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Spring/Summer 2008 Texas Leader

Giving News

Texas Leader - Spring/Summer 2008

Partners in the race to the top

Partners in the race to the topThe goal — to be the nation’s best public research university — is within striking distance.

“If every member of the University’s large extended family contributes in some way, we will be the very best public university in the country,” Steve Leslie, provost and executive vice president, told members of the Texas Leadership Society at their annual luncheon.

The society’s annual luncheon, held April 11 in the Texas Union Ballroom, was a chance for administrators, deans, professors, and students to thank members for their generosity and update them on University research, priorities, and challenges. The Texas Leadership Society honors donors of estate gifts to the University.

“By your actions in this state, you truly are Texas leaders,” Leslie said.

President Bill Powers has made the quest to be the best the focus of his administration. To achieve that distinction, UT must be able to compete for the nation’s top faculty and graduate students, said Leslie and Graduate Studies Dean Victoria Rodriguez.

“It works both ways: faculty want to come to Texas for the quality of our graduate students, who come to Texas precisely for our faculty,” Rodriguez said.

The University falls behind its peers in compensation packages for graduate students, offering one-year fellowships while other universities are offering three- and four-year packages with benefits, Rodriguez said.

“The competition out there is ferocious,” she said.

Rodriguez aims to quadruple the University’s number of blue-ribbon fellowships such as the Donald D. Harrington Fellowships, the result of a bequest by the late Sybil Harrington in memory of her husband, Donald D. Harrington.

“All of you who are here today because you have given generously to the University understand that planned giving is essential to help us reach this goal,” she said.

Harrington Fellow John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco, a doctoral candidate in American studies, told how the fellowship and the University had helped him study Cuba-U.S. relations firsthand. Gronbeck-Tedesco took three trips to Havana under a scholar’s license as he examined cultural and political interaction between the two countries from 1930-1970.

“My sense of Cuban culture has been formed not only by archivists, scholars, and librarians but by neighbors, taxi drivers, and artists as well,” he said. “The sweat and toil of biking through the streets of Havana in July with a laptop and notes strapped to my back only enriched my discoveries. It brought a sense of how Cubans tell their own history as well as their differing ideas about the relationship between Cuba and the United States.”

Other highlights of the 2008 Texas Leadership Society luncheon:

  • Led by Leslie, the group applauded TLS members Ernest and Sarah Butler, donors of a recent $55 million gift to the School of Music. The Butler’s gift, the largest ever to a public school of music, includes a bequest.
  • Vice President for Development Rick Eason reported that the group’s ranks had swelled, with the addition of 58 members in the past year, bringing the total to more than 800.

Please consider notifying a member of the Gift Planning team if you’ve included the University in your estate plans. We’ll welcome you to the Texas Leadership Society and invite you to next year’s luncheon. You may also qualify for membership in the Littlefield Society, which offers additional benefits.

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From freshman to philanthropist

Annie Holand Miller

Annie Holand Miller’s days as an anxious UT freshman are behind her, but she still remembers the feeling.

“My first semester I called my mother crying every day, telling her I wanted to transfer,” she says.

Miller didn’t transfer. Instead she dug in and got involved. By the time she graduated in 1999 with a B.A. in English, she was student-body president. During her term she helped reopen the Tower to visitors and launched a successful student referendum to help fund an outdoor aquatics complex at Gregory Gym.

Now she can add another role to her list of University accomplishments: estate donor. Her will includes a bequest to UT’s Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs; during her time as Student Government president she saw how Student Affairs staff helped people struggling with the same issues she had.

“There are so many external issues you’re dealing with: transitioning from living with your parents to living alone, dealing with a roommate, dealing with how to study,” she says. “Student Affairs transformed my experience at the University.”

Miller’s bequest isn’t her first time giving to her alma mater. She has donated to the University since her student days, through student campaigns and UT’s Annual Giving Programs, and she continues to give. She is a member of the 1883 Council, a group of the University’s up-and-coming alumni leaders, and her bequest makes her a member of another special group, the Texas Leadership Society, which honors donors of estate gifts.

