Supporting Education and the Arts


From Austin Magazine's Outstanding Texan series, Spring/Summer 2000

Hard Work Writes a Success Story

By Kay Powers

It's hard to sit still when you visit Joe and Teresa Long in their palatial West Austin home, but it's not boredom that causes the fidgets, it's because no matter where you look, there's something wonderful to see.

Connoisseurs and collectors of art for more three decades, the Longs have more than 150 paintings, primarily impressionist and postimpressionist works, tastefully displayed in their home. Guests have been known to go from painting to painting, staring, savoring and learning, with Joe and Teresa happily providing information about the artists, the periods they represent and the occasional amusing anecdote about acquiring these treasures.

In addition to their paintings, the Longs have gathered together exquisite figurines, sculptures and carved pieces created in porcelain, bronze, wood and marble. They range in size from tiny, highlydetailed netsuke to a massive ivory sculpture painstakingly carved from one enormous tusk a very long time ago. There are also exquisite crystal pieces, including breathtaking Baccarat chandeliers which Joe himself assembled, piece by piece.

Obviously, Joe and Teresa Long are wealthy and obviously, they are enjoying their wealth. But what's really neat is that they aren't the only ones enjoying it. This twosome gives so much through their very generous donations of both time and money, particularly in the arts, that practically everyone in the city benefits From their good fortune!

Last May, Joe and Terry, as Teresa is called, pledged $20 million to ARTS Center Stage to help transform Austin's tired old Palmer Auditorium into a muchneeded multivenue center for the performing arts. Why? "Because," says Joe, who was president and owner of First State Bank for many years, "the community supported our business for many decades and we wanted to give something back to the people of Austin."

Their home, "Longwood," is a Southern mansion reminiscent of Scarlett O'Hara's "Tara" in "Gone With the Wind." But if you could look back 42 years and see Joe and Terry as newlyweds, you'd find them in an apartment on Speedway that rented for $65 a month. "I was only making $450 a month," Joe says with a laugh, "and that was all we could afford."

So how did a couple who started out in such humble surroundings get to the point where they would make the biggest individual donation to the arts in Austin's history, and one of the largest individual gifts to the arts ever given in Texas? The answer is a success story written with their own hard work and determination.

Both Terry and Joe grew up in small Texas towns. For Terry, it was Premont, where her father had a dairy business. Joe's family lived in Sonora until his father, an oilfield electrician, sustained a back injury at work and they moved to Centerville, midway between Dallas and Houston. Neither recalls much involvement in the arts that are so important to them now, in their hometown, although Joe remembers a competition in elementary school where he was required to identify famous painters and their works. Being Joe Long, he probably won that competition and others on his way to becoming president and Valedictorian of the Centerville High Class of '47. He attended Tarleton State for two years when it was a junior college, then enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin.

 Meanwhile, in Premont, Teresa Lozano had her own agenda for setting the world on fire. Growing up where MexicanAmericans were often isolated from their neighbors by customs, language and social structures, this petite, pretty young woman knew early on that she would make something of herself and help others to do so, too. After high school graduation in 1945, she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, coming away with her bachelor's in Education in only three years.

 Back to South Texas she went, to teach health and physical education in Alice, TX. Why physical education? "Because it was a field in which MexicanAmerican women were not teaching and I felt I could do some good there," she explains. "When I was a teacher there, it was the first time that MexicanAmerican and white kids ever attended school together and I wanted to work with these kids."

Incidentally, Terry eschews the politicallycorrect "Hispanic" in favor of "MexicanAmerican" because, she says, "Hispanic refers to anyone of Spanish descent, but to be MexicanAmerican you have to be of Mexican descent, and what's wrong with that?" Did fate have something to do with getting these two firebrands together? Maybe. At any rate, Joe Long got his Bachelor's at UT in 19 5 1, was called up for a couple of years in the Army (he was in the ROTC at UT), marked time in sales for a couple more years, then headed for Alice, TX. The school board needed someone to teach high school civics and history and coach the debate team and Joe was their man. "I was trying to find myself," Joe says. What he found was the woman who would one day be his wife, although neither he nor Terry realized that when, as fellow teachers, they dated occasionally.

"We were just very good friends," Terry says with a laugh. But the friendship ripened into romance a year later when Joe returned to UT to get his law degree and Terry, who already had her Master's in Education, began work on her doctorate. They were married in February 1958 and six months later Joe was awarded his J.D. from the UT Law School.

