RIP Margaret

Generous Dallas philanthropist Margaret McDermott dies at 106

Generous Dallas philanthropist Margaret McDermott dies at 106

Margaret McDermott
Margaret McDermott at the Toast to the Trails with a miniature of the bridge that bears her name. Photo by Dana Driensky and Daniel Driensky

Dallas philanthropist Margaret McDermott, one of the city's most generous benefactors, died on May 3; she was 106.

Her daughter, Mary McDermott Cook, confirmed the death to the Dallas Morning News.

A statement from the AT&T Performing Arts Center called McDermott "a tireless civic leader, philanthropist, and champion of both arts and education."

"She is the namesake of the Margaret McDermott Performance Hall in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House," the statement says, citing her $3 million gift in 1998 as the catalyst for the fundraising drive to build the $360 million dollar AT&T Performing Arts Center.

"Margaret knew what a world-class performing arts center would mean to Dallas, and she put her resources behind that vision," says Matrice Ellis-Kirk, chair of the AT&T Performing Arts Center Board of Directors, in a statement. "Her gift gave the fundraising campaign credibility and soon other donations followed. I just can't overstate how critical Margaret's support was to the Center's success."

Born in Austin on February 18, 1912, McDermott had a rich and colorful life that included an early stint as a society editor for the Dallas Morning News.

She was married to Eugene McDermott, who co-founded Texas Instruments and the Graduate Reseach Center of the Southwest, which eventually became the University of Texas at Dallas; he died in 1973.

The couple bequeathed millions of dollars to organizations such as the Dallas Museum of Art and UTD.

In addition to many financial gifts to the DMA, she donated more than 3,100 works including River Bank in Springtime by Vincent van Gogh, and she served as a museum trustee for 57 years.

Although she avoided the spotlight, that's her name on the Margaret McDermott Bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, which crosses over the Trinity River from I-30.

She is survived by her daughter Mary McDermott Cook, and her granddaughter Grace Ellen Cook. A memorial service will be held at the Meyerson Symphony Center.