October 19, 2020
Dear UT Community,
In late August, I was delighted to meet with Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, on the Forty Acres. Mr. Blank has an outstanding reputation as a values-driven leader who approaches business and philanthropy with a strong commitment to public service.
During the time I spent with Mr. Blank, we talked about an issue that matters deeply to him, one that UT Austin is quickly becoming a leader in — helping those who stutter. His enthusiasm for this important cause and, most significantly, his desire to create action-oriented programs to make meaningful progress could not be clearer. He walks the walk and expects all those who work with him to do the same — backing up words and visions with tangible results. To me, that makes him the perfect partner for The University of Texas at Austin, where changing the world is our motto.
Today, I’m very proud to announce the establishment of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research, which will be an overarching center to expand the vision and work of Dr. Courtney Byrd, who founded and directs the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute, the Dr. Jennifer and Emanuel Bodner Developmental Stuttering Laboratory and the Dealey Family Foundation Stuttering Clinic in the Moody College of Communication here at The University of Texas at Austin.
The Blank Center, founded and led by Dr. Byrd, will advance understanding about the nature and effective treatment of stuttering, globally scale evidence-based programming to treat children, teenagers and adults, and create a pipeline of expert clinicians and researchers to make quality, effective treatment accessible to all people.
In recent months, I’ve gotten to know Dr. Byrd and hear stories about the lives her research and treatments have touched. Those stories are deeply moving and inspiring, and they get at the core of what it means to be a public research university — harnessing the power of scholarship, data and knowledge creation and combining it with genuine compassion and care for those in need. Dr. Byrd’s work is designed to help those who stutter not only communicate, but to realize their full potential as leaders throughout their lives. The goal is to help people, as Mr. Blank puts it, “unlock their personality” and be judged “by the quality of their thinking,” not simply by the way they communicate.
In an effort to increase scope and reach, Mr. Blank’s investment shows the power of philanthropic and foundation investment to leverage our great faculty’s work and help us truly change the world. With this partnership, we can take our expertise to people all over the world, and I couldn’t be prouder to see the impacts our university will have as a result.
On behalf of The University of Texas at Austin, I want to offer my sincere thanks to Arthur Blank and the Blank Family Foundation for working with us to change lives. I also want to recognize the hard work of Dr. Jay Bernhardt, the Moody College Dean, Dr. Courtney Byrd, and all of the team who helped put together this transformational opportunity. This partnership will be a game changer for so many people, and we are thrilled to be a part of it.
Please join our livestream today at 2 p.m. CT to celebrate the formation of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research.