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What a Little Moonlight Can Do: Creating a Shared Legacy

In 1935 Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, Amelia Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” was a hit and Marlin Bownds met his destiny. A freshman in the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas, Marlin’s destiny was a classmate named Helen. The couple married upon graduation and spent the rest of their long lives in Austin, she working as a school teacher and he as an employee of the Teachers Retirement System and as a photographer.

In 1996 the couple retired and planned their transition from the Austin home where they lived for fifty years. They also transformed their partnership into a shared legacy by creating a fund at the Foundation. Over the next several years they recommended grants totaling more than $68,000 to their favorite causes. They left instructions that upon their deaths—hers in 2002 and his just a year later—that their donor advised fund become an unrestricted fund to be used to respond to grant requests and meet the ongoing needs of our community.

While many popular tunes try to capture the power of love, the generosity and thoughtful planning of Helen and Marlin Bownds will forever express the lasting power of a lifelong partnership.