Founders & History

Robert Ayres, Jr. (Bob) and Patricia Shield Ayres (Pat) have made lifelong commitments to serving others, seeing us all as members of one human family. Pat has been particularly concerned with the needs of children and has been active on both domestic and international levels. In 1971, she was appointed by Governor Dolph Briscoe to the board of the Texas Youth Commission, a state agency responsible for adjudicated youth. For many years, she served as a national board member and board president of Bread for the World, a citizens’ movement that advocates to alleviate hunger in the United States and around the world.

Bob made his career as an investment banker, but was also called to service. In 1972, he took an extended leave of absence to assist the Episcopal Church’s relief efforts in Honduras following Hurricane Fifi and in Guatemala following an earthquake. Maintaining a strong commitment to education, Bob served as chairman of the boards and led capital campaigns for TMI – The Episopal School of Texas and The University of the South, where he served as President from 1977-1988.

In 1977, Pat and Bob formed the Shield-Ayres Foundation. The Foundation was based on their values, including their commitment to community, service, and leadership, and their desire to work together as a family to significantly support and respond to causes that are important to them. In 1978, their son Robert Atlee Ayres was elected a Trustee, followed by their daughter Vera Ayres Bowen in 1979 and their daughter-in-law Margaret Bowers Ayres in 1980.

In 2013, the Foundation further involved two third-generation family members by hiring its first staff director, Elizabeth Ayres Domenech, to oversee the Foundation’s day-to-day operations, and by electing Marshall Ayres Bowen a Trustee of the Foundation.

Since its founding in 1977, the Foundation has awarded over $22 million in grants to charitable organizations with programs that focus primarily in Austin, San Antonio, or select areas where the Trustees have special interests. In 2014, the Foundation made 157 grants totaling $2,224,000 to organizations working across five focus areas: human services (33%), environment (24%), education and arts (24%), health (4%), and other areas including religious, civic & public affairs, and international relief & development (15%).