Miller’s first involvement with the Texas Leadership Society came 10 years ago, long before her bequest. As student-body president, she spoke at the society’s inaugural annual luncheon in 1998. Now she’s a member.

She’s also a newlywed. Last fall she married Cramer Miller, a student in UT’s School of Law. After Cramer graduates this spring the couple will move to Houston, where Cramer has a job waiting at Vinson and Elkins.

Annie, also a Law School graduate, will continue to work as chief operating officer of her family’s investment partnership, McAllen-based Holand Investments, dividing her time between McAllen and Houston.

As for love, Annie and Cramer had to travel across the country to find what had been in front of them all along. It might be romantic to think that the newlyweds fell in love while growing up together in McAllen, but it didn’t happen that way. Annie is four years older than Cramer, and they ran in different circles.

After high school both went on to attend UT Austin, but that was another near miss.

Somewhere across the country, somewhere bigger and more hectic than McAllen or Austin, Annie and Cramer became more than acquaintances. Both were working in Washington, D.C., he as an assistant to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and she as an executive assistant to the chief of staff for first lady Laura Bush.

The pair finally saw each other socially after pressure from family and friends who told them a friend from home might come in handy in the rough-and-tumble capital.

“We always joke that we had to go to D.C. to date,” Cramer says.

Annie and Cramer may not have been college sweethearts, but their mutual love for all things burnt orange runs deep. In fact, their alma mater provided an excuse for them to spend time together when they first started seeing each other in 2004. They began with what Annie calls a series of “non-dates” centered on Longhorn football. The relationship took off from there.

“Sparks flew pretty quickly,” Cramer says.

Annie drew up her will last year before her wedding, and the decision to include the University came naturally.

“For me, it’s very much about leaving a lasting impression, a legacy,” she says. “You want to pick something that means something. For me, that’s the University.”

Cramer wholeheartedly supports his wife’s decision to include UT Austin in her will.

“For both of us, it’s important to be involved with the University, so I certainly support any decision she makes,” he says.

Says Annie, “We’ve both worked very hard, but we feel that a lot of the opportunities we’ve been afforded have been because of the University.”

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A friend the University could count on

Maebess Matthews

Sometimes a modest life can make a big difference.

Maebess Matthews (bottom row, second from left) grew up in Austin living above a shop on the Drag and spent her career as a public servant. But she made some smart investments along the way, and when she died she left almost $2 million to The University of Texas at Austin.

Matthews’ bequest created scholarships in the School of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, and McCombs School of Business in honor of her mother, father, and best friend — Lillie Matthews, B. Berard Matthews, and Dorothy Ayres.

“The University was her life,” says Jo Anderson, a family friend.

Matthews’ tradition of giving to the University began long before her $1.8 million estate gift. For more than 30 years she gave modest annual gifts — $10 here, $25 or $100 there — to her favorite UT causes: the McCombs School, the Center for American History in Winedale, the Office of the President, Women’s Athletics. With her bequest she created endowments that will forever continue her tradition of annual giving.

Matthews never married and never had children, but she had a family nonetheless. Anderson’s late husband, Ayres Anderson, was Dorothy Ayres’ nephew, and “Aunt Dorothy” lived with the Andersons and their three children. That made them Matthews’ family, too.

“My children thought they were related to her,” Anderson recalls.

Born in 1912, Matthews earned her bachelor’s in business administration from UT in 1931 before going on to work in the UT System’s procurement office. She was an only child and grew up living upstairs from an independent drugstore owned and operated by her father.

Matthews learned she was dying of ovarian cancer in 2003. By then, Dorothy Ayres and Ayres Anderson had been gone for decades, and the closest thing she had to family was Jo Anderson. In the time leading up to her death — Matthews told Anderson of her condition just two weeks before she died — Matthews clung to her fierce independence. She wrote her own obituary, chose her casket, and prepaid for her funeral.

