One of the most instantly recognizable images of Texas State is Albert B. Alkek Library, a giant, seven-story home to thousands of documents, works of art, films and other resources for students. Though most Bobcats pass through or by the library each day, few are aware of the prolific life of the building’s namesake.
Albert B. Alkek was no stranger to philanthropy. The accomplished businessman amassed considerable wealth as a player in the South Texas petroleum business in the first half of the 20th century and donated much of his wealth back to the Texas
Upon his passing in 1995, Alkek’s last will and testament laid out the formation of a foundation specifically designed to continue his legacy of giving back to Texas. Since its inception, the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation donated millions of dollars to numerous causes, including medical, educational, community and cultural organizations, according to reports provided by the library.
Born to two Lebanese immigrants in 1909, Alkek grew up in Victoria, Texas and attended school there until he transferred to the Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio. Once a student at St. Mary’s University, Alkek left school before finishing his degree and borrowed $250 from his father to go into business.
Shortly after dropping out of college, Alkek partnered with Harry Ford Sinclair and rose through the ranks in Victoria as part of the Sinclair-Alkek Oil Company, which became the Alkek Oil Corp. in 1952 after Alkek purchased Sinclair’s interest in the venture.
Over time, Alkek began making large gifts to medical institutions and causes that reached out to him for support. He is perhaps most famous for his contribution in 1993 to the M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston of $30 million, the largest donation of its kind on record at the time, the reports said.
Alkek donated to other causes as well. He purchased an expansive ranch of more than 9,000 acres near Bandera from the Buck family in 1958, according to an article in the Bandera County Courier. His contributions to the community are reflected in the areas schools named after him and the scholarships for high school graduates of Bandera and Medina Counties that he began in 1987, which allowed local students to attend what was then Southwest Texas State University.
As his influence and gifts to SWT increased, Jerome Supple, then president of the university, presented Alkek with the President’s Excellence Award for his considerable contributions to the school and its students. Shortly after a new library was opened in 1990, the decision was made to rechristen it the Albert B. Alkek Library in his honor.
“I was here when the new library opened,” said Joan Heath, associate vice president and university librarian. “There was a separate naming ceremony, and both Mr. and Mrs. Alkek were here.”
In 2007, a five-year, $1 million grant for the Texas State library was approved, allowing $200,000 each year for library services, Heath said.