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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

The Texan Recap: Preserving a historic golf course, a therapy dog nonprofit

Editor’s note: This podcast was originally published on Spotify on February 4, 2023.

In this episode of The Texan Recap, Senior Audio Producer Jack Lewellyn chats about efforts to preserve The “Muny,” a historic Austin golf course, and an Austin-based therapy dog nonprofit that is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Reported by Maryam Ahmed and Sarah Cooley. Hosted by Jack Lewellyn. Edited by Aislyn Gaddis. Cover art by Emma Berke. Music by Top Flow Productions.

*upbeat music*


Jack Lewellyn: Organizations in Austin are making an effort to preserve a historic golf course…and a local therapy dog nonprofit celebrates 20 years of volunteer work.


I’m your host this week, Jack Lewellyn and this is The Texan Recap.


Here’s what you missed this week.


*upbeat music*


Jack: The “Muny,” a historic Austin golf course, has Austinites calling for its preservation. Senior news reporter Maryam Ahmed is here to tell us all about it. Thanks for joining me, Maryam.


Maryam Ahmed: Thanks for having me, Jack. 


Jack: Starting off, could you tell me about the Muny? What exactly is it?


Maryam: So Muny is kind of a nickname for the Lions Municipal Golf Course, which is a couple miles from campus in downtown Austin.


It has a pretty big civil rights history. It was the first golf course in Austin to be desegregated, and it was actually one of the first golf courses in the entire South to be desegregated, so it has a lot of important civil rights history, and that’s why there are lots of these organizations calling for it to be preserved. 


Jack: What was UT’s plan for the Muny, and what happened to those plans?


Maryam: So, in 2019, UT announced its intentions to sell the land that Muny sits on, and essentially develop it with, like, condos, other things like that, but almost immediately after UT announced that, these groups like The Muny Conservancy rose up to essentially do battle with UT and City Hall to say, “No, this place is too important. We have to at the very least preserve the golf course for its sheer history.”


Jack: In your article, you mentioned some of those groups trying to preserve it, and I know you mentioned them by name just now, but could you tell me a bit more about them? 


Maryam: Yeah, so, I mainly dealt with The Muny Conservancy, and I actually got to talk to the co-chair and co-founder of The Muny Conservancy, Scotty Sayers.


He told me a bit more about their efforts, how essentially, they’ve had City Hall, essentially have these extensions to delay UT’s preservation. plans to sell and develop and while they’re buying this extra time, they’re trying to negotiate with UT and City Hall to have a more permanent solution. So that’s the end goal for The Muny Conservancy.


Jack: You talked a bit earlier about the history of the Muny and its sort of civil rights milestone, but could you talk more about its significance?


Maryam: Yeah, of course. So Scotty Sayers told me the story in a lot of detail, but essentially what happened was in the Jim Crow era, this was 1950, the golf course was very segregated and one day in 1950, these two black boys, one of them was a nine-year-old caddy, they just got on the golf course and started playing and given the segregated nature of the time, Muny staff basically pulled those boys off the course and called up the mayor to ask, “How do we deal with these guys? It’s a segregated golf course.”


And the mayor at the time famously said, “Let them play,” which led to a very peaceful desegregation of the golf course. And it led to a lot of other institutions in Austin, like the fire department and the libraries, also being desegregated as well. And Austin really just kind of took this step forward towards desegregation that pretty much no other city in the South was going towards at the time. 


Jack: I know you spoke to some other Austinites about their connection to the Muny other than people that worked in those organizations. What were some of the things that those people told you?


Maryam: Well, the main other person I talked to was the Texas president of the NAACP, and he told me mostly about how the NAACP got involved, how they were involved in putting Muny kind of in a national spotlight. And how kind of just the very nature of the NAACP being involved puts more pressure on City Hall and UT to preserve Muny.


Jack: That was Senior News Reporter Maryam Ahmed. Thanks again for joining me.


Maryam: Thank you so much for having me, Jack. 


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Jack: Divine Canines, an Austin-based therapy dog nonprofit is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Life & Arts General Reporter Sarah Cooley is here with the story. Thanks for joining me, Sarah.


Sarah Cooley: Thanks for having me. So, Divine Canines has been a nonprofit organization that helps train volunteers and their dogs to be a therapy team. And then these teams then go to sites to support people who need them. 


Jack: So, to elaborate on that further, what more does their organization do? 


Sarah: So, they train the dogs to a high standard, and then they take these dogs to sites like hospitals, rehab facilities, senior living places, and at schools like here at UT.


Jack: You also spoke to some of the people behind Divine Canines. What did they have to say? 


Sarah: So I spoke to the founder, Tori Keith, who told me about how the organization started with her and the dog whisperer, Lee Manix, which I went into a little bit in my story, and it’s fully explained on their website. I also learned how her dog was the model for the Divine Canines logo, and she credits the organization’s continued success to the volunteers who continue to be involved.


Jack: So you just mentioned a little bit earlier Divine Canines sort of connection to UT. Can you elaborate on that?


Sarah: So, since the Executive Director, Max Woodfin, began in 2013, Divine Canines started to work with more universities to help with study breaks for students. So UT was one of these universities. So the dogs of Divine Canines have been around campus quite a few times.


Jack: And now, how does Divine Canines function as a nonprofit? 


Sarah: So they’re able to function as a nonprofit through their active volunteers and a fundraiser that they do every year for the past 10 years in May called Barks for Beers where they partner with breweries which brings in 75 to 80 percent of their operating budget and this allows them to visit sites for free of cost for people who need some puppy love.


Jack: And then building off of all of that, you also spoke to some of their volunteers for your story. What did they have to say about their work? 

Sarah: So, when I spoke to Tori Keith, she told me about Lee Manix, who was the other founder of Divine Canines, and how insistent he was that the therapy dogs are trained to a high standard.


And, the volunteers and their dogs go through training with the trainer who, Max Woodfin explained to me, gets into the heads of both humans and dogs with his background in psychology and dog training. 


And so when talking to the volunteers, they talked about how great it was to work with their dogs through the process, and what I enjoyed most when talking with everyone were the stories that they had that really stuck with them during their experiences with Divine Canines, and it was great hearing about the impacts these dogs had on other people as well as the interactions the volunteers have had with clients.


Jack: That was General Life & Arts reporter Sarah Cooley. Thanks again for joining us.


Sarah: Thank you.


Jack: And that’s The Texan Recap for the week of January 29th. I’m Jack Lewellyn.


*upbeat music*


Jack: The Texan Recap is a production of The Daily Texan Audio Department.


If you liked this episode, make sure to subscribe to The Daily Texan on your streaming platform of choice and follow us on Twitter @texanaudio. 


This episode was hosted by me, Jack Lewellyn, and edited by Aislyn Gaddis. 


Special thanks to Maryam Ahmed and Sarah Cooley for their reporting and to Joelle Dipaolo, Mimi Calzada and Chloe Moore for contributing to this project. 


Cover art is by Emma Berke and music is by Top Flow Productions. To read the news stories in this episode or see more from the Texan, head on over to 


Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next week


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