Nancy Hamon's legacy is secure in Dallas

Nancy Hamon

Credit: SMU

Nancy Hamon was a Dallas civic leader, arts patron and philanthropist.




Posted on July 31, 2011 at 10:10 PM

DALLAS — You may not have known Nancy Hamon by name, but many have felt her impact on the Dallas arts scene.

She was a behind-the-scenes power broker whose generosity ignited cultural change and passion for the arts.

"She'll be missed," said Veletta Lill, executive director of the Dallas Arts District, and one of the few who knew Hamon well. "You know, they don't make folks like that any more."

The 92-year-old philanthropist and widow of oil tycoon Jack Hamon spent much of their fortune transforming Dallas' arts scene. Her death was announced this weekend.

"She was about ensuring that her gifts would live on," Lill said.

In 2005, she gave $10 million to Booker T. Washington High School. At the time, it was the largest gift ever given to a public school in the country.

Hamon donated another $1 million to the Dallas Public Library, and she bequeathed $20 to the Dallas Museum of Art, where her name graces a wing.

The Hamon name is also permanently etched in a reflecting pond outside the AT&T Performing Arts Center, a testament to the $10 million it received to construct a recital hall in her honor.

Even SMU's library is named after Nancy Hamon.

"She's known for her donations," Lill said. "We used to joke that when she died, she wanted her last check to bounce!"

Hamon, a former dancer, was convinced that art could productively transform lives... so much so that Veletta Lill is certain — once Hamon's last will and testament is read — that Dallas' arts scene could be in for a surprise.

Hamon, who has no known living survivors, considered her projects her "babies."

"I suspect there may be some surprises, but Dallas, I'm sure, will benefit from them," Lill said.

Hamon was also a huge supporter of the Dallas Zoo, the Museum of African American Life and Culture, and UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Nancy Hamon will be missed, but her legacy as an arts visionary is secure.

Funeral arrangements are pending.