Kathryn “Katie” Heard Craig, founder of the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts, daughter of Stephen Dudley and Lillie Dale (Snapp) Heard, was born in McKinney, Texas, on May 23, 1884. Her father and his brother John were the proprietors of the J. S. & S. D. Heard Mercantile in downtown McKinney for twenty-five years. By 1900 the two brothers had influenced nearly every aspect of business and industry in McKinney. Katie had two brothers, one of whom died in infancy in 1880 and Fred Heard (1882–1910).
Katie Heard attended the McKinney Collegiate Institute and with her cousins, Nina and Bessie Heard, attended Mary Baldwin Seminary (now Mary Baldwin College) in Staunton, Virginia, from 1902 to 1905. She married Thomas Edgar Craig (1875–1957) from Sulphur Springs, Texas, in 1910. Thomas Craig graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, in 1898 and earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1900.
Katie Craig was a founder of the Art Club of McKinney in 1914, served as president, and coauthored a fifty-year history of the organization. She was a charter member of the Little Gleaners Club, a member of the Rushlight Club, the American Federation of Arts, and the Texas Fine Arts Association (serving as regional director for twelve years). She was a member of the Owl Club and served as club president. As a trustee of Austin College from 1957 to 1964, she often met with students, staff, and educators to assess their needs in order to better serve them.
Craig was so convinced of the power of women’s clubs for women individually and for the community that she envisioned the idea of the Heard-Craig Woman’s Club in 1955. It was her wish that upon her death, her family home (known as the Heard-Craig House) would become a “club house” for use by the women’s clubs of McKinney. She felt that if she could furnish a permanent meeting location for the women’s clubs that they would continue to flourish and provide their members with unlimited educational opportunities.
Most women of Katie’s generation joined the women’s clubs of the time in order to further their education. The purpose of these clubs was primarily educational or literary in nature. Many of the clubs soon became involved in programs for community improvement. The women raised money to build libraries, provided schools with books, and completed civic beautification projects. The clubs have not only enhanced their communities through service projects, but they have enhanced the lives of American women by providing educational enlightenment, social camaraderie, and a greater sense of self-worth and achievement.
Katie Heard Craig, a Presbyterian, lived by the Bible verse, Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” She had a strong sense of civic responsibility and served her community throughout her lifetime. She carefully planned for the establishment of the Heard-Craig Woman’s Club, now known as the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts, the organization that would go into effect upon her death.
Her generosity also extended to her alma mater, Mary Baldwin College. She established the Katie Florence Heard Craig Scholarship in 1957, which was still awarded in 2013. In January 1964 she stipulated that a portion of the money she had given to an endowment be earmarked for the construction of a science center at the college. That same year, Mary Baldwin College honored her with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion Award, presented annually “as a permanent reminder of the noblest human qualities and for unselfish service to their alma mater and the community at large.”
In memory of her husband, Thomas Edgar Craig, she provided funding for the Craig Hall Music Building on the Austin College campus. The new facility was dedicated on April 28, 1962. She also funded an art wing that was added onto the building in 1970. Katie Craig made Austin College tuition scholarships available for the children of several McKinney families in addition to the following endowments: Thomas Edgar and Kathryn Heard Craig Fellowship in Business Administration and Economics in 1953, Stephen Dudley and Lillie S. Heard Fellowship in Science in 1960, and Craig Professorship in the Arts in 1970.
Katie Heard Craig believed strongly in the power of education. Her vision and her generous gifts enabled thousands of women and men to enhance their lives through education, study, and civic engagement. She died at the age of eighty-six on December 9, 1970, in McKinney and was buried next to her husband at the Pecan Grove Cemetery.