How One Gift Makes a Difference

Fannie Gray and Jack Leo were community-minded people who believed that giving back was the right thing to do. After Jack died, Mrs. Leo sought her bank trustee's advice. Twelve years later, when she died it was discovered that she donated 5% of her estate to create the Austin Community Foundation.

While many community foundations across the country were created by several donors, the Austin Community Foundation was created through the generosity of one woman. Fannie Gray Files Leo grew up in Itasca, Texas, (near Hillsboro), the daughter of a cotton farming family so prominent that Files Valley was named after them. Her family also played a key role in developing Austin College through generous financial contributions. In 1909 Fannie Gray graduated from Texas Presbyterian College for Girls, taught piano, helped run a boarding house and later met Jack Leo, a traveling salesman, moving to Connecticut to marry him. By the 1950s Jack had founded the Lone Star Paper Company, so Fannie Gray returned to Texas. Jack served as president of the West Austin Rotary Club in 1956.

Fannie Gray enjoyed her husband’s success, driving a pink Cadillac El Dorado and having their West Austin home also painted pink.

After Jack’s death in 1963 Fannie Gray met with bank trustee George K. Meriwether, seeking his advice about how to provide for her family and favorite charities including the cancer center where Jack received care, as well as homes for orphans and for the elderly. Meriwether was working with several other local leaders to create a community trust. He must have mentioned the idea to Fannie Gray because upon her death in 1975 Meriwether discovered that she had earmarked 5% of her estate, or $30,000 (valued in today’s dollars at about $120,000), to create the Austin Community Foundation.