Edith O’Donnell, a community leader and philanthropist, passed away on November 14 at the age of 94. Mrs. O’Donnell’s contributions to art, science, education, and medicine have had a lasting impact on Dallas and beyond.

Photo of Edith and Peter O'Donnell

Pictured above are Peter and Edith O’Donnell. Support from the O’Donnell Foundation has fueled medical progress, support for the arts, scientific discovery, and advances in education.

Notably, Edith O’Donnell and her husband, Peter O’Donnell, led tremendous progress in medicine through their contributions to UT Southwestern Medical Center. In 2015, the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved the establishment of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern. A $36 million gift from the O’Donnell Foundation enabled UT Southwestern to create this new Institute.

“Edith was a beacon of inspiration for both her generous spirit and the potential she saw in others. The investments she made with Peter through the O’Donnell Foundation were transformative, forever shaping our region for the better. It was an honor to know her and remains an honor to carry on her impact through the Foundation.” 

-William T. (Bill) Solomon, President and CEO, O’Donnell Foundation

The Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern is a comprehensive center dedicated to better understanding the basic molecular workings of the brain and applying these discoveries to the prevention and treatment of brain diseases and injuries. The Institute brings together world leaders in science and medicine, driving forward innovation and discovery in neuroscience. Today, the Institute is leading breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s treatment, unveiling new insights about the body’s circadian rhythms, providing hope for patients with depression, and revealing new ways to combat genetic diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“Edith O’Donnell’s relentless pursuit of a better future for our community has influenced every aspect of human flourishing – art, education, and healing. We are saddened by the loss of a philanthropic hero, but take comfort in knowing that the spirit of her passion and generosity will live on in meaningful ways.”

-Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO, Southwestern Medical Foundation 

Edith and Peter O’Donnell have invested deeply in the future of Dallas. Edith O’Donnell was a strong advocate and supporter of art and education, providing unparalleled support to the University of Texas at Dallas, the Dallas Museum of Art, and UT Southwestern.

Edith O’Donnell was a strong advocate for arts and education. This intersection of her passions can be witnessed throughout the campus of the University of Texas at Dallas, where the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History is housed in offices on campus, including the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology building, which hosts courses from UTD’s Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication program and continues shaping the future of students for generations to come.

The advances in medicine enabled by Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr.’s support at UT Southwestern Medical Center are a timeless testament to the purpose-driven life she led. We cherish Edith O’Donnell’s memory and celebrate her leadership, generosity, and the remarkable legacy she leaves behind.


Read Edith O’Donnell’s full obituary here