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The purpose of The Cockrell Foundation is to provide financial support for charitable organizations primarily in the Houston area in support of education, youth activities, health care and medical research, and cultural institutions. The Foundation focuses its gifts on groups and institutions that have been important to the Family in its history as well as important to the history of Houston and Texas.

The Foundation was initially created as the Cockrell Trust in 1957 by Ernest Cockrell Jr. In 1966, the Cockrell Trust was transformed into The Cockrell Foundation, operating as a private foundation. The major gift to The Cockrell Foundation was through the bequest in the will of Ernest Cockrell Jr. in 1972 specifying that a major portion of the available funds for distribution each year be given to The University of Texas College of Engineering. Additional funds were gifted to the Foundation through the will of Mrs. Virginia H. Cockrell.

The Foundation is chaired by Ernest H. Cockrell, son of Ernest Cockrell, Jr. and Virginia H. Cockrell and grandson of Ernest Cockrell, Sr.

The Cockrell Foundation remains dedicated to the charitable purposes set forth by its founder and the Cockrell Family.