Barbara B. Moroney, Bonnie B. Smith, and James E. Bass are a strong force in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Their recent gift supports the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center in its work to find effective treatments for brain diseases and enhance the lives of Alzheimer’s patients.

Their gift honors their mother, Rita Clements, who died in 2018 from complications of Alzheimer’s at the age of 86. Married for 36 years to former Texas Gov. William P. Clements Jr., who died in 2011, Mrs. Clements is remembered for her extensive contributions to the City of Dallas and to the State of Texas as a First Lady of Texas, a member of The University of Texas Board of Regents, a political and community leader, and a philanthropist.

family photo

Top Row: Bonnie Bass Smith, Barbara Bass Moroney Front Row: Jim Bass, the late Rita Clements, Dan Bass

Mrs. Moroney is familiar with the deprivations arising from Alzheimer’s, having walked this road with her mother-in-law who endured the disease for many years. Later, when Mrs. Clements herself began showing signs, Mrs. Moroney knew something was not right.

“My mother was calling us and having the same conversations. I had lived this before. The sadness of Alzheimer’s is that it silences people and robs them of their essence. Our mother’s intellect was a beautiful gift that she had her entire life. She stepped into many leadership roles and was well respected in the community. She came to meetings prepared and always had very insightful and important contributions to make. Alzheimer’s robbed her of that intellect, and it was sad for us to watch her suffer.”

Barbara Bass Moroney

The siblings’ father, Richard D. Bass, was a businessman, rancher, and mountaineer who owned the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. He was the first human to climb the “Seven Summits,” the tallest mountain on each continent, and introduced his children to adventure in the great outdoors. He died in 2015 after a lengthy illness with pulmonary fibrosis.

Believing that every disease is a part of life’s journey and a hardship that everyone endures, the siblings embraced the opportunity to walk alongside their parents during their final years.

As Mrs. Moroney highlighted, “We were glad to have had that time with them. We nurtured them the same way they nurtured us growing up. We spent extensive time with each of them, which strengthened our relationships with each other in a wonderful way. I have so much pride and admiration for Bonnie and Jim. We have raised our children, and now we get to spend time with each other, first as caregivers and, with this gift, as philanthropists reaching our arms out into the community.”

Intergenerational giving

Mr. Bass describes how each generation strengthens his family’s legacy.

“While we grew up, our parents were making a difference in our community and in building businesses that celebrated family togetherness. They came from families that emphasized integrity, academic achievement, hard work, and giving back to one’s community as guiding principles for living a good life. Our parents passed those principles on to us, as we are trying to do with our own children.”

Jim Bass

He appreciates the valuable life lessons he gained through interactions with previous generations of philanthropists and leaders.

“Prior generations of family, friends and acquaintances taught us important lessons by example. They were leaders and contributors in our community, making a huge difference. On many occasions after a conversation, I remember walking away thinking ‘I want to give back to our community.’ They told us how important it is to share stories with younger people about being responsible in caring for their communities. Their ‘can-do’ attitude greatly impacted me,” said Mr. Bass.

Every December, Barbara, Bonnie and Jim ask their children to each designate a charity to receive a gift from the family’s foundation so they can learn about each other’s interests and experience helping others.

“Hopefully through each generation of giving, we can make a difference. We can contribute to research scientists, doctors, and others who have the tools to better the world today and tomorrow.”

Bonnie Bass Smith

Longtime friends of Southwestern Medical Foundation

The family has supported Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern Medical Center for many years. Along with gifts from their family foundations, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Moroney, and Mr. Bass have made personal gifts to create the Rita Clements Center for Clinical Research in Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and the Rita Clements Chair in Brain Research to support depression/bipolar and Alzheimer’s translational research. Mrs. Smith is also an active member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and she sits on the Campaign for the Brain Steering Committee to ensure success of the O’Donnell Brain Institute.

“Our parents taught us to be independent individuals and wanted us to pursue our lives as they pursued theirs. I have so much joy in being able to gift from our parents’ estates. It is really an extension of their successful lives and their philanthropic desires. We have been fortunate to be able to disburse the funds, while also giving from our own resources. We have enjoyed doing it together,” said Mrs. Smith.

“The legacy of this wonderful family has inspired me for many years. Like their far-sighted and accomplished parents, Barbara, Bonnie, and Jim have embraced the opportunities they have to lead in service to community, serve as example to others, and make strategic investments so that our community can thrive and prosper.  We are tremendously grateful for their generosity, leadership and support.” Kathleen M. Gibson, President & CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation


Read more of our 2020 Planning Matters Fall series:

Welcoming Dr. Dauer, Inaugural Director of O’Donnell Brain Institute

CARES Act: What it Means for Your Year-End Giving

Halbreichs Create Legacy Gift in Support of Peter O’Donnell Brain Institute Campaign for the Brain

The Heritage Society – Celebrating 25 Years