Rainwater’s gifts benefited local schools

Richard Rainwater
Richard Rainwater

Fort Worth has been fortunate through the years to be the home of many very wealthy people who have used their private wealth to enrich the city.

Some contributed that wealth to instantly recognizable landmarks carrying their family names: the Kimbell and Carter art museums, Moncrief healthcare facilities and Bass Performance Hall, to name a few.

Others, like Richard Rainwater, have put their generosity to work more quietly. Mr. Rainwater’s gifts have directly benefited underprivileged students in Fort Worth schools.

A Fort Worth native, the son of a wholesale grocer and a J.C. Penny clerk, Mr. Rainwater became well-known in worldwide financial circles for his investment success.

He died Sunday at 71, having been diagnosed in 2009 with a degenerative brain disease.

Last year, Forbes magazine estimated Mr. Rainwater’s net worth at $2.7 billion.

He first helped build the wealth of Fort Worth’s Bass family. The New York Times reported that his disciplined investment strategy turned a $50 million Bass fortune into a $4 billion one between 1970 and 1986.

Among his best-known of those investments was a $500 million stake in the Walt Disney Company.

Mr. Rainwater struck out on his own in 1986, later founding or co-founding such companies as Ensco International, an offshore drilling services company; Columbia Hospital Corp. and Crescent Real Estate Equities. He was a part-owner of the Texas Rangers.

In 1991, he established the Rainwater Charitable Foundation. Some of the $265 million the foundation has spent since then has gone directly into Fort Worth public schools.

One of those initiatives, the Morningside Children’s Partnership, was profiled by former Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders in May.

In partnership with local residents, businesses, city leaders and non-profit and faith-based organizations, MCP is spending millions of dollars annually at six schools: Carroll Peak, Morningside, Briscoe and VanZandt Guinn elementaries, Morningside Middle and O.D. Wyatt High School.

The foundation is spending $400,000 at Wyatt alone, paying for three reading specialists, three program specialists and a social worker. The program is credited with increasing the number of students on track to graduate.

Another $700,000 is funding 11 personnel positions at Morningside Middle.

Money isn’t everything in education, but targeted programs that meet specific goals can mean a lot.

For this, Fort Worth owes thanks to Richard Rainwater.