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APSU benefactor, alumna, heiress to Frito-Lay Co. dies

A prominent Dallas philanthropist who was an Austin Peay State University alumna and generous benefactor died of natural causes at her Texas home Monday, Oct. 8, 2007.

Amelia Harper Lay Hodges, 91, heiress to the Frito-Lay fortune, was born and raised in Clarksville where she attended Austin Peay, according to The Dallas Morning News (Oct. 11, 2007).

A memorial service was held at Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, with burial at Restland Memorial Park in a private ceremony prior to the memorial service.
A prominent Dallas philanthropist who was an Austin Peay State University alumna and generous benefactor died of natural causes at her Texas home Monday, Oct. 8, 2007.

Amelia Harper Lay Hodges, 91, heiress to the Frito-Lay fortune, was born and raised in Clarksville where she attended Austin Peay, according to The Dallas Morning News (Oct. 11, 2007).

A memorial service was held at Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, with burial at Restland Memorial Park in a private ceremony prior to the memorial service.

In 1987, Hodges named Austin Peay the beneficiary of what at that time was the largest gift in the University's history. Her gift was designated for the establishment of the Harper-Bourne Chair of Excellence in Business.

APSU received the proceeds from the sale of Hodges' 96-acre Montgomery County farm, valued then at $250,000. Additionally, she gave APSU another $50,000 with the stipulation that it be matched three-for-one. The APSU Foundation raised the remaining $150,000.

This $450,000matched by state funds through the Centers of Excellence program provided $900,000 for the endowed chair, which was named in memory of Hodges' sister, Dorothy Harper, and in honor of her parents, James and Myrtis Bourne.

In 1935, Hodges married Herman W. Lay, then a distributor for an Atlanta potato chip company. They lived in Nashville until moving to Atlanta in 1939 to purchase the troubled snack-food company. Her husband changed the Atlanta company's name to H.W. Lay & Co. and became the first licensee of Fritos corn chips in the southeast U.S. Later, he ultimately purchased the rights to Frito products east of the Mississippi.

In 1961, the Lays moved to Dallas, when the H.W. Lay Co. merged with Frito Co., creating what was the first national snack-food company. The new company merged with PepsiCola Co. in 1965 to form PepsiCo. Inc.

The Lays became involved in business and civic affairs. Lay was the founding chair of the Baylor University Medical School Foundation Board. The couple supported many causes, including their gift of approximately $1.8 million for the Herman W. and Amelia H. Lay Family Concert Organ at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

In addition to her husband, James William “Bill” Hodges of Dallas, Mrs. Hodges is survived by her son, H. Ward Lay Jr., and two daughters, Susan Lay Atwell and Dorothy Lay, all of Dallas, as well as Mr. Hodges children, William Hodges Jr., Dallas, and Susan Bushman of Beaumont, nine grandchildren, four step-grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. -- Dennie B. Burke