Foundational Impact

Whether it’s world-class arts venues or cutting-edge bioengineering research, foundation giving helps power the future right here on the Forty Acres.
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Generations of family-led giving from the Moody Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation have built inspiring, powerful legacies of impact. Through their decades of game-changing philanthropy, they have helped to shape key pieces of life and culture here on the Forty Acres.

It’s not often that family foundations become a household name, but both the Moody and Keck Foundations have reached those heights in their spheres of influence. When it comes to the people, places and pursuits that make UT the renowned university it is, these foundations know how to make a lasting impact.

Generations of Generosity

If you’re a patron of the arts in Texas — or, for that matter, education, nature or public spaces — you’re well-acquainted with the Moody name.

Founded in 1942 by W.L. Moody Jr. and Libbie Shearn Moody, the Moody Foundation has awarded more than $1.7 billion in grants throughout Texas to organizations that have educated, healed, nurtured and inspired generations of Texans. For decades, that work was guided by Robert L. Moody, nationally recognized and beloved businessman and philanthropist.

When Robert passed away in November of last year, he left behind him a legacy of visionary giving that has transformed The University of Texas at Austin — a legacy the Moody Foundation and his family proudly carry forward.

The Moody College of Communication — named in honor of a 2013 gift of $50 million, the largest endowment for the study of communication of any public university in the nation at the time — recently celebrated 10 years of impact and excellence in communications scholarship and practice. “We are incredibly thankful that the Moody Foundation, under Robert Moody’s leadership, chose to invest in our college, transforming the experiences of our students, faculty and staff in remarkable ways,” said Rachel Davis Mersey, dean of Moody College of Communication.

Elle Moody, Ross Moody, Rachel Davis Mersey (Dean, Moody College of Communication), and<br />
Gordon Johndroe (member of Moody College Advisory Council) at the 10-year celebration of<br />
the Moody College gift.

Elle Moody, Ross Moody, Rachel Davis Mersey (Dean, Moody College of Communication), and Gordon Johndroe (member of Moody College Advisory Council) at the 10-year celebration of the Moody College gift.

And the foundation’s impact doesn’t stop there. With their $20 million gift that helped create the Moody Patio at the Blanton and their $130 million gift to name the Moody Center — the largest gift from a foundation in the University’s history — the Moody Foundation’s generosity has forever changed the way Longhorns and the people of Texas experience the arts, live music, athletics and more.

“Words cannot adequately express our gratitude for the tremendous philanthropic support of Bobby Moody and the lasting impact the Moody Foundation’s contributions will have on UT, our students, our campus, and our city,” said President Jay Hartzell. “The unwavering commitment to education, research and a thriving community will continue to inspire and empower generations of Longhorns.”

Remembering his father, Moody Foundation Vice President Ross Moody shared how his great-grandfather studied law at UT in 1886. “Since that time, the Moody family has had University of Texas graduates in every generation,” said Ross. “We are incredibly proud of our ongoing partnership with one of the greatest institutions in the state.”

Building a Breakthrough Machine

In the world of science funding, few distinctions are as noteworthy as a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. The University of Texas at Austin’s five Keck awards in the last five years have cemented the Forty Acres’ powerhouse status in basic, applied and medical sciences.

UT science received unprecedented recognition in 2023: two Keck Foundation awards in the span of just seven months. Now, with the substantial support and recognition provided by these awards — especially taken alongside UT’s status as No. 1 recipient of funding from the National Science Foundation — UT scientists can push their cutting-edge research even further. 

Lief Fenmo

Lief Fenno

This past June, Lief Fenno, M.D., Ph.D., received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to support group research in psychiatry, bioengineering and neuroscience. This award for Fenno’s exploration of groundbreaking new ways to treat psychiatric conditions also marks UT’s first grant from the Keck Foundation for medical research, pointing clearly at Austin’s future as the next premier destination for health.

With work that earned him a “Breakthrough of the Decade” headline by the prestigious Science in 2010, Fenno’s quest to understand and address addiction, motor behavior, spinal cord repair, learning and memory has profound applications for both our daily lives and most deeply rooted health challenges. “Our team is uniquely positioned to move translational neuroscience forward, because we have expertise in psychiatry, bioengineering and neuroscience,” says Fenno. “Our goal is to use bioengineering approaches to answer unsolvable problems in neuroscience and psychiatry.”

And in December, the foundation recognized the exceptional work in physics of Edoardo Baldini, Ph.D., with a $1.1 million grant. Baldini’s breakthroughs in ultrathin materials are poised to transform technologies like quantum computing and superconductive materials that transmit electricity with near-zero energy loss. From applications in AI to next-gen medical devices, Baldini’s research powered by the Keck Foundation could change everything.

Edoardo Baldini

Edoardo Baldini

Reflecting on a 2019 award from the Keck Foundation supporting efforts to dramatically boost the efficiency of solar cells, UT Austin’s vice president for research Daniel Jaffe said, “That UT Austin and Keck are supporting a group of young scientists to try their hand at this says a lot. It says we support bold, innovative work that, if it succeeds, could have a huge payoff for both science and society.” The same can be said for each UT scientist whose efforts have been advanced by these grants.

By using philanthropy to boost high impact science and community projects — producing what they proudly call the Keck Effect — the foundation creates massive potential with every award. Together, UT and the Keck Foundation are changing the world.

“We support bold, innovative work that, if it
succeeds, could have a huge payoff for both
science and society.”

Daniel Jaffe, Vice President for Research, UT Austin
In addition to awards for Fenno and Baldini, UT researchers have earned three more Keck Foundation grants in the past five years:
2021: Ginny Catania
Catania and her team use state-of-the-art submersible robots to explore never-before-seen glacier regions and build more accurate models of future sea level rise.
Eric Anslyn
2020: Eric Anslyn
Anslyn is developing a synthetic molecular material that is more secure — and can store twice as much information — as human DNA.
Sean Roberts
2019: Sean T. Roberts
Roberts work in developing a new coating for silicon-based solar cells could boost their efficiency by as much as 20%, dramatically increasing the usefulness of solar energy.

Changing the world

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