AUSTIN, Texas — Robert L. Moody, a nationally recognized businessman, philanthropist and longtime supporter of The University of Texas at Austin, has died. He was 88.
Moody, known by many as “Bobby,” left a significant mark on the UT campus. In 2013, the Moody Foundation, for which he served as chairman of the Board of Trustees, committed $50 million to establish the Moody College of Communication, resulting in the largest endowment for the study of communication of any public university in the nation at the time. Additionally, the Moody Foundation gave $20 million to reimagine and transform the exterior spaces at the Blanton Museum of Art. It established an endowment to support the Blanton’s free day, helping make the arts accessible to the broader Austin community. More recently, UT’s new basketball arena and events center was named the Moody Center in honor of a $130 million grant from the Moody Foundation. The grant to support Texas Athletics is the largest gift from a foundation in the University’s history.
Overall, the Moody Foundation has given more than $204 million to the University to establish and support colleges, centers, institutes, programs and venues.
“Words cannot adequately express our gratitude for the tremendous philanthropic support of Bobby Moody and the lasting impact the Moody Foundation’s contributions will have on UT, our students, our campus, and our city,” said President Jay Hartzell. “The unwavering commitment to education, research and a thriving community will continue to inspire and empower generations of Longhorns. The fabric of Austin will be forever strengthened by their generosity that fuels the gathering places where we celebrate music, art and athletic achievements.”
Founded in 1942 by W.L. Moody Jr. and Libbie Shearn Moody, the Moody Foundation has made more than $1.7 billion in grants throughout Texas to organizations that have educated, healed, nurtured and inspired generations of Texans. It is the largest philanthropic foundation in Texas and contributes to a wide variety of Texas causes, including three major music venues in Austin.
The visionary spirit of the Moody Foundation continues to shape Texas with numerous event centers, theaters and recreational venues that serve as gathering places for world-class events and benefit their communities. Among the latest is the multipurpose Moody Center, which is and will continue to be a game-changer on the Forty Acres. The investment that the Moody Foundation made provided UT student-athletes in Men’s and Women’s Basketball with the best on-campus facility in the nation.
For the Blanton, the Moody gift was the largest ever given in support of Austin’s outdoor spaces. The design reshaped much of the exterior area surrounding Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” and the two buildings that compose the Blanton: the Michener Gallery Building, opened in 2006 to house the collection and exhibition galleries; and the Edgar A. Smith Building, opened in 2008 to house the Blanton café, museum shop, auditorium and administrative offices.
The gifts to the Moody College of Communication have allowed the college to keep pace with the constant changes in communication today, including growth in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and the metaverse. Students benefit from the newest technologies and innovations that help them stay ahead.
“We are incredibly thankful that the Moody Foundation, under Robert Moody’s leadership, chose to invest in our college, transforming the experiences of our students, faculty and staff in remarkable ways,” said Rachel Davis Mersey, interim dean of Moody College of Communication. “We, and the state of Texas as a whole, are mourning a tremendous benefactor and leader.”
Moody lost his father as a toddler and, along with his only brother, Shearn Jr., was sent to boarding school. He graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania in 1953 and went on to serve in the U.S. Army. The discipline he honed as a young cadet shone throughout his life in his strong work ethic.
He shepherded the Moody family’s insurance, banking and hospitality businesses in Texas with immense success for over 60 years. He was married to Ann McLeod Moody, and together, they parented their blended family of eight accomplished children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both were born in Galveston, and their generosity has made an indelible mark on that city, which they chose as their permanent home. He established the Moody Neurorehabilitation Institute, formerly the Transitional Learning Center, for the rehabilitation of brain trauma patients. In 1992, to sustain and develop the economic health of Galveston, he spearheaded the construction of the reimagined Moody Gardens. His family said these two feats were his proudest accomplishments.
“My father was an avid learner, always reading the news or meeting with experts in various fields to expand his horizons,” said Ross Moody, who began serving as a Moody Foundation trustee in 1986. “This trait was passed down from his grandfather, William Lewis Moody Jr., who strongly believed in the importance of education. He studied law at UT in 1886 and in addition to founding companies in the banking and insurance space, acquired the Galveston Daily News, the oldest newspaper in Texas. Since that time, the Moody family has had University of Texas graduates in every generation, and we are incredibly proud of our ongoing partnership with one of the greatest institutions in the state.”