Engineering students, faculty and researchers at Texas A&M University will be the beneficiaries of a $12.5 million gift from BP to the Texas A&M Foundation. The gift will be used to strengthen the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center, which is part of Texas A&M's engineering program, as well as the university’s safety engineering certificate program and engineering ethics courses.
The gift is part of a unique $32 million settlement in the case against BP over a March 23, 2005, refinery explosion in Texas City. It includes gifts to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the College of the Mainland in Texas City, Hornbeck High School in Louisiana, and St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Tennessee. Matching funds could drive the settlement to $38 million. The five gift recipients were chosen as part of the settlement with Eva Rowe, plaintiff in the BP case.
“This move illustrates BP’s commitment to workplace safety in the chemical engineering industry,” said Dr. Ed Davis, president of the Texas A&M Foundation. “Although Texas A&M University is saddened by the lives lost as a result of the Texas City refinery accident, we believe this is a sincere move on the part of the people at BP to put this behind them and make sure something like this never happens again. We believe that this gift will help transform a tragedy into a positive legacy, help educate a new generation of engineers, and help improve safety performance in the industry. ”
Texas A&M University’s Dwight Look College of Engineering is internationally known for its engineering safety and ethics research, curriculum and teaching. The majority of the donation will benefit the process safety center, which has conducted programs and research activities that enhance safety in the chemical process industries since 1995. It also will bolster the safety engineering certificate program and the engineering ethics program, which includes case-oriented engineering ethics courses that all Texas A&M engineering students are required to take.
“This gift has the potential to take our safety and ethics programs at Texas A&M University to a new level of excellence,” said Dr. Kem Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering. “Safety training and education creates a healthier economy and a higher standard of living. We will use these funds to educate the engineers of the future.”
The Texas A&M Foundation will manage the gift to ensure that the funds will support objectives of the settlement agreement. The Foundation manages investments in academic excellence to enhance Texas A&M University's capability to be among the best universities.
The gift is viewed as a good fit with Texas A&M University because of its core values, which include integrity, excellence and respect, as well as the school’s sense of tradition and spirit.
BP said in a statement: “We are very sorry for Ms. Rowe’s loss and deeply regret the harm caused by our mistakes. We are pleased to have reached this agreement and are working to prevent accidents like this in the future.”