I learned a lot from my grandfather, Albert
B. Alkek. As a small child, he taught me to fish in the swimming
pool at the family ranch in Bandera, combining fishing lore
with funny stories and tales of the business world. Working
for him as a young adult I saw behind the scenes, and learned
how he became a successful businessman. It wasn’t until
after his death that I learned how much impact his philanthropy
has made, and continues to make, on the world.
Everyone agreed that “Mr. A,” as he was always
called, was quite a character. He had a quest for knowledge
and success that belied his modest education. His flamboyance
in the business world was offset by decades of quiet charitable
A self-made man, he started with a $250 loan from his dad
and left a charitable foundation with initial assets of $178
million. He was a risk taker – a wildcatter; a stock
trader; and an entrepreneur. In his later years, his drive
to succeed turned to the philanthropic world.
He employed the same energy and focus he used in making money
to giving money away.
My grandfather made investments in people and institutions
he believed would excel over the long haul. He particularly
favored research and knowledge, and the majority of his gifts
over the years were focused on medicine and education.
He was supported in his endeavors by my grandmother, Margaret
McFarland Alkek, a quiet, Southern lady of soft voice and
kind heart with deep ties to her family, neighbors and community.
She worked side by side with my grandfather for many years
to build a successful business.
My grandmother is also a strong believer in education. Her
love of learning returned her to
school in the late forties as a middle-aged parent to complete
the college education interrupted by her marriage. She favors
organizations that support children, education and the community.
My mother, Margaret Alkek Williams, inherited her parents’
interests and passion for philanthropy.
As a teenager, my parents’ commitments to public service
impressed me through deeds instead of words. My mother and
my father, Dr. Charles H. Williams, helped people because,
to them, it was the natural and obvious thing to do. My wife,
Randa Duncan Williams, and I hope to instill similar values
in our son, Harrison, so that he will follow in the family’s
Philanthropy is one of the ties that binds our family together.
It keeps our lives in perspective and reminds us that money
is only worth what you can do with it. As my grandfather said,
“You can’t wear but one suit, and you can’t
eat but three meals a day. What are you going to
do with your money except help others?”
Charles A. Williams