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Hardeman Family Foundation Funds $1 Million Endowment for Austin History Center Association

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted, courtesy of the West Austin News. The article ran in the newspaper’s Sept. 23, 2021 edition.


By Forrest Preece


The Austin History Center Association (AHCA) has received a contribution of $1 million from the Hardeman Family Foundation, now placed in a newly established permanent endowment which will benefit the organization’s operations.


Prominent local businessman Bryan Hardeman said that when his long-time friend, former Austin mayor and then-president of AHCA Lee Cooke, recruited him for the group’s board a few years ago, he made it a point to look into the association’s finances. In particular, he wanted to see if they had an endowment. He discovered the organization did have a modest sum placed with Austin Community Foundation which was earning a small amount of interest, but it was not enough to ensure the association’s long-term viability.


The Hardeman Family Foundation has given a $1 million grant to help make sure that the Austin History Center Association remains a viable organization. From left: Bryan Hardeman holding WiGe; son Will and wife Anna; daughter Genny and behind her, husband Chris Hill; Bryan’s wife Rebecca; and grandchildren Lily, James and Margo. Missing from this photograph: daughter Joy Hardeman and two other grandchildren, Poppy and Reese. Photo credit: Annika Franco Photography

At that point, he decided to add to the foundation’s assets with a check for $1 million to be placed in an endowment. The donation ensures that generations will be able to have access to the history of Austin, Central Texas, and the State of Texas itself. "There is just so much about Austin I love, and our history is worth preserving," Hardeman said. “That is why I decided to make this gift.” After making his donation, Hardeman has approached other well-known individuals in Austin to add to the endowment, and he has had success with his efforts.


Current AHCA President Kent Collins said, “This substantial gift from The Hardeman Family Foundation will have a transformative effect on AHCA, allowing the organization the breathing room to take the citizens of Austin’s vision for the AHC Campus, (with the addition of the Faulk Building), to a new level.”


It is only fitting that Hardeman made this generous gift, since his family has a remarkable history in Austin. In the 1840s his ancestor Thomas Hardeman built the first permanent (as in not a log cabin) residence on the north side of the river in Austin. It was located on 17th Street near the University of Texas campus. When the house was threatened with demolition for UT expansion, Hardeman’s father decided to fund moving it to Symphony Square. The Austin Symphony Orchestra used the structure for its offices for a while, then it was a restaurant. At present, it is vacant and he wants to give it some upgrades so that it can again serve a useful purpose.


PICH-03525b, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.


Hardeman added that he loves going through the Austin History Center’s assets, looking at old maps and files containing intriguing historical details about the Capital City. “It’s so important that we preserve these artifacts for generations to come,” he said.


At the AHCA Annual Meeting on May 16, 2021, Executive Director Jeff Cohen and Former President Lee Cooke presented the Hardeman Family Foundation check to AHCA membership.