Matthews didn’t want her friends to worry, and she waited as long as she could to tell them she was dying. On Feb. 18, 2003, she called her bridge buddies from the hospital to tell them not to count on her for their next game. She died a few hours later.

“That says so much about her, that she was thinking about them,” Anderson says.

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Charitable lead trusts: tools for our time

Bob Dawson

Charitable lead trusts have long been the best-kept secret in gift planning. By using lead trusts, donors can achieve important family estate-planning objectives while giving to their favorite charitable organizations.

When Congress addressed perceived abuses of charitable trusts in 1969, it created charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts. Charitable remainder trusts caught on quickly, but charitable lead trusts lagged behind.

A charitable lead trust works this way: A donor transfers property to a trustee under an irrevocable written trust agreement. The trustee is given a set amount of time to pay a fixed or variable annuity to one or more qualified charities. When the trust expires, the trustee distributes the remaining trust to non-charitable beneficiaries such as the donor’s children.

The most commonly used form of charitable lead trust produces a gift-tax charitable deduction for the year in which the donor transfers the property to the trust. The amount of the deduction varies with the trust’s terms.

Why are charitable lead trusts an especially timely gift- and estate-planning tool now? First, about a year ago the Internal Revenue Service published its first pre-approved lead-trust sample documents. Professionals now know what the IRS believes should be in such documents, and the knowledge gives those of us who prepare lead trusts a large measure of comfort, even though we may deviate from the IRS’s samples in our own documents.

Second, lead trusts generally thrive in a low-interest-rate environment, and interest rates are at a near-historic low. This means that the value of the charitable gift increases and the value of the family gift shrinks. In this environment the donor may give the remainder interest to his or her family at no gift-tax cost, whether the property given to the trust is $10,000 or $10 million. Now may be your best time to lock in that rate for the term of a new lead trust.

Please speak with your gift- and estate-planning professionals about whether your estate plan can benefit from a charitable lead trust while these favorable conditions exist.

Bob Dawson is a shareholder in the Midland law firm Cotton, Bledsoe, Tighe, and Dawson. He works in the firm’s Estate Planning and Probate Section.

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Survival served up on a chip

Survival served up on a chipA few drops of saliva and a device the size of a credit card may be the difference between life and death.

The faster a heart attack is recognized, the better the patient’s chances of recovery. Now early diagnosis may be possible using only saliva and a new nano-bio-chip, according to a multi-institutional team led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin. The chip could someday be used to analyze a patient’s saliva on board an ambulance, at the dentist’s office, or at a neighborhood drugstore, helping to save lives and prevent damage from cardiac disease. The chip can produce results in as little as 15 minutes.

“Many heart attack victims, especially women, experience nonspecific symptoms and secure medical help too late after permanent damage to the cardiac tissue has occurred,” says John T. McDevitt, principal investigator and designer of the nano-bio-chip. “Our tests promise to dramatically improve the accuracy and speed of cardiac diagnosis.”

McDevitt, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, collaborated with scientists and clinicians at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in developed countries, including the United States. In 2008, an estimated 770,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 430,000 will have a recurrent attack.

“There is certainly a strong need for more effective early diagnosis of cardiac disease,” McDevitt says.

The new diagnostic test works like this: A patient spits into a tube and the saliva is then transferred to a credit card-sized lab card that holds the nano-bio-chip. The loaded card is inserted into an analyzer that manipulates the sample and assesses the patient’s cardiac status on the spot.

The test can reveal that a patient is currently having a heart attack and that she should receive treatment quickly. It can also tell whether a patient is at high risk of having a future heart attack. The new technology is still in the clinical testing phase, but it is a strong candidate for further commercial development through the Austin, Texas, company LabNow Inc., a start-up venture that licensed the lab-on-a-chip technologies from The University of Texas at Austin. LabNow’s first lab-on-a-chip product, now in development, targets HIV immune function testing and can be used in resource-poor settings like Africa.

The research is supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health.

— Lee Clippard

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