FUNDING AREAS: Arts, education, environment, health, and human services
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: Stern guides the Houston Endowment as a philanthropic mainstay of the Greater Houston area, and she aims to keep it that way for generations to come.
PROFILE: Ann B. Stern became President of Houston Endowment in 2012 following the retirement of Larry Faulkner. Her bio on the endowment's own website reads:
Ann Stern became president of Houston Endowment on March 1, 2012. Most recently she was executive vice president of Texas Children's Hospital, where she managed inpatient clinical operations and administration and oversaw the development of the Pavilion for Women and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute. Ms. Stern previously practiced law with Beck, Redden & Secrest and Andrews Kurth, and she taught business law at the University of St. Thomas. She earned her bachelor's and law degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. In 2011, she received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Community Service from The University of Texas School of Law. Ms. Stern chairs the board of St. John's School and serves as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
More than 75 years ago, the Houston Endowment was established by Jesse Jones, a Houston businessman who became Commerce Secretary under FDR. In an interview, Stern describes Jones as a man "who loved the community and was really involved in building the community."
Though Jones is no longer alive, his legacy remains important to Stern. She is also mindful of his absence in terms of the business-end of the foundation she now runs in his name:
"... if there's one thing I worry about the most, it's that we don't have a living (founding) donor. Our corpus is not growing, and Houston is growing and the need here in Houston is growing. About 10 years ago, we made the decision to geographically limit our funding—with a few limited exceptions—right here in this greater Houston community. I think that was a great decision. It helped somewhat. We're just going to have to get smarter and smarter about how we deploy funds."
So far in Stern's tenure as presidency of mindful giving, the Houston Endowment's giving has averaged $80 million each year. Her Arts & Culture giving is very Houston-centric. The endowment's whopping recent gift of $5 million to the Houston Zoo to create a gorilla habitat is a bit of an outlier; more typically, Stern's grants in this subsector range from $30,000 to $300,000 in support of arts groups and musuems, with the programs supported mainly falling into the "watch us" realm rather than citizen-interactive.
In their support for education, the endowment recently gifted more than $1 million to Collaborative for Children, for their "College Bound from Birth" program centered in Houston. Here too, the giving is mindful of helping the citizens of Houston; even funds given to programs out of state are directly earmarked to train and serve Stern's city. Giving focuses on programs aimed to mentor, encourage, and incentivize traditionally underserved populations and see them through to college success.
The Houston Endowment's environmental giving focuses on protecting the city's waterways and reducing urban blight (which includes spaying and neutering animals to prevent strays). A recent $300,000 grant was given to Scenic Texas "toward expansion of capacity to implement streetscape improvements that impact public safety, walkability and visual appeal."
Stern's support of Human Services in the Houston area covers an array of needs. It spans everything from a recent check of $50,000 to the Adult Reading Center; to $100,000 to Daya, "a transitional home and educational outreach for South Asian women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault"; to $200,000 to Genysys Works, for "enabling disadvantaged high school students to successfully enter the economic mainstream, then serve as peer ambassadors to materially change the culture of their schools."
The Houston Endowment has an open application process, and given the recent grant giving led by Stern, they are open to all sorts of programs that aid the people of their city, just as their founder Jesse Jones intended.