August 23, 2022 Incoming UT Architecture Students Receive Historic Financial Support

large group of people posed in a group

As the incoming first-year class in the School of Architecture begin their five-year journey at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, they are entering with historic gifts from a generous family that will provide broad financial support during their time as Volunteers.

Jeff and Marla Gerber have committed $5.2 million to pay for last-dollar tuition and fees for all School of Architecture students in the fall 2022 first-year class and continue this financial support for these students each year of their five years in the school. The last-dollar scholarship pays the balance of tuition and fees after a student receives other scholarships and awards from both private and public sources.

This donation is the largest in the history of the College of Architecture and Design.

In addition to the last-dollar scholarship, the Gerbers are giving each student in the first-year class of the School of Architecture $3,700 this fall to cover the cost of the computer and related technology required for studies in the school.

“Our goal in removing the financial burden of tuition and technology requirements for these students is that they will have the ability to focus on their education and experience at UT, with less worry about finances,” said Jeff Gerber. “The intent is to provide an opportunity for them to become the best architects they can be, with the flexibility to make future career decisions without the burden of excessive student debt. I believe there is real value in being able to worry less and enjoy college more and to work less and study more, especially as a class. I chose UT, and I would choose it again. I’m proud of the education I received here, which provided me with the foundation to meet and exceed my professional goals. I want to help other students who chose to study architecture at UT to have the best opportunity to do the same.”

Jeff Gerber graduated from the UT School of Architecture in 1982. His professional career has spanned nearly 40 years starting in Lexington, Kentucky, and settling in Houston, Texas. Marla Gerber has a background in technology and is currently a vice president of a real estate management firm in Houston. Together, they have two sons.

“Jeff has often spoken about how attending the University of Tennessee and not having to worry about finances made all the difference in his education and his experience,” said Marla Gerber. “He was able to focus on architecture and learning instead of debt. Today, we are excited to share these gifts with the incoming class, both with financial support and his invaluable mentorship. This is a big day for our family. We hope these gifts will make a big difference in the education and experience of these students while here at Tennessee and for years to come.”

“Because of this generosity, our students’ experience at UT has been transformed by less financial burden,” said Jason Young, dean of the College of Architecture and Design. “When we experience a noble act such as these gifts from Jeff and Marla Gerber, we recognize generosity in the world and begin to reflect it. Our first-year Architecture students and we as a college are honored to be the recipients of this incredible altruism.”

All students in the fall 2022 class in the School of Architecture receive the technology stipend, and students will remain eligible each semester for the last-dollar scholarship by meeting academic criteria in the school and other requirements. The fall 2022 first-year class in the School of Architecture is comprised of 75 students.

“I am so appreciative of this historic gift from the Gerbers to our incoming class of architecture students,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “They have generously structured a gift that will set these students up for success throughout their academic career and beyond.”

During Jeff Gerber’s career, he designed and managed a large array of projects, including labs, office buildings, educational and civic buildings, courthouses, museums, and healthcare and aviation facilities. The commissions for those projects ranged in value from less than $1 million to more than $2 billion in construction costs.

Some of Gerber’s notable projects include the Kentucky State Central Laboratory, Boca Raton Condominiums, Briarpark Green Office Complex, Space Center Houston, Sugar Land City Hall, Harris County Civil Courthouse, Holocaust Museum Houston and airport terminal projects in Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS) and Los Angeles (LAX).

Throughout his career, Gerber has served in many roles in three firms. For the past 32 years, he has led a 13-office firm headquartered in Houston, Texas. This firm has grown in his tenure from 45 to more than 275 people and is ranked in the top 10 architectural firms in the country by ENR.

Read the Q&A about this historic gift for the University of Tennessee School of Architecture (PDF).

The Gerbers are among a record number of donors from across the state, nation and world who have stepped forward in support of students at the university to enhance educational opportunities and provide the resources students need to succeed.

Founded in 1965, the College of Architecture and Design enriches quality of life in the region and world through vivid design education, an established design/build program, key partnerships and award-winning facilities. The college is comprised of more than 700 undergraduate and graduate students in architecture, graphic design, interior architecture, and landscape architecture.