Thanks to the unwavering generosity of the O’Donnells, Oden was able to recruit some of the most talented computational scientists in the field and build a team that could not only expand the mathematical agility of computational science and engineering as a discipline, but also grow the number of potential real-world applications.

O’Donnell also helped UT Austin get ahead in HPC. In 1985, he encouraged university leadership to acquire the powerful CRAY X-MP system, making UT Austin the first university in Texas to have a supercomputer. This led to the establishment in 2001 of a dedicated advanced computing entity, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

Encouragement was followed by the foundation’s generous support of TACC, which now operates two of the most powerful university supercomputers in the world: Frontera and Stampede2. O’Donnell noted, “That’s leverage. High performance computing is changing everything.”

O’Donnell renewed his commitment to TACC in 2012, and to the advancement of data-driven science by supporting the acquisition of high-performance data analysis and storage systems — efforts that helped UT Austin become a leader in data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The foundation also contributed to the construction of the Advanced Computing Building that houses the bulk of TACC’s staff.

Recognition for the O’Donnells

With such major impacts on Texas’ society, education, politics and business, O’Donnell has been recognized and celebrated countless times. In 2008, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, O’Donnell received the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Exes, the alumni association of UT Austin.

“He was an unforgettable, indefatigable visionary and organizational genius who devoted his life, wealth and energy to pursue his often-stated mission: to transform the economy of his beloved Texas to one that thrived on advances in science and technology,” said Oden. “He was a dear friend whose impact on education at UT Austin and all of Texas is unparalleled. His friendship and great generosity will always be remembered and honored and cherished.”

“Peter O’Donnell, Jr. was perhaps the most influential Texan of his generation,” said J.B. Milliken, chancellor of The University of Texas System, in a tribute posted online. “Few people have done as much to advance the State of Texas as a powerhouse for research and innovation. In many ways, he helped shape the Texas we all share today.”