The Pan American Round Table is a nonprofit women’s organization with member Tables at the local, state, and international levels. The very first table was established in 1916 in San Antonio, Texas, by bold women who felt moved to address the negative effects suffered especially by women and children during the Mexican Civil War and border confrontations between Mexico and the United States at that time. They founded the Pan American Round Table based on a mission and vision of building bridges between the United States and Latin America at this critical time of historical transition and state formation throughout the hemisphere. This mission of mutual understanding, knowledge, and friendship among the peoples of the Western Hemisphere continues to define the aim of our organization today.
The Pan American Round Table of Austin was founded in 1922.
Our Mission / Nuestra misión
The mission of the Pan American Round Table of Austin is to promote understanding and peace at home and among the peoples of the Americas through education, outreach and friendship.
La misión de la Mesa Redonda Panamericana de Austin es promover entendimiento y paz en nuestro país y entre las personas de las Américas mediante educación, servicio a la comunidad y amistad.
On January 30, 1922, twenty-two women met at the historic Driskill Hotel to form the 4th oldest table in the still fledgling Pan American Round Tables.
In the summer before, they had met with the fabled Clara Driscoll Sevier at her estate alongside the Colorado River – Laguna Gloria – to set in motion the plans which resulted in the founding meeting the following winter.
At the first regular meeting Mrs. Sevier was appropriately chosen as the Director General. At the formative meeting, the constitution and by-laws of the San Antonio Round Table were adopted. Each of the twenty-two charter members drew lots for a specific country, and was thereafter responsible for representing that nation at the table.
The first luncheon, held a month later at the Driskill, was no ordinary affair. The president of the University of Texas, R. E. Vinson, made an opening address, followed by Governor Neff himself, who reminded the women how much, in his words, “one is privileged to be at the beginning of things worthwhile.” San Antonio saluted its new sisters by sending over a quartet of its Pan American Round Table leaders. Other distinguished guests included the governor’s wife, the wife of the former United States Ambassador to Colombia (Mrs. Thad Thomson), and a small host of state judges, heads of commissions, and other state brass.
To emphasize the round table idea, the luminaries were seated about a round table in the center of the room, with the other members and guests grouped around smaller tables. As would become traditional, the festive flags of the Pan American nations provided the centerpiece.
At the second monthly luncheon Mrs. Terry Griswold attended from San Antonio to talk about needs and aims. Five delegates came up from Laredo. Other speakers included Dr. Charles W. Hackett, the University’s foremost Latin Americanist, and the Honorable Hal Sevier, who told of his representation of the United States in Argentina during World War I.
At the conclusion of the second luncheon, the delegates promptly reassembled for a “State Convention” to form and clarify state regulations. Of the first five honorary members, four were men, distinguished in some phase of Latin American endeavor. Also impressive is the large number of musical and dance programs, invariably staged in native costume and with elaborate matching table decorations. Since each woman was assigned to represent and study a specific country, the competitive urge meant that each also gained knowledge in depth of her particular area. The table became such an important part of the Driskill Hotel’s life that it designated one of its meeting rooms as the Pan American Room.
Through the efforts of the women of the Pan American Round Table and in honor of Mrs. Sevier and Dr. Charles W. Hackett, the first twelve scholarships to Latin American students were established in 1940 to assist with the beginning efforts of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas. The Charles Wilson Hackett Memorial Award and a matching Jeannie Hunter Hackett Memorial Award were established and are presented annually on Pan American Day. In 1946 the Table instituted a short term revolving loan fund of $1,000 for Latin American students in financial distress. The fund is administered by the University of Texas.
After a period of “temporary inactivity” from May 1928 until November 1929, the table came back strong.
Excerpts of history written by Helen Frantz
(Helen Frantz passed away October 21, 2012.)
Since its founding in 1922, the Pan American Round Table of Austin has grown in numbers and has established many traditions that have become honored events of the Table’s activities.
Scholarships: In 1940, the first twelve scholarships were awarded to students of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas. Now, each year, PART Austin awards two scholarships to UT students and one scholarship to an economically disadvantaged Hispanic woman to help her achieve her educational goals.
Special Projects and BookSpring: Our table awards grants to worthy community projects assisting Latin American people in the areas of health, education, parenting, human development, art, and science, including the Reading is Fundamental’s successor organization BookSpring. We present these awards annually at the May luncheon meeting.
Pan American Outreach Committee: The Table members also support the students and faculty of Rodriguez Elementary School. This outreach is particularly special because the school is named for Hermelinda Rodriguez, the first Mexican American woman principal in the Austin Independent School District, who until her death was a member of the Pan American Round Table of Austin.
April Program: Pan American Day is celebrated at the April meeting. A special menu is served along with sangria, and festive decorations adorn all the tables. The members dress in the regional dresses of Latin American countries and live music is provided for the members to form a line and dance around the tables and through the room, showing off the beautiful outfits.
December Program: The December meeting always features a special holiday menu and entertainment. Musical entertainment has varied from Mariachi, to the Austin Classical Guitar Society, to tenor Geraldo Ramos.