Joe went to work as an investigator for the State Securities Board, traveling throughout the state investigating securities fraud, and he was good enough to make chief of the Enforcement Division of the board in 1959. But in 1961, Terry's father became ill and Joe left the state agency to devote his time to the dairy business. By 1963, the Longs were back in Austin and Joe joined thenAttorney General Waggoner Carr's staff as assistant AG in the Bond, Insurance and Banking Division. In a year, he became chief of the division participating in numerous trials and appellate cases while gaining expertise in what to do and what not to do in the banking business knowledge that would come in very handy some years down the road.

He entered the private practice of law in 1965 as a sole practitioner, principally in banking and savings and loan law. Continuing this specialized law practice until 1988, he had several other irons in the fire as well. For instance, in 1968 he joined a group that organized First State Bank and Community National Bank in Austin. He would ultimately become chairman of both banks and eventually buy control of both, adding a new dimension to a resume that already included soldier, teacher, state employee, dairyman and lawyer. "I just got up one morning and declared myself a banker," he says with a broad grin.

In the boomtown that was Austin in the earlytomid80s, the banking business flourished. "There were 55 banks in Austin in 1985," Joe says, "and if anyone doubts that, I can show them. This was before branch banking, too."

Then Austin's boom busted and so did many of the banks. But Joe Long's banks, Community National and First State Bank, not only did not go broke, they acquired seven of those that did, combining all of these in 1989 under the aegis of First State Bank. By January of 1990, 50 of those 55 banks that had been around in 1985 had gone broke. But Joe Long's bank, which he took pride in maintaining as "a friendly, neighborhood kind of bank  the kind that knows everybody that comes in," continued to flourish.

By the time Joe decided to retire, he had built a small empire comprised of 44 offices, with $620 million in assets! He sold to Norwest Corporation in 1998, but in typical Joe Long fashion, he has not quit entirely  he's serving as a consultant to Norwest and taking care of his investments in real estate, oil, stocks and bonds.

Meanwhile, Terry Long wasn't sitting around watching soap operas while Joe was making it big in the banking business. She completed her dissertation and got her Doctor of Education in 1965. Says her husband proudly, "We think she's the first Mexican American woman to ever get a doctorate in physical ed at UT."

Then Dr. Terry Long went to work for the Texas Education Agency as a research assistant, then as a consultant for TEA's Division of Compensatory Education. Gov. John Connally appointed her to the staff of the Governor's Committee on Public School Education as a research associate, after which she was a consultant for the U.S. Office of Education on Migrant Education and the Head Start Program. Her eyes sparkle with enthusiasm as she describes her travels around the country observing these programs in action.

Not that it's been all work and no play for this fun couple. In spite of the diligence with which they pursued their respective careers, Joe and Terry have found time to indulge their penchant for travel 125 countries in 30 years! and love of the arts. Joe became interested in opera while stationed with the Army at Stuttgart, Germany, and Terry shares this interest, so it is not surprising that the two were founding members of the Austin Lyric Opera.

Currently, Joe is president of the Austin Symphony Orchestra Society, Inc. and a member of the board of trustees of the Headliners Club. Terry is a director on the boards of Ballet Austin, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and the Austin Community Foundation. Small wonder then, that Rusty Tally, senior vice president of investments for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, would look to the Longs for help with the ARTS Center Stage capital campaign for the renovation of the auditorium, which he chairs.

Their answer was not what Tally hoped to hear. "We're into programs," said Terry to Tally. "We support projects. We don't do buildings." But she and Joe thought it over and decided that helping transform the auditorium so that it could be used in so many ways by the performing arts was a splendid way to for them to "give something back" to Austin and their hefty pledge is their way of doing so.

"Through our gift, Terry and I hope to encourage others to give," Joe says. "We can't do it all, others will have to help. Not everyone is able to give what we are giving, but it is our hope that a lot of people who are not rich will still find it in themselves to contribute towards this goal."

In recognition of the Longs' gift, Palmer Auditorium will be renamed "The Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts." It is scheduled for completion in 2004 and the name won't go up on the building for some time, but Joe takes great delight in showing off a Monopolytype game called "Austin in a Box" he received for his birthday in January. Already in place on the game board is the "Long Center"! $20 million is a lot of money. With it, Joe and Terry could have built themselves the mother of all mansions or maybe even hitched a ride into outer space, since they've already set foot on every continent on this earth.

Instead, here they are giving it away. Oh, sure their names will be up there, carved in stone, for future Austinites to admire long after they're gone. But they're so fired up with enthusiasm when they talk about this project, you get the feeling that with or without their names on it, Joe and Terry Long would be just as involved, because it's what the center will mean to their adopted hometown in the years to come that matters most to them.

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