Marla Gerber

Category: Spirit of a Volunteer


Earlier this year, Marla and Jeff (’82) Gerber hosted a reception for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Houston Alumni Chapter at Briarpark Green, their commercial office building in Houston, Texas. Marla manages the building, and Jeff is CEO of PGAL, the architecture firm that designed it.

Marla expected to enjoy a nice evening connecting with alumni from the area. What she did not expect was the honor of a Spirit of a Volunteer Award, which recognizes nonalumni friends of the university who have gone above and beyond to support and advance UT and its people.

“When my name was announced, it was a huge surprise,” says Marla. “I didn’t expect to be recognized by UT, but it is such an honor. I’m so proud of the effect that our gift is having on the students at the College of Architecture and Design. We expected it to make a difference for these students, but never expected the impact it has had on us as a family. The ongoing interaction with the university and the college has been amazing, and the love that we have received from the university, and the students and their families, has been unexpected, fun, and very rewarding.”

Marla Gerber

Though not an alumna of the university, Marla has given of her time and finances with the same Vol generosity of spirit. In fall 2022, she and Jeff announced an unprecedented transformational gift to support students in UT’s College of Architecture and Design: a scholarship that would fully cover tuition and fees for the Class of 2027, supporting the students for the duration of the five years needed to complete their architecture degrees.

At over $5 million—the college’s largest gift ever—the Gerbers’ gift was sacrificial and something that was decided on as a family.

“We were excited to share these gifts with the incoming Class of 2027, both with financial support and Jeff’s invaluable mentorship,” says Marla. “Instead of a one-time visit, it has grown into a gratifying new chapter for our family. From day one, the students openly shared how it would significantly impact their lives and experience while at UT, and over the past two years it has been gratifying to hear stories of how they are benefiting now and how they will continue to do so for years to come.”

Marla has seen how Jeff’s architecture degree from UT provided the foundation for their family and touched many others through the buildings designed by PGAL, which prides itself on sustainability. Briarpark Green, where the chapter event and award presentation took place, was one of only a handful of LEED Platinum Class-A rated facilities in the country at the time it was completed in 2009.

The rating signifies that the building meets the highest standards of sustainable architecture. Briarpark Green boasts a 25 percent increase in energy savings over code requirements to operate. As its vice president of business development, Marla oversees the building’s management and ensures that it continues to run at peak efficiency for her real estate management firm, PGAL’s headquarters, medical practices, and other tenants.

Now that same building has played backdrop to her prestigious recognition by UT.

“We are so grateful to Marla for her willingness to support the college in such a deeply impactful way for the Class of 2027,” says Jason Young, dean of the College of Architecture and Design. “She has been an eager participant in the transformational impact their gift is having, even agreeing to host this alumni event with her husband at their impressive Briarpark location. We are proud to honor her contributions, character, and generosity of spirit with a Spirit of a Volunteer Award from the university.”