MaryRoss Taylor, a longtime supporter of the University of Houston and pioneer for feminist causes, says her father instilled in her the value of “doing good within your community.” Motivated by his words, Taylor has gifted the University $1 million to establish an endowed professorship in the Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality, as well as fund future IRWGS projects.
The Taylor Endowed Professorship in Gender & Sexuality Studies is named in memory of her father, Pinchback Taylor, Jr., who died in 1962 at the age of 50.
“My father was a real advocate for women and education, and he believed everyone should have equal opportunities,” Taylor shared. “His support and confidence in me gave me permission to be myself – regardless of the conventions for southern women at the time.”
The Endowed Professorship will be held by Elizabeth Gregory, IRWGS director and director of the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program in the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
Founded in 2019, the IRWGS is the first university-based think tank on gender and sexuality in the region. Focused on Houston and Harris County, the IRWGS examines the challenges around these matters facing individuals, policymakers, businesses and the community.
“The institute chronicles the real lives of Houstonians and tells stories that haven’t been previously told,” Gregory explained. “We document the ways people have been excluded from full participation in the workforce and the community and pave the way for them to get the resources they need.”
Gregory and the IRWGS research team generate data and innovative research and dialogue with the community on the ways gender and sexuality, viewed intersectionally, affect all aspects of life, including workforce, health, family and relationships, social dynamics, leadership and equity. A portion of the gift from MaryRoss Taylor will allow the institute to expand its staff and hire further analysts to continue its impactful work.
“We have been fortunate to be a recipient of Ms. Taylor’s kindness for many years. Her unwavering support demonstrates her faith in the University and our goals to expand the reach of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality to not only to the Houston area, but beyond to our surrounding communities,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.
For more than 20 years, Taylor has been a dedicated advisory council member of UH Friends of Women’s Studies and started The Pinchback Taylor, Jr., Endowment for Excellence in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies in 2012, which would have been her father’s 100th birthday year. She credits fellow FWS advisory council member and donor Carey C. Shuart with setting an example of the importance of giving to Women’s Studies.
“MaryRoss Taylor’s commitment and partnership have been vital for years to the growth of IRWGS and CLASS,” said Daniel P. O’Connor, interim dean of CLASS. “This gift significantly advances the Institute’s mission to improve workforce, well-being and equity across our society.”
Taylor, a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, moved to Houston in the early 1970s. She owned and managed The Bookstore for a decade and later served as executive director of the Lawndale Art Center. Taylor organized the community effort that brought Judy Chicago’s famous installation, “The Dinner Party,” to UH-Clear Lake in 1980. From 1985 to 1990 she directed Judy Chicago's nonprofit “Through the Flower,” managing international tours of “The Dinner Party” and the “Birth Project.” Taylor’s philanthropy extends across the country from the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC to the Brooklyn Museum.
“We are so grateful for MaryRoss Taylor. Her generosity signifies the importance of the work the IRWGS does, and we are honored by her endorsement,” said Eloise Brice, vice president for university advancement.