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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine


David's Big Bus

David's Big Bus

David Spencer’s college experience didn’t all revolve around algorithms and equations. What stands out most is the fun he had.

“I have a lot of nostalgia for my college years and none of that nostalgia is related to the academics,” he said. “College ought to be fun. It’s serious, but it’s fun.”

Spencer is doing what he can to prove his point. Over the years, he and his wife, Jennifer, have given more than $1.3 million to UTSA Athletics, the College of Business and the College of Engineering.

But many students and boosters know him best for his big orange and blue party bus, his gaudy orange Rowdy cowboy hat and his powerful T-shirt cannon.

Even before the sun has fully risen on the mornings of home football games, Spencer is already at the Alamodome parking lot in the bus, the headquarters for what has become known as UTSA’s craziest tailgate party. What began as a “small” gathering for 200 engineering students, community members and friends, known as “The Brute Squad,” has grown to a 1,500-plus-participant San Antonio fiesta that also is a fundraiser for UTSA engineering and spirit organizations. Last season, the Brute Squad raised $18,000.

“It’s a lot of work but it’s also a lot of fun,” Spencer said.

When attendance began to lag at Roadrunner football games this past season, the Spencers issued a challenge.

If 10,000 or more students showed up for the last two games of the season, the couple would give one lucky student, chosen by raffle, $5,000. Another $5,000 would go to the university’s general scholarship fund.

The students showed up in hordes. “The student section was packed, Rowdy was into it, it was just lights-out fun,” Spencer recalled.

And that is what he wants students to remember about college. Now that UTSA is part of Conference USA, the football program represents a step up in the student experience, he said.

“And you can only build a superior academic experience if you envelop it in a superior student experience,” he added.

With his school spirit and involvement, you’d think he was a UTSA alumnus. You’d be wrong.

While Jennifer Spencer is a 1993 graduate of UTSA with a B.S. in mathematics, David Spencer received his B.S. in electrical and computer engineering in 1988 from the University of Texas at Austin.

I did graduate from a different University of Texas institution, but I got here as quickly as I could,” Spencer said. “UTSA has a profound impact and will continue to have a profound impact on the future of San Antonio.”

After graduating from UT Austin, he began his career at Kelly AFB. He then attended the United States Air Force Air Command and Staff College in 1995. A year later, he co-founded OnBoard Software Inc., a U.S. Department of Defense contractor. What began as a two-employee operation evolved into a company with more than 90 employees and $17 million in annual revenue. He sold the company in 2005.

He has served as president and CEO of Mandelbrot Ventures, a boutique fund that invested in pre-seed and seed-stage Texas technology firms. In 2008, he formed Texas Intrepid Ventures, a boutique fund aligned with local military medicine and commercial trauma sectors.

Throughout much of his professional career, the Spencers have been involved with UTSA. In 2007, they gave $1 million to create the David and Jennifer Spencer Distinguished Chair in Engineering. David Spencer has also been involved in a number of UTSA organizations, including the Institute for Cyber Security, advisory councils for the colleges of engineering, sciences and business, and the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security.

“Although he’s not in academics, he really understands the essence of the academic and student experience,” said Mauli Agrawal, interim vice president for research. “There’s a buzz among engineering students. I would say he’s singlehandedly had a huge effect on the pride our students have had in engineering.”

Spencer said he wants a strong San Antonio that will benefit all students as well as his four sons.

“What I hope for is a San Antonio rife with opportunity,” he said. “Every great city has great universities and those universities are an integral part of the fabric of the community. So now we need to do all the things that help us embrace everything that is UTSA.

“It’s a roundabout way of doing stuff for my kiddos. I’m going to continue to do anything that makes San Antonio a more vibrant, fascinating place. And supporting UTSA is a big part of that.”

–Lety Laurel


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