Through their involvement and philanthropy dedicated to the arts and sciences, Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler are one of the most generous couples in Austin. Sarah, a retired educator, and Dr. Butler, a retired otolaryngologist and founder of the Austin Ear Nose and Throat Clinic, are native Texans and attended Baylor University. They moved to Austin in 1969 and quickly became involved in many arts organizations. Throughout the years, they have not only become generous donors, but have also contributed their time and leadership skills as board and committee members. Sarah is the current Chair Ballet Austin's Board of Directors and the chair of the Ballet Austin Foundation' s Board of Trustees.
Through the Butler Family Fund, established in 1997, the Butlers have supported some of Austin’s largest arts programs and venues including Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center and the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness; the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music and the Sarah and Ernest Butler Opera Center at The University of Texas at Austin; Focus Gallery at The Blanton Museum of Art; the Long Center for the Performing Arts; the Austin Opera; and the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
Additionally, their Family Fund has endowed Ballet Austin’s Artistic Director, the Ballet Austin Academy, Night of Community, Ballet Austin II, fully endowed the Butler Fellowship Program, and with their most recent gift, The Butler New Choreography Endowment. Of all of the awards and accolades bestowed upon the Butlers, perhaps the most unique was in 2010 when a newly discovered Jurassic period dinosaur was named after Sarah, "the Sarahsaurus," in appreciation of the Butlers’ generous support and fundraising efforts for the Dino Pit.
In June 2016, the Butlers received the prestigious national Champion Award by Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance in America, for their extensive support of aspiring professional dancers through the Ballet Austin II program and the Butler Fellowship Program that provides up to 15 fully funded annual scholarships to post-high school dancers rom accross the United States in their final year of training.
Dr. Ernest and Sarah Butler’s contributions to arts organizations have not only allowed Austin to have some incredible spaces for art to be performed, rehearsed or exhibited, but also for Austinites to continue to enjoy art and culture through their consistent and unfailing support. Undoubtedly, their passion and philanthropy helped to shape and sustain the arts in Austin.