Farewell to Philanthropist Nancy Hamon, Who Helped Foot the Bill For Dallas's Arts Scene

When word came down earlier this evening that Nancy Hamon had died at 92, I immediately thought of the unfortunate dust-up three Julys ago, when some folks, among them Joyce Foreman and Carla Ranger, voiced their displeasure with the Dallas ISD's decision to put Hamon's name on the side of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts -- a decision based solely upon the fact she donated $10 million toward the facility. That silly name game promoted Schutze to note, finally, that Hamon -- a San Antonio native, a UT-Austin grad, a donor to every arts organization in town, damn near -- is "not at all show-offy and ....probably had nothing to do with the signage issue."

Absolutely not: Though Hamon, who married oil-and-gas man Jake in '49, donated countless millions toward everything from Dallas Opera to the Dallas Historical Society to the AFI Dallas to ... look, everything else, few in town probably know who she is or what she's done with her money. It's like then-SMU Meadows School of the Arts Dean Carole Brandt said in 2000, when Hamon received her honorary degree, "Mrs. Hamon has always lived out loud through grand curiosity, impatient expectations and personal commitment to that which is beautiful. The Meadows School celebrates her extraordinary vision and support of the literary, visual and performing arts. She has made a difference in them all."

All manner of tributes pour in this evening, among them one from the AT&T Performing Arts Center, toward which Hamon put $10 million in '08. Says Bess Enloe, co-chair of the AT&TPAC's board, "Nancy always expressed such joy and vitality in her life, and that just extended to her giving, especially with the arts. She understood how art can transform lives for the better and how they help define a great city."

Update at 10:43 p.m.: Then there's this, just in from SMU President Gerald Turner, who says, "Nancy Hamon's impact on the arts at SMU and in Dallas was profound. Her personality was a force of nature that made her a natural leader. She will be missed by all of us, but her legacy as an arts visionary is secure."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky