"So many people, known and unknown, helped me to get through Sam Houston State when I was there, desperately trying to make it, that I've always wanted to give back — some how, some way — to the best of my ability," the former "CBS Evening News" anchorman said Tuesday in a statement released by the university, which was known as Sam Houston State Teachers College when he attended.
A Houston native, Rather earned a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1953 at the school about 75 miles north of where he grew up.
The donation — made on the day Katie Couric made her highly publicized debut as his permanent successor — has been designated for scholarships and discretionary spending in the school's communications program.
"The gift from Dan Rather and his family is a milestone in Sam Houston State's history," university President James Gaertner said.
It's not the first gift Rather has made to his old school, where the communications building carries his name. He previously established scholarships and supported other programs.
Rather stepped down as CBS anchorman in March 2005 amid controversy over a discredited story on President Bush's military service. He's joining HDNet, a small network for owners of high-definition sets, to do a news show this fall.