While Galveston Island can expect to see an infusion of funds later this decade, the foundation created by the Galveston-born oilman, real estate developer, and philanthropist who passed away earlier this year, and his late wife, who died in 2009, will suspend the lion's share of its grantmaking for the next three years as it awaits a major infusion from the couple's estate, said foundation president Katherine Lorenz, who is Mitchell's granddaughter. The foundation had been distributing more than three times the minimum annual payout rate of 5 percent of its endowment, leading to concerns among some about its long-term sustainability, Lorenz told the Chronicle.
At the same time, the foundation does plan to fulfill two commitments totaling nearly $40 million — to the Cynthia and George Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University and to the Carnegie Institution of Washington. It also will continue to fund the Cook's Branch Conservancy, a habitat preserve in the Piney Woods of East Texas, as well as a grant program dedicated to clean energy, natural gas sustainability, water, and sustainability science. Commitments made personally by Mitchell — including a four-year pledge to the Houston Symphony — are unconnected to the foundation and cannot be honored at this time, said Lorenz, although she left open the possibility of foundation funding for the symphony at a future date.
In becoming a signatory to the Giving Pledge in 2010, Mitchell committed to giving away a substantial portion of his fortune through the Mitchell Foundation, which currently has $120 million in assets. "We are expecting to be fully functional with a maximum endowment in 2018," Lorenz told the Chronicle. While grants for the revitalization of downtown Galveston and its transportation system also are under consideration, said Lorenz, "[w]e see education as the best route out of poverty."