Oil Heiress Leaves $135 Million to Houston Museum, Hospitals

Caroline Wiess Law, a renowned collector of modern art and heiress to a Texas oil fortune, has left bequests totaling more than $135 million to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston , the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Baylor College of Medicine, the Associated Press reports.

Law, who died on Christmas Eve at the age of eighty-five, was the daughter of Harry C. Wiess, who co-founded the oil company that later became ExxonMobil. She was married to the late Theodore N. Law, also heir to an oil company fortune, and the two were major supporters of the arts in Houston, helping to underwrite such projects as the Rothko Chapel. In her will, she left MFAH artworks — including paintings and sculpture by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollack — valued between $60 million and $85 million, as well as $25 million for an endowment.

"The bequest is wonderful, but is nothing compared to her impact as a living participant," said Peter Marzio, the museum's director. "There have been few people in the history of the museum as important as she was."

Law also left $25 million for an endowment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, $16 million of which will be earmarked for prevention programs; the rest will be used to support other programs and enhance three chairmanships established by Law in memory of her parents. A third bequest of $25 million went to Houston's Baylor College of Medicine, which will use the funds to enhance its faculty.

Patricia C. Johnson. "Fine Arts Museum Given a Life's Worth of Treasures." Houston Chronicle 02/12/2004. Pam Easton. "Woman Leaves More Than $135 Million to Museum, Hospitals." Associated Press 02/17/2004.