It’s been a very good few months for charitable giving in Central Texas and we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge donors – big and small – who are doing great things in our community.
Thanks to the Moody Foundation, based in Galveston, the University of Texas will have the resources to design and carry out a cutting-edge curriculum in a rapidly changing communications field. This month, Ross Moody, a trustee of the foundation, pledged a $50 million gift to the UT College of Communications to create an endowment. As American-Statesman writer Ralph K.M. Haurwitz reported, the money will underwrite research, faculty compensation, graduate student fellowships, a new honors program for first- and second-year students, and programs involving sports media, international journalism and speech-hearing disorders. It will be paid out over 10 years or less. That single gift is one of the largest in the university’s history. In appreciation, the school will be renamed the Moody College of Communication.
That generosity follows another big gift to the Harry Ransom Center at UT. Last month, UT officials announced the donation of the Magnum Photos collection of 200,000 images, with a value estimated at $200 million. We have Michael and Susan Dell, Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, and John and Amy Phelan to thank for that treasure. American-Statesman writer Jeanne Claire van Ryzin wrote that the collection includes original press photographs taken by such legendary photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Elliott Erwitt, among others. There are photos that date from the 1930s, with images of major world events and people, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Picasso and Marilyn Monroe. The public can learn more about the collection Sunday, when the Ransom Center hosts a free film series highlighting the famous founders of Magnum Photos.
Another September gift that will benefit a local arts museum came from Dallas-based Betty and Edward Marcus Foundation, which awarded $9 million to the Contemporary Austin. The museum includes the historic Laguna Gloria site and the Jones Center on Congress Avenue. It is the result of a 2011 merger of Arthouse and the Austin Museum of Art. The money will be used to acquire artwork and commission site-specific projects. It’s a noteworthy gift that comes at the right time, being the largest donation the Austin’s arts community has seen since the 2008 economic downturn. The 12-acre grounds of Laguna Gloria will be named after the couple.
Earlier this year we noted the $50 million donation from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for a medical school that the University of Texas hopes to open in 2016. It is also right to recognize the generosity of Travis County taxpayers, who voted a year ago to levy themselves to make the medical school a reality. Individually, amounts are small, but collectively they add up to $35 million a year, which will continue in perpetuity. As such, it is likely to be the largest donation to the project. American-Statesman writer Mary Ann Roser reported recently the cost for the first phase of creating a medical district with a teaching hospital in Austin will be $430.5 million. Without the public share, the project would not have gone forward.
Just as other entities have acknowledged important donors with naming rights, we urge medical school partners Central Health, Seton Healthcare Family and UT to acknowledge the public’s role in building the medical school and hospital. Designating a plaza or building in the name of Travis County taxpayers would serve as a permanent marker of their generosity.
There are many ways to help make Central Texas a better community without a big checkbook. Small donations add up to big things. Austin’s Salvation Army, which helps people put their lives back together, accepts small gifts of cash, but also used furniture, clothing and appliances. A gift of $20 to an area animal shelter provides a night of shelter for a dog or cat, while $200 shelters 10 homeless animals. Become an “Angel” by donating $1,200 a year for three years to Any Baby Can Child and Family Resource Center. A $25 donation to Meals on Wheels in Austin buys 10 meals and other services for seniors, while $500 pays for 200 meals. Those are just a few of the do-gooders in the neighborhood, for a full list of others, go to I Live Here, I Give Here at ilivehereigivehere.org.
It’s not too late to join the Central Texas party of giving. It’s a party that only gets better as it gets bigger.