Margaret McDermott in 2007. Photo: Kristina Bowman / Art&Seek.

Margaret McDermott (1912–2018)

Margaret McDermott, a visionary and longtime patron of the arts who gave millions in support of culture, education, and science, has died. The Texan was 106 years old. Through her philanthropy over the last six decades, McDermott helped transform the city of Dallas, including Highland Park, where she grew up.

Among the many institutions to benefit from McDermott’s generosity is the Dallas Museum of Art. She served on its board of trustees for fifty-seven years, during which time she donated 3,100 artworks to the museum, helped it acquire countless pieces, endowed several leadership positions, and funded educational programming, among other initiatives.

Margaret McDermott’s engagement with us for more than half a century ignited the museum’s growth from a regional museum to one of international prominence,” said the museum’s board chair Melissa Foster Fetter. Agustín Arteaga, the museum’s director, described her contributions as “unparalleled.”

“She touched every area of the museum, including a remarkable collection, an amazing facility, a superior staff, and significant support of our endowment,” Arteaga said. “She set an outstanding example of unwavering generosity and personal engagement with the DMA, which served as encouragement for her peers and has inspired generations of philanthropists to invest in our institution and to serve our community.” He added: “She loved the museum and everyone loved her, beyond the imaginable. She was knowledgeable, smart, witty, and fun. We will all miss her.”

Born in Highland Park in 1912, McDermott attended the University of Texas before she began working as a newspaper reporter for the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News. She was married to leading philanthropist Eugene McDermott, the former cofounder of Texas Instruments who passed away in 1973, for nineteen years. Together they donated to various organizations including the University of Texas at Dallas, which they supported since its inception. Eugene cofounded the Graduate Center of the Southwest, which later became the University of Texas at Dallas, in 1961.

Among the many projects McDermott has contributed to are Dallas’s Trinity River bridges, designed by Santiago Calatrava; the AT&T Performing Arts Center; the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture; and the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center’s Eugene McDermott Concert Hall.

“The canvas for Margaret McDermott was the entire city,” Gail Thomas, the retired head of the Trinity Trust and a longtime friend of McDermott, told Art&Seek. “Amazingly, in some way, she has helped every nonprofit in this town.”