Changing Lives, Inspiring Hope

Leading UT Southwestern's successful $500 million Campaign for the Brain, Bob Rowling exemplifies how making a philanthropic impact on the head starts in the heart

The UT Southwestern community has witnessed a tremendous spirit of giving in North Texas since launching the Campaign for the Brain in 2015. Robert B. “Bob” Rowling, a visionary leader and loyal friend of UT Southwestern Medical Center and Southwestern Medical Foundation, is among those who inspire greatness in community service and has proved time and again that when people work together, anything is possible.

Rendering of UT Southwestern's planned Brain Research Tower
Supported by a generous campaign gift from Terry and Robert B. “Bob” Rowling, the new Brain Research Tower will expand research space for the O’Donnell Brain Institute and is scheduled to open in summer 2022. UT Southwestern Medical Center

As Chair of the Campaign for the Brain Steering Committee, Mr. Rowling led efforts to raise $500 million in philanthropic support for the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, which will be matched with $500 million from UT Southwestern for a total philanthropic impact of $1 billion. Lead gifts from many area philanthropists enabled foundational investments in research infrastructure, bioinformatics, and brain imaging that have already led to exciting breakthroughs. Thanks to Mr. Rowling’s leadership, the determination and dedication of the Campaign for the Brain Steering Committee members, and the incredible generosity of the philanthropic community, UT Southwestern surpassed the campaign’s $500 million goal.

Mr. Rowling, with his wife Terry by his side, have shown how heartfelt passion can lead to success. Their extraordinary contributions have brought life-changing breakthroughs in health care to North Texas and beyond. Their previous $5 million contribution to support the Building the Future of Medicine campaign helped build William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, a gift they made because they knew how important the new hospital would be to advancing care in the community. Their latest gift of $25 million to Southwestern Medical Foundation boosted the Campaign for the Brain and set an example for others to help change the future of medicine.

"Each of us either is directly affected or will be affected at some point by brain disease or knows someone who is. We all have a stake in this,” Mr. Rowling said. “I am honored to stand alongside so many committed leaders who share Terry’s and my vision of making North Texas and the O’Donnell Brain Institute the epicenter of brain discovery.”

“Bob has left his impact on UT Southwestern through his leadership as past Vice Chair of the UT Board of Regents and Chair of the Southwestern Medical Foundation – encouraging and supporting our most important initiatives so that our institution can better deliver on our mission,” said Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., President of UT Southwestern. “It was no surprise that Bob didn’t hesitate when asked to lead the Campaign for the Brain, knowing how important it was for the future of UT Southwestern and even more importantly, for the futures of the millions upon millions of patients suffering from diseases of the brain. Bob and Terry have led by example with their extraordinary generosity, galvanizing our efforts to ultimately achieve a brighter future through research and compassionate, innovative care.”

Investing in UT Southwestern's future

The Rowlings met while attending The University of Texas at Austin and later married. Mr. Rowling founded Dallas-based TRT Holdings in 1989, and after moving to Dallas, the couple was inspired by the kindness of a community where people showed deep concern for one another and worked to make life better for others through volunteerism and public service. They had found their perfect home – a place to do business, raise their two sons, and invest their philanthropic energies.

It was through Mr. Rowling’s service on The University of Texas System Board of Regents that he learned about UT Southwestern and was drawn to its life-changing mission. Everyone wanted to see UT Southwestern grow and prosper, he said, which was transformational for him to watch. He joined Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 2010 and completed a five-year term as Chairman. He also serves as a member of UT Southwestern’s President’s Advisory Board.

Terry and Robert B. Rowling
Terry and Robert B. "Bob" Rowling Steve Foxall/Southwestern Medical Foundation

“The research happening at UT Southwestern is not just good for Dallas or Texas,” Mr. Rowling said. “What’s coming out of here is good for the world.”

In 2013, Southwestern Medical Foundation presented the Rowlings with The Sprague Award, the region’s most prestigious award for philanthropy in health care. The award was established in 1991 and later renamed in 1996 in honor of the late Charles Cameron Sprague, M.D., former President of UT Southwestern and later Southwestern Medical Foundation.

“The research happening at UT Southwestern is not just good for Dallas or Texas. What's coming out of here is good for the world.”

As a strong visionary, Mr. Rowling sees great possibilities in the next generation. He is a strong supporter of The Cary Council, a local young leaders’ group driving broader awareness of the missions of UT Southwestern and Southwestern Medical Foundation and raising funds in support of researchers who are in the early stages of their careers. Through his involvement, Mr. Rowling continues to encourage tomorrow’s leaders to get involved now in the needs of their communities.

The Rowlings’ deep connection to their faith inspires them to give back. “There are two things that drive me – to love God and to love others,” Mr. Rowling said. “This gift is a way for Terry and me to love others. We really see ourselves as stewards of everything we have and are always looking for the best way to use our resources to make an impact.”

  • Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.