Mary's Enduring Legacy
Sadly, Mary would not live to see the completion of the library built in her name at TCU. On December 16, 1924, at the age of 64, Mary died of a stroke in Fort Worth. The TCU Skiff reported her death the next day, stating "the faculty and entire student body mourn the death of this noble servant of God." Classes were suspended so students could attend her funeral. On December 18, Reverend E. H. Eckel of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church presided over Mary's funeral services. Around 100 TCU students gathered at her home to pay their respects.
Within hours of Mary's death, her sisters filed suit contesting the legality of the trust. The trust went into receivership and a court battle between TCU and the surviving Couts sisters began. Hoping to end the conflict and move forward with the completion of the library, TCU and the Trust settled, paying each of Mary's sisters $150,000. By the time the Trust was released from receivership, it had already paid out almost $1 million in settlements and legal fees.
The opening festivities of the Mary Couts Burnett Library kicked off on Wednesday, February 25, 1925, hosted by the Fort Worth Women's Club. On Friday evening, a formal event was held and the TCU band gave a concert in front of the library. Ollie Burnett spoke to the gathered crowd on behalf of the Burnett Trust.
Writing in The History of Texas Christian University, Dean Colby Hall stated that the Burnett Trust allowed TCU to purchase additional land adjacent to campus, supplemented faculty salaries, and provided a financial foundation that allowed TCU to survive the Great Depression. He quoted President Waits, "She was ... a woman of refinement, with a genuine interest in culture, with a natural interest in education, and a decided loyalty to her hometown." Despite a life marked by tragedy and maltreatment, Mary maintained her generous spirit and commitment to culture and education, and TCU is the better for it.