San Antonio Public Library Foundation friend and supporter, Tom Frost, passed away on Friday, August 10. We continue to be grateful for the friendship of the entire Frost family, and all they have done for San Antonio and our libraries. Through the Library Foundation’s special effort – Voices of San Antonio – we were able to capture Tom before his passing.
South Texas lost one of its favorite sons on Friday, August 10, 2018, when banker and philanthropist Thomas (Tom) Clayborne Frost died at age 90. Born at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio on October 29, 1927, to Thomas Clayborne Frost and Ilsé Herff Frost, Tom was the fourth generation to lead Frost Bank, which was founded 150 years ago by his great-grandfather Thomas C. Frost.
Tom received his early education at San Antonio Academy and Texas Military Institute, and after serving in the US Army, he graduated from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He began his banking career in the mail room at Frost Bank, advancing to president at age 34. He steered the bank through the economic downturn in Texas in the 1980s, overseeing its growth preceding Cullen/Frost’s entrance onto the New York Stock Exchange in 1997. Of the top 10 banks in Texas in 1980, only Frost Bank emerged from the decade without a merger or outside assistance, largely due to Tom’s emphasis on banking relationships rather than transactions. Tom answered his own phone when at his desk and knew that a handshake was as good as his word when dealing with customers. He cherished his employees and highly regarded them as the frontline to excellent service.
Tom’s energy knew no bounds, and he worked tirelessly to advance San Antonio, earning him accolades too numerous to recount. His passion for his work kept him active past his retirement from the bank as CEO in 1997; he went to his office every day and once remarked that artists never quit painting, so why should he? Tom played an influential role in major developments in San Antonio for more than 50 years from Hemisfair ’68 to the South Texas Medical Center to the AT&T Center. He actively participated and chaired countless boards through his extensive community involvement, including the McNay Art Museum and the San Antonio Livestock Exposition. He cared about people and jobs, spearheading the development of organizations such as Project Quest, the Free Trade Alliance, and promoting economic growth as a longtime board member of AT&T, La Quinta, Tesoro, and the Federal Reserve Advisory Council. Tom helped orchestrate the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in San Antonio in 1992.
Tom believed education was the key to economic growth, and his leadership expanded past his alma maters into causes like the bond issue for the San Antonio Independent School District, the UTSA development board, and received honorary doctorates from Austin College, Our Lady of the Lake University, and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico. Fluent in Spanish and an aficionado of the Mexican culture that stemmed from his early career spent working in Mexican banks, Tom received the Aguila Azteca medal, the highest honor for a foreign citizen, recognizing his business and philanthropic dealings in Mexico.
A true Texan, Tom relished his time on his family ranch in Boerne, where he drove the pastures on weekends checking on his turkey feeders at his family’s homestead dating back to Dr. Ferdinand Herff in 1851. An avid supporter of historic preservation, he donated funds to help create the Cibolo Nature Center and Herff Farms as a means of providing others an opportunity to experience the roots of the Hill Country that he cherished.
Tom paid little attention to titles, but one of his favorite monikers was “Granddaddy,” and his eyes lit up when one of his grandchildren or great grandchildren entered the room. His tall stature never prevented him from getting on eye level, whether to tease or share a bit of wisdom, and his values resonate strongly with his family today. He treasured family vacations from when his boys were young, and they traveled with friends to Fort Clark in Brackettville, Texas. He continued this tradition with the next generation on annual trips to Seaside, Florida, where he reigned on the tennis court.
Tom married his wife, Pat Frost, on June 9, 1951, and the strength of their marriage provided the foundation for his success. He shared his faith openly, acknowledging that God provided him fortitude in difficult times and that he leaned heavily on prayer to guide him. A vestry member and lay leader of Christ Episcopal Church, Tom led a Bible study group that met at the bank for 32 years every Friday at 7:30 am. No doubt the verse from Matthew 25:23, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” applies to the way he led his life.
Tom’s death was preceded by his parents, Tom and Ilsé Herff Frost, and his sister, Ilsé “Ita” McNeel. He is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years, Patricia “Pat” Holden Frost, and his sons, Tom C. Frost III and his wife Meaghan, Bill H. Frost and his wife Tanya, Don B. Frost and his wife Lou Celia, and Pat B. Frost and his wife Kelley; 13 grandchildren, two great grandchildren with one on the way, and nieces and nephews.
Tom generously gave of his heart and believed that “to whom much is given, much is expected,” Luke 12:48. In this spirit, the family suggests contributions may be made, in lieu of flowers, to Christ Episcopal Church, 510 Belknap Place, San Antonio, Texas 78212, or the Tom Frost Education Fund at the McNay Art Museum, 6000 N. New Braunfels Avenue, San Antonio, Texas 78209, or a charity of your choice.
A celebration of Tom’s life will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, 510 Belknap Place, on Friday, August 17 at 11:00 am.
Pallbearers are Tom’s grandsons, and honorary pallbearers are Lon Carpenter, Houston Harte, Jim Hayne, Jim Gorman, Jack Locke, Sam Maclin, Elkin McGaughy, and Thad Ziegler.