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Ira and Muriel Maxie Endowment

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Ira and Muriel Maxie knew each other since they were children growing up in a segregated Houston community. Ira waited patiently until Muriel was old enough to have permission from her parents to go on a date, and he asked her out. He remembers that not only was Muriel beautiful but she had a beautiful voice. 

Ira and Muriel Maxie
Ira and Muriel Maxie

Both Ira and Muriel had musical talent. Ira performed in whistling recitals at the local community church. Through music programs of the Houston Independent School District, Ira and Muriel sought to give each of their four children a deeper appreciation of music and fine arts. Now in his 90s, Ira speaks with sadness when he discusses the cuts in arts funding caused by the Texas Legislature’s continuing reductions in funding for public education. 

The son of Ira and Muriel, Keith Maxie, and his wife, Alice, created an endowment because they wanted to honor Keith’s parents and the impact music had on their family. Keith and his siblings grew up in segregated government housing projects in Houston, and his parents believed that exposing them to music would broaden their horizons. They felt the discipline that comes with learning music would help them in other aspects of their lives, including academics.

Keith Maxie graduated with a BA in mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1967. He attended Yates High School in Houston and was an excellent student, but his parents lacked the means to send him to college. The Evan E. Worthing Scholarship Fund awarded Keith an academic scholarship, and he was able to attend UT. Keith, who participated in ROTC during high school, continued in college and received a ROTC scholarship his sophomore year. During college Keith met his future wife, Alice, who was also a UT student. Keith and Alice dated for two years before marrying and starting a family. 

Alice and Keith Maxie, Rose Bowl, 2006.
Alice and Keith Maxie, Rose Bowl, 2006.

Because only one Worthing scholarship was available per family, and Keith was the oldest child, his parents worked very hard, sometimes two or three jobs, to make sure that each of their children received a college education. They passed their love for music on to their children, who are now passing it on to their own children, grandchildren, and students who they teach. 

Keith played the clarinet and baritone sax. His sister, Laura, inherited her mother’s beautiful voice and performed in a high school pop group with Debbie Allen on the drums. Keith’s brother Anthony was a gifted clarinetist and earned extra money in high school by performing with local acts. Anthony passed his musical talent on to thousands of children while serving for 35 years as a school band director in Houston. Keith’s brother Ira, Jr., played the tuba in junior high and is now a semi-pro vocalist. Ira, Jr., and his wife sing in the Houston Ebony Opera Guild Chorus as well as with other choirs and choruses. Alice jokes that she isn’t sure how she was allowed in the family because she can’t sing. 

Both of Keith and Alice’s daughters are musically inclined. The oldest, Kristene, plays piano and sings. Kristene’s children, ages 13 and 15, are a bass guitarist and a vocalist. Kimberley, Keith and Alice’s youngest daughter, took private clarinet lessons and performed in her high school marching band. 

Alice and Keith volunteer in neighborhood elementary schools tutoring and mentoring students. They love all kinds of music, from country to classical, R&B to gospel, opera to contemporary, and they want to help expose schoolchildren to a musical education. The Ira and Muriel Maxie Endowment supports UT Elementary School’s music programs, and the Maxies see their endowment gift as a way they can personally make a difference in the lives of children and honor the legacy of Ira and Muriel Maxie.

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