanical engineering departments at both UT Austin and Texas A&M, he and his wife, Donna, have made it possible for future generations to follow in his footsteps.

“My experiences at these two universities certainly helped me grow as an engineer,” Walker said. “But they also taught me how to be a leader — how to collaborate on big ideas, persevere through tough challenges and bounce back from failure. My education shaped who I am today, and I want to make that same opportunity available to as many students as I can.”

Students in the J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering, which provides a top-10-ranked education for both graduate and undergraduate students, will benefit from the lab and classroom renovations, equipment upgrades, diversity initiatives and student organization support provided by the Walkers’ gift.

From professorships and fellowships that support the recruitment of top faculty to seed grants that enable them to develop groundbreaking innovations, the Walkers’ gift will also further strengthen the department’s leadership position in key research areas.

Texas Engineer Monogram