One Gift Makes a Difference
While many community foundations across the country were created by several donors, Austin Community Foundation was created through the generosity of one woman.
After her husband’s death in 1963, Fannie Gray Leo 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. At the time, Meriwether was working with local leaders to try to create a community trust. He must have mentioned the innovative 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 Austin Community Foundation. In 1977, two years later, Austin Community Foundation was established.
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. After Fannie Gray graduated from Texas Presbyterian College for Girls, she taught piano and helped run a boarding house where she met Jack Leo, a traveling salesman. She moved to Connecticut to marry him. By the 1950s Jack had the opportunity to run the Lone Star Paper Company, so Fannie Gray returned to Texas. Although not originally from Austin, after the couple moved here they became involved in several charities that reflected their interests. Jack served as president of the West Austin Rotary Club in 1956. Fannie Gray enjoyed her husband’s success in style, driving a pink Cadillac El Dorado and having their West Austin home also painted pink.