Generous alumnus leaves lasting legacy for UC DAAP students, library

Architect designates IRA for endowed scholarship fund and digitizing Cincinnati archival materials

In a heartwarming tale of alumni generosity, Randal Houts, a 1986 graduate from the University of Cincinnati, has taken a unique approach to ensure his legacy lives on in the halls of UC's School of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).

Houts, who earned a bachelor's degree in architecture, recently designated his Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to UC, specifically for an endowed scholarship fund for architecture students and the ambitious Robert A. Deshon and Karl J. Schlachter Library for Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning project to digitize Cincinnati archival materials.

“I was lucky enough to go to school when it was a little more affordable and I didn’t have near the debt that I know students have today,” says Houts. “Because I teach part time at a college here in Chicago, I know how expensive the tuition can be right now, so I wanted to make sure it went toward an institution I knew worked well, knew what they did and knew how well the school was run. When I was at UC, it was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Family legacy

Woman on left sits with her son on right in a restaurant.

Randal Houts with his late mother. Photo/provided

The inspiration for this extraordinary act of philanthropy struck Houts when his mother passed away a year ago, leaving him with her IRA. Faced with the requirement to utilize the funds within 10 years to avoid hefty taxes, Houts embarked on a mission to find a meaningful destination for his inheritance.

"I researched and found that if I allocate my IRA to an institution like UC, the government will not tax it, and UC would get the full benefit upon my death," explains Houts. "So, I thought, 'why should I give any of this to the government when I can give it all to a cause I believe in?'"

Houts, who remains single and is an only child, decided to direct his funds towards supporting the institution that made such a positive impact on his future. Notably, because IRAs designated to educational institutions like UC are exempt from taxes, the entire sum will serve as a one-time gift upon Houts' eventual passing.

During his years at DAAP, Houts worked in the very library that is now set to receive part of his generous contribution. "I enjoyed working with the staff and students so much that I wanted to give back to the library that had made such an impact on my education," he explains.

The anticipated amount from Houts' IRA, coupled with half of the proceeds from the sale of his home, forms a substantial endowment that will significantly benefit future architecture student tuition and DAAP's Library, specifically aiding in the digitization of Cincinnati Archival materials.

Designing his future

UC alum Randal Houts, second from right in back, sits among nine of his longtime bearcat friends around a table.

Houts, second from right back row, continues to get together with longtime Bearcat friends and classmates. Photo/provided

Originally hailing from Youngstown, Ohio, Houts' childhood dreams of becoming an architect led him to UC. Drawn by the cooperative education opportunities offered, he applied to UC, making it his sole choice for higher education.

His UC architectural education involved co-op experiences in Cleveland, Indianapolis and Baltimore, while also seizing the opportunity to study abroad in an exchange program for nine months in Portsmouth, England. “My co-op experiences were some of the best parts of my education. I saw first-hand how these businesses work from the inside and where my talents could contribute the most in this field.”

Reflecting on his time abroad, he encourages others to explore different cultures. “It really sheds light on how people from other cultures, with vast differences in the way they live and work, are all still very similar. These experiences helped open my eyes to the universal interconnectedness of all humanity.”

As Houts carved his own path in the professional world, he eventually established his own architectural firm in Chicago more than 20 years ago. Now, as he plans for retirement, Houts has added a home on a picturesque 120-acre development to his portfolio, located near Michigan City, Indiana.

Forever Bearcat

UC alum Randal Houts, second from right, stands with three friends in a tropical country.

Houts, second from right, enjoys traveling around the world with his friends from UC DAAP. Photo/provided

Remaining deeply connected to UC, Houts maintains close ties, frequently reuniting with old classmates for Bearcat football games and international trips. His ongoing involvement with the university landed him back at UC recently to redesign and help get permits for the reconstruction of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Clifton Avenue sorority affected by flooding.

“I’m still very connected to UC because it feels like where my life began,” affirms Houts. “It’s where I came into my own and met people that would remain friends for the rest of our lives. We did a lot of stuff internally, for example, we were the class that raised the most money to do our senior show. We had auctions, a bagel stand, beer blasts and played volleyball every Friday in the courtyard by the old library.”

His extraordinary act of generosity stands as a testament to the enduring influence of education and the profound impact institutions like UC can have on the lives of their alumni.

Transferring his IRA to UC was a seamless process for Houts, who encourages others to consider similar acts of generosity. "The benefit of the money I have earned throughout my life will now go to wonderful uses. Attending DAAP was such a big part of my life and I loved working in the library there," he declares, emphasizing the satisfaction of giving back to a place that played a pivotal role in shaping his future.

Houts’ legacy will continue to echo through the halls of DAAP and the Robert A. Deshon and Karl J. Schlachter Library, where future generations of students will benefit from the endowed scholarship fund and the continued digitizing of the Cincinnati archival materials made possible by his heartfelt contribution.

Featured image at top: Randal Houts on left enjoys returning to UC for Bearcat football games with his longtime Bearcat friends. Photo/provided

Next, Now

With its focus on innovation and impact, Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati is where ambition meets action. At the University of Cincinnati and UC Health, we’re driven by next; thinking bolder and dreaming bigger to create the tomorrow we envision, today. Learn more at

Related Stories


Young alum pays it forward

July 5, 2023

In the world of college scholarships, talented international students often find themselves sifting through lists of awards and endowments, only to find they are ineligible for most financial grants without a U.S. citizenship. One international DAAP grad, Saakshi Terway, turned these negatives into a positive pathway for others by starting a scholarship fund for international students who face similar financial barriers.


Uplifting stories help #UCtheGood

July 16, 2020

UC Marketing + Communications gathers recent uplifting stories to help the community focus on the good during coronavirus pandemic.