Doers to Donors: Faith and Family Drive Hacketts’ Philanthropy

In the latest episode of Philanthropy Roundtable’s “Doers to Donors” series, Roundtable President and CEO Elise Westhoff interviewed Maureen Hackett, co-founder and president of the Hackett Family Foundation, and her daughter Kelly Hackett, who serves as the foundation’s vice president.

The Hackett Family Foundation is dedicated to serving a variety of charitable causes, including mental health, cancer research and faith-based education institutions, among others.

In this half-hour conversation, Maureen discussed how her family history has influenced her giving interests and the partnership she and her husband Jim Hackett, an energy industry and private equity executive, have forged to raise a family, build wealth and help strengthen their community through effective philanthropy.

Kelly, who left a promising legal career to join her family’s foundation, detailed the impact and thoughtfulness of the foundation’s giving, and, among other things, how the family’s Catholic faith drives its commitment to help others.

A Philanthropic Legacy Begins

Maureen grew up in an Irish Catholic family on the outskirts of Chicago, the sixth of nine children. Her father battled depression, which led to decades of alcoholism and unemployment. As a result, it fell to Maureen’s mother to serve as the family’s breadwinner.

Maureen described her mother as a “pioneer” who earned an economics degree from Purdue University, worked in the health and human services sector and started her own placement agency and business school for women. She was a career woman who simultaneously raised their large family and courageously battled and beat cancer twice. Nevertheless, she always found time to graciously model compassion and philanthropy … and instilled in her children the value of charitable giving.

“My passion for philanthropy really came from the example of my mother,” Maureen explained. “To quote her, she didn’t have two nickels to rub together. But she had a lot of love, a lot of wisdom.”

Maureen met her husband, Jim, as a teen, marrying at the age of 22, and raising four children. 

In the early years of their marriage, Jim earned his MBA from Harvard University, later serving as CEO for firms in the oil and gas industry before moving into leadership roles in the private equity sector. In the meantime, Kelly described her mom as a leader in her own right – serving as “CEO of the Hackett family household,” establishing herself as an active and formidable community leader and spearheading the family’s charitable giving.

Of her marriage, Maureen said, “We’ve been blessed, and we’ve done it together.” 

Inspired by her parents’ philanthropic work, Kelly left a position with an international law firm to join the family office and Hackett Family Foundation in 2012. 

“I felt that I had a greater purpose,” she explained. “And I knew from my parents’ legacy that I could be helpful when it came to their giving.” 

Passionate About Mental Health: “Body, Mind and Soul”

A major priority for the Hackett Family Foundation is mental health, a cause that’s personal to Maureen and began with her father’s private battle.

“My father was a very loving man. He was just lost and ill,” Maureen said. “To understand that all these years later, I’m very passionate about everyone’s right to whole health … body, mind and soul.”

Early on, Maureen focused on advocacy and eliminating the stigma of mental illness. She joined the boards of a number of behavioral health organizations, helping to make significant strides for communities from coast to coast and sharing her family’s own journey with mental health. Recognizing the need for longer-term, systemic change, she set her sights on policy to improve outcomes. In 2014, she joined the board of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas, to fight for accessible, effective and efficient behavioral health care for all Texans. 

Three years later, she and her family made their largest gift yet to establish the Hackett Center for Mental Health in Houston. The first regional program of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, the Hackett Center was established just after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas and Louisiana in 2017, and immediately got to work helping children and their families deal with associated trauma. 

“I think the most important thing … when my parents were establishing the gift was to address initially and very immediately the trauma and grief amongst children in the Gulf Coast region,” Kelly said. She noted the center’s work during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey also helped prepare the foundation for the mental health challenges inflicted by COVID-19 just a few years later.

“It was through a lot of the work that was done at the Hackett Center in the early years with Hurricane Harvey that we learned how best to approach the unexpected [during COVID-19] and respond appropriately and effectively as donors and community advocates,” she said.

A Commitment to Curing Cancer

In addition to their commitment to mental health, the Hacketts are deeply invested in cancer research and treatment through their support of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Based in Houston, Texas, MD Anderson is the largest cancer center in the United States and was recently named the best hospital in the world for oncology and related cancer treatment by Newsweek magazine.

“My mother survived breast and colon cancer, so cancer is also top of my list,” Maureen said. “I always enjoyed my volunteerism at MD Anderson, which I did as a young wife with four little kids. And, now I’m a proud member of the Board of Visitors, even chairing the Philanthropy Committee. Kelly just recently joined the Board as well and it’s been so fulfilling to watch my lifelong passion in this area influence the next generation of family.”

The Importance of Faith

More generally, the Hackett family’s strong Catholic faith provides the foundation for how they live and give.

Maureen recalled her first charitable act was baking pies with her mother and delivering them to the nuns who lived in the convent attached to the school she attended. When she had children of her own, she shared with them the joys of faith-based giving, whether with time or money.

For her part, Kelly has spent her Sundays for over 12 years providing ministry and Eucharistic services to homebound residents of a nearby senior living facility, recognizing that philanthropy is about the giving of myriad resources. Kelly’s parents taught her and her siblings that fellowship and assistance are worthy treasures of their own and equally critical to the welfare of humankind. 

Kelly also takes pride in her family’s giving to Catholic education, something she was fortunate to enjoy for many years, and which reinforced the importance generations before her have always placed on a life of service. “It is the common thread that makes all of our giving make sense,” she said. “Our Catholic faith is the foundation for all of our values in life. And it’s … where we get the perspective that it’s critical to share our blessings with all those in the community.”

Learn more about “Doers to Donors,” and watch the full interviews featuring Maureen and Kelly Hackett, The Home Depot Co-Founder Bernie Marcus and Acton Academy Co-Founder Jeff Sandefer. Subscribe to the Roundtable’s YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss future episodes.