Thanks a Million ’98

Woodward? Philllip$? McNair? You can $ay at lea$t one thing about la$t year’$ mo$t generou$ Texan$: Their gift$ were big, but their name$ weren’t.

DESPITE A LATE-SUMMER STOCK MARKET PLUNGE that gave both donors and recipients fits, 1998 was a fine year for giving in Texas.

For one thing, two of our state’s most benevolent souls received richly deserved—and long overdue—recognition. Ruth S. Altshuler of Dallas was named the National Society of Fund Raising Executives’ Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year, and Harold Simmons of Dallas was added to The American Benefactor’s list of the most-generous Americans, joining twelve other Texans in what is a sort of Giving Hall of Fame.

For another, many new givers burst onto the scene. When we last reported on who gives and to whom (“Thanks a Million,” December 1997), the names at the top of our list were familiar: Robert H. and Nancy Dedman, Robert M. and Anne T. Bass, H. R. “Bum” Bright, H. Ross and Margot Perot. In 1998 they’re nowhere to be found (of course, even these megadoners can’t give away millions every year). Instead, the most-generous Texans were Robert R. Woodward, Daniel T. and Merlene Phillips, and Robert C. and Janice McNair. Who? Read on to find out.

Last time around, many of the gifts we chronicled went to Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, which was in the midst of a capital campaign. This time two other universities, Texas Tech, in Lubbock, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, pop up as recipients over and over, though youth-oriented organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, children’s hospitals, and grade schools appear frequently as well.

A few reminders about our criteria for inclusion:
• We listed only gifts of at least $1 million made between January and December 1998. Our last list stopped at November 1, 1997, so contributions made in the last two months of 1997 fell, for our purposes, into a philanthropic black hole. Unfortunately, that means we don’t get to recognize several substantial acts of generosity, like the Hobby family’s $21.4 million gift to Rice University’s Fondren Library, which was announced in December 1997.
• We didn’t count corporate gifts, so we couldn’t salute Texas Instruments, which gave $5.1 million to Texas A&M University.
• We didn’t count gifts in which the amount wasn’t revealed or the amount was revealed but the giver’s identity wasn’t—not even generous anonymous gifts like the $6 million donated to Rice University so a new baseball stadium could be built.
• We only listed givers whose primary residence is in Texas.
• Finally, we listed only living givers. Dead ones, alas, didn’t make the cut—though we’re grateful just the same.

Robert R. Woodward

Kerrville, $26.5 million

$26.5 MILLION TO ABILENE CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY, in Abilene, to support the work of its College of Biblical Studies. The money came from a trust Mr. Woodward created in honor of his mother, Grace L. Woodward, who died last year. The retired rancher’s eldest daughter is a graduate of ACU; he is also a longtime friend of John Stevens, its former president and chancellor emeritus.

Daniel T. and Merlene Phillips

Dallas, $25 million

A total of $25 million to the BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS OF AMERICA, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, for education programs and general use. Mr. Phillips, the chairman and CEO of FirstPlus Financial Group, says his own experience as a child in the Boys Club inspired the gift, which he and his wife made after learning that the organization was the official charity of the Goodwill Games. “I’m a big believer that Boys and Girls Clubs can make a real difference in helping many thousands of kids overcome their negative circumstances at home and in enhancing the education they receive in school,” he says.

Robert C. and Janice McNair

Houston, $22 million

$20 MILLION TO THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, IN COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA—the second-largest gift to the university in its history—to endow the McNair Scholars Program, a national scholarship program for outstanding students. Mr. McNair, the CEO of CoGen Technologies Energy Group, is a graduate of the university; Mrs. McNair is a South Carolina native. “Janice and I were recipients of scholarships,” he says, “and we appreciate the assistance that was provided to us when we both needed it.”

$2 MILLION to the SOUTH CAROLINA AQUARIUM, its largest gift to date, to sponsor the Great Hall, a sunlight-filled space with a tank of schooling fish.

Harold Nix, Walter Umphrey, John Eddie Williams

Daingerfield, Beaumont, Houston, $20 million

$20 MILLION to BAYLOR UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL, in Waco, to fund an endowment and the construction of a new building. These trial lawyers, all Baylor Law School alumni, were on the legal team hired by Attorney General Dan Morales to help Texas sue U.S. tobacco companies; they shared in the record $17.3 billion settlement.

Edward H. and Janet Harte

Corpus Christi, $17.8 million

$10.8 MILLION to a variety of charities and nonprofit groups in South Texas, including $3.5 million to TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY–CORPUS CHRISTI, $1 million to CORPUS CHRISTI METRO MINISTRIES, and $1 million to the CORPUS CHRISTI MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND HISTORY.

$7 MILLION to charities outside South Texas, including historically black STILLMAN COLLEGE, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; the NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY, in New York City, the AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST, in Washington, D.C., the MAINE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION, in Ellsworth, Maine, and the TRUST FOR PUBLIC LANDS, in San Francisco, California.

Not all of the Hartes’ gifts were made public at first, but word got out. “We are shy about publicizing donations,” says Mrs. Harte, who has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi. “But at the same time, we feel very strongly that we should share our good fortune with our community.” Initially the couple planned to make bequests, but they changed their mind late last year. “It’s more fun to watch what your money will do while you’re still alive,” says Mr. Harte, a former publisher of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and a member of the board of directors of Harte-Hanks Communications. “It’s not much fun at all after death,

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