The Backstory Behind the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

Ima Hogg. No, really. Ima Hogg. She was born into privilege, the daughter of Texas governor James Hogg, in 1882, and that was her real, actual name. As the governor’s daughter, she attracted some attention for it. According to legend, her father brought her and a friend along on campaign trips, introducing the pair as “my daughters, Ima and Ura Hogg!” The Kansas City Star went so far as to invent a third sister, Hoosa. She spent much of her adult life answering letters asking if her name was real, and to her credit, did so with the utmost politeness and grace.

And what does this have to do with anything? Well, she founded the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health in 1940, and knowing a little something about her and her family offers a window of insight into the foundation and where its priorities lie.

Related: Pioneering Transition Age Mental Health

These long-running family foundations are like that sometimes. They have this great and colorful history, a deep-seated charitable mission, and a devotion to “keeping so-and-so’s legacy alive.” In this case, they’re keeping alive the memories of Hogg’s father James and her brother William: It was with their bequests that she established the foundation back in the 1930s. Due to red tape, the full complement of funding was tied up until 1939, at which point the foundation was opened for business officially.

The spark for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health really came from Ima herself. In 1929, following a second oil strike on family land near West Columbia, Texas, Ima founded the Houston Child Guidance Center. She had a lifelong interest in mental health and wellbeing, and, partly through independent study and partly through psychology classes she took at the University of Texas, she had developed rather progressive ideas about it. She was greatly satisfied by the work she did establishing the Houston Child Guidance Center. Her brother William’s death in 1930 revealed a $2.5 million pledge to the University of Texas, and a desire that the money be used, along with Ima’s donations, for far-reaching benefit to the people of Texas.”

Thus, a foundation was born. They went right to work. When the United States entered World War II, the Hogg Foundation worked to create mental health screenings for would-be soldiers, and to provide services for those returning from battle. This was three decades before PTSD, as we understand it, was described in medical literature. As the foundation and its endowment grew, so did the scope of the work it undertook. By the 1960s, it was conducting major research, awarding grants, and expanding its reach into social problems of race, age, and mental health.

The only major grantmaking operation administered by the regents of a public university, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health continues to influence the field of mental health by giving grants, offering education for caregivers, and raising awareness. Recently, it announced $10 million to bring together key players for a discussion on “transition-age” mental health; it gives to a wide array of initiatives throughout the state, so if that’s your jam you might want to keep them on your radar.