The influence of the McDermott family on the flourishing of our community spans back decades, permeating several aspects of well-being for Dallas citizens – from art, to health care, to leading medical research.
The McDermotts’ dedication to the community is personified by a long history of giving to several academic institutions, including UT Southwestern Medical Center and The University of Texas at Dallas.
A scientist, businessman, and philanthropist, Eugene McDermott began the enduring legacy of giving back to our community as early as 1950, when he co-founded the St. Mark’s School of Texas. With J. Erik Jonsson and Cecil Green, he also co-founded the company that became known as Texas Instruments.
Through significant gifts to universities such as Southern Methodist University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and UT Southwestern Medical Center, he helped advance higher education throughout the entire Texas region. In 1961, Mr. McDermott also co-founded the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, known today as The University of Texas at Dallas.
Over several years, Mr. McDermott and his wife, Margaret McDermott, demonstrated an unwavering support for UT Southwestern through numerous gifts. This includes establishing the Eugene McDermott Academic Administration Building and Plaza, the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development, the Eugene McDermott Center for Pain Management, the Eugene McDermott Distinguished Chair for the Study of Human Growth and Development, the Eugene McDermott Scholar in Medical Research, and several other contributions that have shaped the course of UT Southwestern’s growth and development.
Mrs. McDermott continued her husband’s legacy for the rest of her life. In 2000, she gave $32 million to UT Dallas, creating the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program. The program creates a sustainable funding source for elite scholars, attracting top talent to the Dallas area.
Mrs. McDermott’s affinity for art shined through in her philanthropic endeavors. Aside from her involvement and support of the Dallas Public Library, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Dallas Symphony of Orchestra, she also personally donated pieces of her art collection, adding a characteristic charm to her gifts. Her appreciation for beautiful expressions can still be witnessed today at the UT Southwestern University Hospital – Zale Lipshy, where the vibrant colors and patterns of 300 traditional Asian textiles line the hallways. The unique merging of health and art was a result of her leadership in 1986, when she suggested a partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art to help humanize the hospital’s interior.
Mrs. McDermott also gave a $4.5 million gift with the Eugene McDermott Foundation to the William P. Clements Jr. Hospital to ensure it has the “very best” landscaping.
“When you’re in the hospital, it can be so sad. I want to do something for the sadness.”
Margaret McDermott’s love for art leaves its impression on the city of Dallas today, through inspiring structures like the Margaret McDermott Bridge and through her art collection publications at the Dallas Museum of Art, including An Enduring Legacy: The McDermott Collection of Impressionist and Modern Art and Reflections. Similarly, pieces from Margaret McDermott’s collection adorn the walls of the Southwestern Medical Foundation office, serving as a lasting testament of her imagination.
In 1993, Southwestern Medical Foundation presented The Sprague Award to Mrs. McDermott. The award signifies the Foundation’s most prestigious accolade for community support — a well-deserved honor for a woman who dedicated her life to improving her native city with an unrivaled beauty and passion.
Generations of Impact
Eugene and Margaret McDermott’s dedication to improving our community was shared by their daughter, Mary McDermott Cook. Mary Cook is the President of the Eugene McDermott Foundation and serves as a Trustee on the Board of Southwestern Medical Foundation.
As President of the family’s Foundation, she continues her parents’ philanthropic impact in her own right, carrying out their civic legacy through projects that improve the Dallas community.
Mary Cook dedicates herself to improving the nature preservation, environmental quality, landscaping, and recreational aspects of the community through her leadership as Chair of the Trinity Trust Board, Vice Chair of the Dallas Museum of Art Board, and Executive Committee member of the Dallas Zoological Society. She is also a founding member of the Trinity River Audubon Center. One of her most notable initiatives was the Trinity River Corridor Project, the most ambitious public works project in the nation, that has transformed Dallas forever by improving the 20-mile riverfront area that runs through the heart of the city.
“My father had great respect – as do I – for the fine minds at work throughout the medical center, so he took great pleasure in the friendships he formed there and was proud to be a part of its growth. He was an incredibly smart man, so he did very well for our family. Giving back was part of his life, and he encouraged me to make it part of mine.”
Mary McDermott Cook, President of the Eugene McDermott Foundation, Southwestern Medical Foundation Trustee
For her outstanding life’s work, which has greatly benefitted both Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern, Ms. Cook was the second McDermott family member to be awarded The Sprague Award in 2011.
Continuing the Family Business
Today, Mary Cook’s daughter and Margaret McDermott’s granddaughter, Grace Cook, continues the family business of giving back to the community through her leadership as a Steering Committee Member of The Cary Council.
The Cary Council is dedicated to advancing the importance of early-stage research, in support of Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern. Through engaging programming, the group is catalyzing a new generation of community leaders and building awareness of the missions of these two institutions.
Grace Cook helps lead The Cary Council’s efforts in supporting the careers of young investigators who are driving breakthroughs in medicine.
“There are so many ways to give back to Dallas and each generation must finds its own way to make its mark. My Grandmother had passion for making the interior spaces of Dallas beautiful, my mom has passion for making the exterior spaces of Dallas beautiful, and I have passion for supporting the people who benefit from my family’s work. The vibrancy found in individual expression keeps the involvement meaningful to the donor.”
Grace Cook, Steering Committee Member, The Cary Council
Through The Cary Council’s signature event, An Evening with DocStars, community members have the opportunity to learn about the groundbreaking research taking place in the labs of UT Southwestern. The Cary Council supports young investigators, “DocStars,” who are in the earlier stages of leading-edge research. Through their fundraising efforts, The Cary Council has raised more than $300,000 to support UT Southwestern investigators who are on the cusp of life-changing medical advances. This seed funding has helped those investigators raise more than 10 times The Cary Council’s original investment. Grace is co-chairing An Evening with DocStars in 2020, which will be held April 17 on the UT Southwestern campus.
Grace Cook honors the legacy of her family, weaving their philanthropic imprint into her own work as a servant leader of the community.
“The Cary Council is blazing a path for young professionals for years to become a part of something that is becoming fundamental. I look forward to inviting the next class of Dallas devotees to be a part of our mission to support UT Southwestern and Southwestern Medical Foundation, or, better yet, create their own”
Grace Cook, Steering Committee Member of The Cary Council
The McDermott family represents the momentous impact of generosity: a wave of goodwill with the power to resonate for decades. We applaud their sustained community support that has transformed our city and continues to touch the lives of millions. The future of our community will continue to benefit from the inspired work of this family.