After donating more than $1 million during their first years of marriage to help create and develop institutions and organizations that would nurture Houston’s people and encourage the city’s growth, Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones established Houston Endowment on September 25, 1937, to formalize and perpetuate their philanthropy. They both knew they would prosper only if their community thrived.

In 1938, the foundation’s first full year, Houston Endowment donated almost $15,000; more than $11,000 went to schools and colleges. As Mr. Jones began transferring his buildings and businesses to the foundation in the 1940s, Houston Endowment’s annual donations increased to more than $200,000 and included college and university scholarship programs for men, women and minorities.

In the 1950s, Houston Endowment began making larger grants. It donated $1 million to the University of Houston for the Fred J. Heyne Building—named in honor of Mr. Jones’s closest business associate and Houston Endowment’s president—and contributed $1 million to Rice University for the Mary Gibbs Jones College so women for the first time could live on campus. The foundation helped develop the fledgling Texas Medical Center through substantial contributions for new hospitals, schools and a library and through scholarship programs to train nurses. It also helped fight polio through its support of the Hedgecroft Clinic. The foundation gave a hand to Houston’s low-income citizens through grants to health and human service organizations and added to the city’s vitality by supporting established and emerging arts organizations. For many years, it paid for radio broadcasts of the Houston Symphony Orchestra’s performances so all citizens had access to them. At the time of Mr. Jones’s death in 1956, Houston Endowment president Fred Heyne reported to a colleague, “Since its inception…we have assisted more than 4,000 students with their education through scholarships established in 57 colleges and universities. We have made total grants for all purposes in excess of $7,600,000.”

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