School of Arts and Humanities News

Supporters’ Significant Planned Gift for Student Travel Honors Dr. Richard Brettell


From left: Rob Kendall, Tony Holmes and Dr. Richard Brettell, founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at UT Dallas, visited the Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Indonesia. Kendall and Holmes have made a planned gift to the University in Brettell's honor.

From left: Rob Kendall, Tony Holmes and Dr. Richard Brettell, founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at UT Dallas, visited the Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Indonesia. Kendall and Holmes have made a planned gift to the University in Brettell’s honor.

Inspired by a common love of travel and worldly experiences, Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes are honoring their longtime friend and colleague Dr. Richard Brettell, founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at The University of Texas at Dallas, with a major planned gift to fund transformative travel experiences for University students.

Kendall and Holmes have committed a significant contribution — the University’s largest planned gift of cash recorded to date — to establish the Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes Travel Award To Honor Rick Brettell. The fund will provide UT Dallas students opportunities to design and experience one-of-a-kind trips, both international and domestic, unrelated to specific academic requirements.

“I have loved to travel as long as I can remember,” said Kendall, owner of Rob Kendall Presents, a company that organizes unique experiences for small group travel. “Before, during and after my airline career, I traveled extensively. That included nine documented trips around the world, as well as countless other journeys. But it was Rick Brettell who taught me how to add purpose, depth and meaning to travel.” 

Kendall and Brettell first met in the late 1980s when Brettell was the Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. For three decades, the two have collaborated on delivering art-centric educational experiences around the world for travelers from Dallas and beyond. In 2016, Brettell arranged for two UT Dallas students to join one of the trips to Mexico, where the group explored Puebla and Mexico City.

“Kathleen (Alva BA’17) and I were given the opportunity to study baroque architecture in the churches of Puebla under the guidance of Dr. Brettell, to taste mole sauce and learn how it is prepared, and to see the fantastical creatures displayed on the streets of Mexico City for the annual Alebrijes competition,” said Nancy Fairbank BA’17. “It is this type of experience that made my education at UTD truly holistic, extending far beyond the confines of just my degree courses.”

The company of the two students, who were both Eugene McDermott Scholars, brought a new element to the travel experience, ultimately planting the desire for Kendall and Holmes to provide similar opportunities for future generations of UT Dallas students.

“The experiential aspect of travel is so important: It not only teaches us to be better students and academics, but to be better human beings by exposing us to new ideas and cultural norms,” said Fairbank, who is pursuing her law degree at Harvard Law School. “I am so grateful that Rob and Tony are honoring Dr. Brettell with such an amazing gift — one that will undoubtedly change the lives of countless UT Dallas students.”

Once established, the competitive travel awards will be distributed annually to fund what the donors affectionately call the “Rick and Rob trips.”

“Rob and Tony have decided to commit their lifetime assets to fund what will surely become the premier travel program for undergraduates and graduate students in the nation,” Brettell said. “UTD students will be able to travel from Easter Island to Ireland, from Naples to Nanjing, from prehistoric to postmodern landscapes. There are, in short, no limits to the temporal geography of Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes’ travel program for UT Dallas.”

Kendall and Holmes said the planned gift is “an expression of their respect and affection for Brettell.” They hope it adds a new dimension to the University’s educational portfolio while complementing the offerings of the UT Dallas Athenaeum, Brettell’s visionary campus project to enhance art access and appreciation throughout the North Texas region.

Brettell, who also holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair, is one of the world’s preeminent scholars of impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930. He is currently completing the definitive catalogue raisonné of the work of Paul Gauguin and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 

“It is Rick who inspired this gift of experience for many future students,” Kendall said. “For years, we have led art-centric educational journeys across the globe. To be able to offer those experiences to young minds — especially those who may not otherwise have the financial means to fund such opportunities — is priceless.”

This story originally appeared in the UTD News Center