George Washington Brackenridge was born in Warwick County, Indiana on January 14, 1832. He was the second of eight children born to John Adams and Isabella (McCullough) Brackenridge. Mr. Brackenridge attended Hanover College, Indiana University, and Harvard University.
In San Antonio, Mr. Brackenridge played a key role in the development of the San Antonio Water Works and was the company president from 1883 to 1906. He helped organize, and was the president of, both the San Antonio National Bank and the San Antonio Land and Trust. As president of the bank, Mr. Brackenridge appointed two women to the role of director. This nod of respect for women in the workplace foreshadowed his future philanthropy.
Mr. Brackenridge gave away the bulk of his personal wealth during his lifetime to support educational opportunity. He was an outspoken proponent of education for all citizens including women and African Americans. He served as one of three members of the Freedmen’s Bureau in San Antonio, advocating for the education of former slaves during the Reconstruction Era of the United States. He supervised the building of the Douglass School, the first school for African Americans in the city. Remarkably, the Douglass School is still being used as an elementary school today. All told, Mr. Brackenridge provided funding for four schools dedicated to educating African Americans. His philanthropic vision also included improving higher education opportunities for African Americans and he gave generously to the Guadalupe Colored College in Seguin.
Mr. Brackenridge served as a regent to the University of Texas from 1886 to 1911, becoming the longest serving regent in the school’s history. He demonstrated his belief in higher education for women by providing several gifts to the University of Texas to be used to provide loans for female students studying architecture, law, and medicine. Mr. Brackenridge even provided funds for the construction of a female dorm after being offered a lack of living quarters as a reason for the small number of female students attending the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston. In addition to creating loans, Mr. Brackenridge also removed obstacles for women who wished to study medicine by providing scholarships. He also supported the employment of women as instructors in the university system.
In 1899, Mr. Brackenridge was elected the first president of the San Antonio school board. He later funded the construction of a new high school in San Antonio. Though he never stipulated that a building or a gift bear his name, the city honored his gift by naming the new school G.W. Brackenridge High School. In addition to providing the funds to build Brackenridge High School, he also funded the school library.
Mr. Brackenridge was never married and died in San Antonio on December 28, 1920. His former home, which he lived in from 1869 to 1887, was purchased by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and remains part of the University of the Incarnate Word campus. He left the bulk of his estate to a trust– the first of its kind in Texas and one of the first in the United States – to be used for educational purposes. That trust is today the George W. Brackenridge Foundation.
During the early decades of the Foundation’s existence, a revolving student loan program was established, with the recipients agreeing to repay when circumstances permitted. The Foundation also provided scholarships for students to attend numerous colleges and universities including Our Lady of the Lake University, Saint Mary’s University, Saint Philip’s College, San Antonio College, Trinity University, the University of Texas, and almost every African American college in Texas. In 1963, the Foundation started the Brackenridge Scholarship Program. This program provided an annual four-year scholarship for one or more graduates of each public high school in Bexar County. By 1970, more than one hundred Brackenridge Scholars were enrolled in institutions of higher learning and endowed scholarships were established at the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio and Trinity University.
In 2012, after an in-depth study of the state of K-12 education, the Foundation turned its focus towards recruiting high-performing charter schools to San Antonio.
Randall J. Boatright has served as a trustee for the George W. Brackenridge Foundation since 2010. Mr. Boatright was raised in West Texas and is the owner and founder of Boatright Oil & Gas Properties, LLC, a firm that specializes in all phases of management of surface lands and mineral rights in multiple states. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from Texas State University and has served on numerous local and national oil and gas industry association boards and committees. Mr. Boatright lives in San Antonio with his wife Linda. Together they have five grown children and ten grandchildren.
Victoria Branton Rico is a native of San Antonio and the current chairwoman of the George W. Brackenridge Foundation. In 2009, she became a trustee for the Foundation and has been heavily involved in San Antonio’s education quality ever since. In 2011, she wrote “A Proposed Strategy for San Antonio: High-Quality Charter Replication” which was the foundation for Choose to Succeed and its efforts. Victoria serves on the board of Choose to Succeed. She holds a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. She and her husband, Martin Rico, live in San Antonio with their two children.
David Harold Obledo Roth serves as a trustee of the George W. Brackenridge Foundation. Mr. Roth is a shareholder with Elder Bray & Bankler PC where he is board certified in Oil, Gas and Mineral Law by the Texas State Board of Legal Specialization. He holds a B.A in economics from UTSA, and went on to serve as a Field Artillery Officer with the US Army. After service, he earned a J.D. with honors from UT Law. A lifelong resident of San Antonio (of which he is proud isn’t anything like Austin), David and his wife Rachelle have two grown children. Outside of his role as a trustee for the Foundation, David advises clients on the full range of legal issues related to natural resource development and use, including oil, gas, water, renewables, energy and environmental matters.
Nora Walsh, Executive Director, joined Brackenridge in 2013 and is continuously inspired by the positive impact the foundation has on San Antonio’s educational landscape. A staunch supporter of school choice, Nora believes a student’s educational options should not be dictated by his or her zip code. Prior to joining Brackenridge, Nora’s professional life in education spanned pre-school through college including past positions in Major Giving at Trinity University and as the Enrollment & Marketing Director at Providence Catholic School. Nora lives in San Antonio with her husband. They have three grown daughters who are also committed to improved access to academic excellence in the communities where they live.