Our Founding Story
Austin Community Foundation was created in 1977,
the result of clear vision, hard work and generosity.
A Visionary Idea
In the 1960s, trust officers George K. Meriwether (Austin National Bank), Raymond Todd (Capitol National Bank) and John Wolf (American National Bank), along with business leaders Maurice Acers and R.W. “Dick” Pettway, raised $5,000 to create a “community chest,” to collect donations for community-wide projects. However, failing to gain traction, the group donated the funds to the United Way.
A New City Office
A few years later Mr. Beverly Sheffield, longtime head of the Austin Parks & Recreation Department who created the city’s trails and parks system, planned Austin’s successful American Bicentennial celebration. City manager Dan Davidson appointed Sheffield to head up a new office to “seek legacies” to fund future city-wide improvements with private donations.
A Cocktail Party
George Meriwether, the bank trustee, and Beverly Sheffield, the city employee, met at a social function and realized their shared goal to create a fundraising organization to receive funds for community-wide projects.
Meriwether then shared a newspaper clipping about the San Francisco Foundation, whereupon Sheffield volunteered to serve as the first executive director of the Foundation.
A True Legacy
Meriwether must have mentioned the community foundation idea to his client Mrs. Fannie Gray Leo because upon her death in 1975 it was discovered in her will that 5% of her estate was earmarked for the foundation—which did not yet exist. Tax attorney Richard S. Donoghue was recruited to prepare a charter for the Austin Community Foundation. On May 9, 1977 Sheffield filed the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.
A History of Philanthropy
The “Founding Ceremony” of Austin Community Foundation was held at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel on January 16, 1978, presided over by Chief Justice Joe Greenhill of the Texas Supreme Court. At the ceremony University of Texas history professor Dr. Joe Frantz traced the history of philanthropy which adds to the “variety and flavor which makes life in Austin rich and sustaining.”