by Ann Gael and Jordan Faires
Ann Gael, a 1967 graduate of Austin College, counseled in Presbyterian camps during summers between her Austin College years; the summer following graduation, while counseling at Cho Yeh she met a charismatic Native American and married him. She meandered through an MFA program at the University of Texas Department of Drama in history and criticism. After receiving her MFA, Ann and her husband took a freighter to Europe and lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for three years while she worked at the World Council of Churches and he did sculpture at l’Ecole des Beaux Arts de Geneve.
Meanwhile, in 1973, American Indian Movement activists took over the trading post at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Ann’s husband was called back to help with the defense of those charged with crimes of that takeover. The couple moved to South Dakota, and then to Lincoln, Nebraska, until the International Indian Treaty Council was established. Then they moved to New York City to petition the United Nations for recognition of the unilaterally abrogated treaties.
Ann’s husband had to raise funds for these endeavors, and she became acquainted with the world of foundations and fundraising, eventually finding work in foundations herself. While at the first of these jobs, she co-founded the Grants Managers Network. She served on its first national steering committee, then its board, meeting grants managers from all over the country.
A few years later, while sitting at dinner in a restaurant in San Diego, California, with a group of GMN board members, she found herself talking to a charming young man with an oddly familiar accent. Asking him where he hailed from and learning that the answer was Texas, she asked where he went to college. When he replied, “A small liberal arts college in north Texas,” she knew she had to inquire further. “I went to a small liberal arts college in north Texas. Where did you go?” she asked. When the young man replied, “Austin College,” she jumped up yelling, “I went to Austin College, too!”
As it turned out, Ann graduated exactly 20 years before Jordan Faires, whose path to that table in San Diego was similarly satisfying, albeit unique. After graduating from Austin College in 1987, Jordan complemented his liberal arts education with an MBA from the University of Houston. Although his original intention was to enter the business community, he followed his mother’s career into the nonprofit world by first entering the family violence prevention arena, which included facilitating and coordinating batterer intervention groups, working on a statewide clemency campaign for family violence victims, working in legislative advocacy at the state and federal level, and administering programs. After several years of working in Houston and Austin, however, Jordan wanted a change. So, he sold his car, leased his house, and set out to travel around the world.
Although Jordan didn’t succeed in his goal of living and working in Europe, he enjoyed three months in Thailand and four months in Europe before running out of cash and returning to Houston. Not giving up on change, he chose not to return to Texas but moved to San Francisco with two suitcases and a few thousand dollars.
After several months of temporary work, Jordan landed a job working with homeless and runaway youth in downtown San Francisco. The work was fascinating and further developed his expertise with program and grants management. Shortly after landing the job in San Francisco, he was offered a grants management position at a foundation in Sacramento, where he learned the other side of grants management. While in Sacramento, he joined the Grants Managers Network, developed as a grants management leader, served as an independent consultant, and subsequently joined the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in Los Angeles.
So, back to the Grants Managers Network conference dinner where Ann and Jordan met. When the colleagues learned that they were both from Texas, they were somewhat amazed to find that they both graduated from Austin College.
In hindsight, they wonder why they were so shocked. They had two things in common: Austin College and the Grants Managers Network. Both encourage talent, promote excellence, and are comprised of remarkable individuals. Both Austin College and the GMN have been influential forces in Ann and Jordan’s lives, as they have for many others.
So, no, the ’Roos coming together wasn’t so surprising after all. Two unique paths, fortified by two remarkable organizations, simply led to the same spot.