origin of the fellowship program
By the time of his death in 1964, Austin writer and folklorist J. Frank Dobie had become nationally and internationally known. He had taught at The University of Texas at Austin for many years before his success as a writer and before his disgruntlement with university policies prompted him to leave the faculty. But the course he taught at the university, "Life and Literature of the Southwest," had encouraged generations of students to recognize the virtues of regional and, particularly, of Texas writing. His own writing was its best exemplar.
In 1959, he and Mrs. Dobie had bought a small acreage fourteen miles southwest of Austin. He named it Paisano, a word of Spanish origin used in the Southwest to denote the roadrunner. Dobie also knew that the word has other regional meanings such as "compatriot," "native," and "rustic." More a retreat than a working site, Paisano was a delightful gathering place for friends and colleagues. A few months after Dobie's death, a group of friends got together to discuss how best to remember him and concluded that preserving Paisano and using it for a writers' retreat would be not only a fitting memorial but also a way of extending his legendary generosity with time, advice, energy, and loan of material to other writers. Thus the Dobie Paisano fellowships came to be established. A gala gathering in Houston raised money to purchase the ranch and with the help of generous friends, the property was given to The University of Texas at Austin. The Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) undertook responsibility for support of the fellowships with continuing and substantial help from the Ralph Johnston Memorial Foundation and the Houston Endowment.