LBJ Foundation contributes to school, library

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Editor’s Note: This is one story in a series of features on external UT foundations that will end Wednesday. 

When former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin was hired to a prominent position at the LBJ School of Public Affairs earlier this year, an external foundation played a critical role in her employment. 

The Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor in Ethics and Political Values chair at the school is one of many financial incentives the LBJ School is able to offer because of contributions from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, said Robert Hutchings, dean of the school. 

“We wouldn’t have the faculty support we have without those chairs,” Hutchings said. “We wouldn’t be able to recruit the students we have without that support.” 

Despite accumulating a $157 million endowment, the most of any external foundation linked to UT, executive director Mary Herman said many people still don’t even know it exists. 

“I think the LBJ Foundation has kept a low profile so a lot of people don’t even know we exist, or what we do for the library and the school,” Herman said.

The LBJ Foundation formed in 1969 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson and friends decided to raise money for an endowment that would benefit the public affairs school and presidential library that were being constructed in his honor. A board of directors that meets biannually includes members of the Johnson family, their friends and younger members who have experience in public affairs. The board helps keep the foundation going, Herman said.

Herman said the foundation’s next big plans include events in Washington, D.C., and Austin in 2014 to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed and signed by Johnson.

The foundation gave more than $4.2 million to the LBJ School in 2011, according to IRS documents. Most of the funding is earmarked for endowed chairs for professors and graduate student fellowships, Hutchings said. 

“Although we continue to raise funds for the school and the library, the majority of our funding comes from the endowment,” Herman said. “We’ve been in existence for a while, so we’ve really been able to earn a lot of money on funds that were there in the beginning. We’ve added to that over time, but it’s certainly built on that over time.”

The foundation’s eight employees work closely with the school, said Larry Temple, chairman of the board of directors. 

“From the standpoint of the school, we just try to provide scholarships and fellowships that will help attract the best students and the best faculty,” Temple said. “We don’t get into the business of trying to run that school at all. We try to work to provide the best financial resources available so the school can reach its ambitions.”

The foundation also works with the LBJ Presidential Library to direct funds to a variety of projects, including providing research grants to the LBJ School, administering the Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Awards and redesigning the library — which reopened in December after an $11 million renovation. The foundation contributed more than $2.5 million to the library in 2011, according to IRS documents. 

“Having so many balls in the air at one time, you’ve really got to be proactive and respond quickly and be really nimble in managing all these different interests,” Herman said.

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Printed on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 as: Foundation maintains LBJ funding

This article was corrected after its original posting. The LBJ Foundation was formed in 1969.