Ask Mandy Price and Bennie King about their favorite UT moments, and the memories pour forth: life-long friendships and football games and meeting each other, to name a few. The connections they made on campus – Mandy in the McCombs School of Business and Bennie as a biology major in the College of Natural Sciences – have carried them far, both personally and professionally. Now, with their gift to the Division of Campus and Community Engagement (DCCE), the Dallas-area natives will have a positive influence on the experiences of future Longhorns.
Their desire to make a difference was born in adversity. In 1999 – Mandy’s freshman year – the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was installed on the East Mall. Only the second tribute to the late activist to be placed on a university campus, the statue stood as a source of great pride for the city and UT. Unfortunately, it soon became a target for vandals, prompting university administration – and the two emerging activists – to take action.
When UT President Larry S. Faulkner created the Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness in March 2003, he named Mandy as a student representative. The opportunity allowed her to have an impact on the future direction of the university’s policies and procedures. An elected officer of the student body government, Mandy was able to effect further change for diverse groups through fund allocation.
“The students wanted an LGBTQ center, which had been approved years earlier but had never received funding. As a student officer, I allocated funds to ensure it got the financial support it needed. LGBTQ+ students needed a dedicated space. They needed to feel like they belonged,” Mandy recalls.
After UT, Mandy attended Harvard Law School and spent 12 years as a private equity firm lawyer, still focused on fighting for equal rights. In 2018, Mandy, Bennie and UT alumna Star Carter co-founded Kanarys, a technology company focused on providing the tools organizations need to create long-term systemic change around DEI challenges. Despite the pressures of starting their own company while also raising two young children, Mandy and Bennie continued to be involved with UT as volunteers and advisors on various committees. Giving back to UT in a way that supports their priorities made good sense to the couple.
“When we learned that we could make a future gift to the university, it was a no-brainer,” says Bennie. Mandy adds, “We knew that we could start highlighting the priorities and the programs that we wanted to ensure that the university continued to invest in. We wanted to ensure there wasn’t going to be a lack of funding and programming related to diversity, equity and inclusion issues because people hadn’t committed the dollars to it.”
Through their bequest to the DCCE, Mandy and Bennie support the creation of an inclusive campus culture that engages diverse people, ideas and perspectives to create a vibrant learning and working environment. Their donation will benefit Longhorns with a variety of needs, from those facing physical accessibility concerns to first-generation and LGBTQ students, and others from traditionally underrepresented groups.
“The goal is not to just treat everyone the same,” says Mandy. “The goal is to create an environment where everyone has access and can experience the campus in as equal of a way as possible. If UT is developing the leaders of tomorrow, it’s so important to ensure it’s an environment of true opportunity for everyone.”
Mandy and Bennie’s planned gift will open doors to a more inclusive educational experience, giving future scholars the opportunity to make memories that will sustain them for years to come. “Talent is equally dispersed around the world, but opportunity is not,” says Bennie. “It’s important to give everyone the chance to shine and to blossom and to become their full selves.”
By Audrey Webb, UT Development