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In Memoriam: Jo Anne Christian

November 19, 2015

Jo Ann Christian

The Briscoe Center mourns the passing of Jo Anne Christian, who died November 12 at the age of 79. She was a member of the Briscoe Center's advisory council and well known in the Austin community for her philanthropic endeavors.

"Jo Anne was a great friend of the Briscoe Center, who was deeply interested in our collections and programs," said Don Carleton, executive director at the Briscoe Center. "And she was a tireless fundraiser, not only for the Briscoe Center, but also for many other arts and education initiatives in Austin. I benefited much from Jo Anne's sage advice and counsel. She was a wonderful lady blessed with keen intelligence and wry wit. We will miss her greatly."

Jo Anne Martin was born in Wichita Falls in 1936. She grew up in Fort Worth and majored in history at Texas Christian University. In 1958 she attended law school at the University of Texas at Austin, one of only six women in her graduating class. While studying, she worked for Governor Price Daniel, whose executive assistant was George Christian. Christian and Martin were married in 1959. In 1966 they moved their young family to Washington, D.C., where George worked for President Lyndon Johnson and Jo Anne for the U.S. Information Agency.

The Christians returned to Austin in 1969, and Jo Anne went on to become one of the city's most beloved philanthropists, active in a myriad of causes that concerned the arts and humanities. She held particular affection for her alma mater, establishing the Jo Anne Christian Centennial Professorship in British Studies at UT in 1982 and the Jo Anne Martin Christian Excellence Fund in English earlier this year. She was also a founding member and benefactor of the university's British Studies Seminar.

"One of Jo Anne's very last projects was to serve as the Briscoe Center's annual fund chair, a fund that supports historical exhibits in the center's soon-to-be renovated public service space. Jo Anne had taken this role on after her health began to fail — a testament to her generous and giving spirit," said Carleton.

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