Spanish Coffee: On the third Monday of each month in October, January, February, March, and April, a morning coffee is held at the home of one of the members who serves as the hostess. The hostess and three co-hostesses provide drinks and refreshments, many featuring favorite recipes homemade by the host members. The name Spanish Coffee comes from the tradition of encouraging all who attend to communicate in Spanish. Each month an interesting program is presented at the Coffee and the presenter also makes her/his presentation in Spanish. The Spanish Coffee committee recruits host members and program presenters.
PART News: The Communication Committee sends e-mail communications to the membership announcing events relevant to our members. Whenever a member is sick, has had a happy or sad event in her family, or has passed away, we share the news with the membership. PART News also includes information about non-PART community events to members that opt to be included in this e-mail list. Members send the news to be shared to email@example.com. The Communication Committee then forwards the e-mail to the membership.
Memorial: During the last meeting of the year, we remember our members that passed away during the year.
Director’s Pin: In 2013, the Executive Committee voted to add to the table traditions the purchase of a director’s pin to present to the Director of the Pan American Round Table of Austin at the time of the Installation Ceremony.
Charles Wilson Hackett (1888-1951) is best known as the first director of the University of Texas Institute of Latin American Studies in the early 1940’s, where he oversaw the building of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, one of the most comprehensive libraries of its kind in the world. Dr. Hackett, a native of Texas, received his doctorate in history from the University of California Berkeley and began his extensive career at the University of Texas as an adjunct professor in 1918. He rose through the ranks of the history department to become Distinguished Professor of History in 1944. In addition to his many academic duties, he was a prodigious scholar.
Outside academia, Dr. Hackett was named to be the delegate from the United States to the Pan-American Congress in Panama City in 1925; he served on a preparation committee for the Seventh American Scientific Congress in Mexico in 1932; and he attended the Third Pan-American Institute of Geography and History in Lima, Peru, in 1939.
PART Austin has offered the Charles Wilson Hackett Memorial scholarship, for the University of Texas at Austin graduate students, annually since 1954.
Jean (Nette) Hunter Hackett (1891-1966) was wife of Charles Wilson Hackett (see above) and daughter of the pioneer family for which Hunter’s Bend (a self-sufficient community established in 1859, east of Austin on the northern bank of the Colorado River) was named. In a time when most wives of prominent husbands served in a supportive role, Jeannie Hunter Hackett actively participated in Austin community activities from the 1930’s to the early 1960’s. She was a member of PART Austin, serving on different committees; the UT Austin Universities Ladies Club; the UT Austin Faculty Wives Club, and Junior Helping Hand. According to archival information provided to us by the Austin History Center, Mrs. Hunter Hackett was actively committed to education for more than 30 years.
The Jeannie Hunter Hackett Memorial scholarship for the University of Texas at Austin undergraduates was established after her death in 1966.
Mitty Bollman Guerra , a long-time member of PART Austin, served as a Table Director (1993-1995) and then became active in the international Pan American Alliance. As Archives Chair (of PART of Texas) she and her committee gathered and processed the records of all the Texas Pan American Round Tables from the time of the organization’s founding in the 1920’s to the present. These records were then donated to the University of Texas Library in San Antonio so they would be available to researchers. Thanks to the efforts of Mitty and Mary Ann Palka, they can be accessed today at https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utlac/00391/lac-00391.html.
Mitty Guerra’s daughter, Janie Wall (a PART Austin Table Director from 2003-2005), made a contribution in 2006 in memory of her mother establishing the Mitty Guerra Memorial scholarship. It benefits Latinas in the Greater Austin area who need financial support to complete their college education. Ongoing contributions have made this scholarship a tradition of PART Austin.
PART Austin has offered this scholarship annually since 2006.
Gloria Mata-Pennington (a current long-time member of PART Austin), made a generous contribution to PART Austin in the spring of 2020 to establish a scholarship for Latinas who, as first-generation college students in their family, need financial assistance to complete their education. Gloria served as Table Director of PART Austin from 2009-2011 and prior to that, served as Historian of the Alliance and as Director of Area A (Austin, Houston and Conroe).
PART membership forms only a small part of Gloria’s long and generous service to our community, which began when she came to Austin in 1964. Over the years she worked in education and politics, on behalf of the elderly, and in the Austin/Saltillo Sister Cities program. She also chaired the Fiesta de Independencia Committee, given by the Consul General of Mexico, and she served as member of the Hispanic Archives Committee of the Austin History Center and as president of the Austin Friends of Folk Art.
Her generous service has won her several honors. Among them, she was named one of the Outstanding Women of the Year for her work in the community; she was recognized for her long-time commitment to the Austin/Saltillo Sister Cities Association; and, she received a LifeTime Achievement award from the Mexican American Cultural Center.
PART Austin will award its first Gloria Mata-Pennington scholarship in the Spring of 2021.
Pan American Round Table of Austin Archives are located at the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Pan American Round Tables of Texas Archives are located at the John Peace Library, The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Alliance of Pan American Round Tables Archives are located at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin.