Franci Neely is a lawyer and philanthropist in Houston with a passion for community, art, and fundraising. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law with high honors and went on to practice law for more than 20 years, specifically in business litigation. Until retiring from active practice, Neely represented corporate legal interests as a partner at Susman Godfrey, LLP. Now, Neely is dedicating her life to volunteer work that makes a difference.
Neely is a strong supporter of the arts and sits on the boards of several arts committees in the Houston area. She serves as the co-chair for both the Art of the Islamic Worlds subcommittees, organized under the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Franci Neely co-founded the Houston Cinema Arts Society and is on the boards of the Baker Institute of Public Policy, The Menil Foundation, and the Moody Center for the Arts. Her goal is to diversify the Houston arts community and her service to the Islamic Worlds subcommittees helps put her within reach.
Neely has been an avid supporter of the Hermann Park Conservancy in Houston, particularly the Art in the Park displays at the Hermann Park Centennial in March 2022. She made a generous $250,000 contribution to the Conservancy in the names of her grandchildren Emma, Ford, and Beau Thompson.
This donation was more than half the total raised during the event and will be used to help fund a water feature for children called The Bayou, where community members can splash and play during hot Texas summers. A portion of the donation will help fund a 26-acre green space on the southwest edge of the park called The Commons. Neely, along with her dear friend Sandy Godfrey, were selected as honorees at the Hermann Park Conservancy's Hats in the Park celebration.
Neely says her philanthropic efforts are important to her because she was given the funds with which to support meaningful initiatives. “I view it as almost a moral obligation when one has been fortunate, and I have been fortunate in terms of money,” she said. “Money can’t buy you love, but it can give you an ability, ideally, to improve things. So that’s really the impetus: that it is important to me to do that in meaningful ways.”
The Conservancy fundraisers are not the only volunteer events Franci Neely has supported over the years. In 2018, she served as the co-chair for the 25th Anniversary Gala of Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. This event raised a staggering $5.4 million for programming and research and was attended by President Barack Obama.
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Syria Edward Djerejian was highly impressed with the active gala chair member, saying that the institute wouldn’t be nearly as successful without Neely’s contributions. “As a member of the Baker Institute’s board of advisers, Franci Neely serves with distinction. Of particular value to me are her important contributions to the subcommittee for the Center for the Middle East and the subcommittee for Presidential Elections, as well as her generous support of our overall mission," he said.
Franci Neely primarily lives in Houston but loves to travel the world in search of diverse educational and volunteer opportunities. She takes a camera with her everywhere she goes hoping that one day, she will have traveled to every country on the planet. So far, she’s visited over 180 countries, including India, Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait, and Cuba.