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Performance Hall Namesake Set Standard For Cultural Giving

The AT&T Performing Arts Center is mourning the loss of Margaret McDermott, who passed away today at age 106. Mrs. McDermott was 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. Her gift of $3 million in 1998 was 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,” said Matrice Ellis-Kirk, chair of the AT&T Performing Arts Center Board of Directors. “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 Margaret Milam, she was the society editor of The Dallas Morning News during the Great Depression, covering 1930s debutante balls and charity events. She married Eugene McDermott, cofounder of Geophysical Service Inc. which was to become Texas Instruments. In turn, the McDermotts used their fortune to support the city’s arts institutions, setting the standard for philanthropy in Dallas.

“Thanks to her family’s passion for the arts, which spans decades, Dallas is now recognized as a leading center of art, architecture and culture,” said Caren Prothro, a Lifetime Trustee of the Center’s Board of Directors. “From symphony and performance halls to graceful bridges over the Trinity, Margaret left an indelible stamp on Dallas.”

While Mrs. McDermott’s initial contribution jump-started the Center’s campaign, she and the McDermott Family Foundation continued to support the Center by providing a total of more than $10.5 million in funding. Additionally, Texas Instruments established a $5 million challenge grant in her honor to name the performance hall in the Winspear Opera House as a gift to her. The grant exceeded the challenge, raising $16 million.

The McDermott family and TI’s generosity also left the Dallas Arts District blessed with two of the world’s finest acoustic performance halls right next door to each other: Margaret McDermott Performance Hall in the Winspear Opera House and Eugene McDermott Concert Hall in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

Read more about Margaret McDermott in The Dallas Morning News.

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