In Memoriam: Nancy Hamon, dedicated champion of arts, education, UT Southwestern

By Rachel Skei Donihoo / October 2011

Dallas philanthropist Nancy Hamon, a renowned champion of education and the arts, died in July at age 92. Beloved for her good humor and timeless style, the Texas native was legendary for her unflagging dedication to the causes in which she believed.

Nancy Hamon
Nancy Hamon

“Nancy Hamon possessed a unique combination of charm, wit, and generosity,” said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of UT Southwestern from 1986 to 2008 and now president of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “For decades, she was famous as one of Dallas’ most notable and creative hostesses, and she was famous for the clever – but never unkind – spontaneous quips that characterized her conversation. But her lasting reputation and legacy will be as one of America’s greatest philanthropists. 

“UT Southwestern was fortunate to be the largest single beneficiary of her generosity, with a major research building, two research centers, two distinguished chairs, a breast cancer treatment center (named after her friend, Dr. George Peters), and a student activities center (named after another friend, Dr. Bryan Williams) being among her many donations to the medical center.  She will be remembered forever as one of the most influential and delightful supporters in the medical center’s history.”

Mrs. Hamon was born in San Antonio in 1918 and attended UT Austin. She briefly worked as a Hollywood dancer and actress, appearing in a handful of 1940s films before returning to Texas and marrying famed oilman Jake Hamon in 1949.

After the deaths of her son in 1984 and her husband in 1985, Mrs. Hamon devoted her life to philanthropy.

Her numerous gifts to UT Southwestern include a $25 million donation to the medical center’s Fund for Molecular Research. Part of the gift – $15 million – established the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research, the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Basic Research in Cancer and two distinguished chairs in those fields. The remaining funds were used to help construct the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Biomedical Research Building on the North Campus. In 1999 she gave a $4 million challenge grant to launch a campaign to build the Bryan Williams, M.D. Student Center. In 2005 she gave a $1.5 million challenge grant to help establish the $3 million George N. Peters, M.D., Center for Breast Surgery.

"Nancy was a wonderful lady who enjoyed life and had consummate faith in UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Willis Maddrey, Professor of Internal Medicine and Assistant to the President. “She will always be remembered as a stalwart advocate of Dallas whose love of art, medical science and education is evident in nearly every corner of the city. She was impressed by the direction that UT Southwestern was heading, and she said many times that she was proud to be a part of it. She was greatly admired by those of us who were lucky enough to know her, and she is missed.”

Mrs. Hamon also gave generously to other institutions in Dallas and beyond, including – among many others – Southern Methodist University; Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts; the Dallas Opera; the Dallas Symphony; the Dallas Zoo; the African American Museum; Texas Ballet Theater; and California Pacific Medical Center and the de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where she had a second home.

Her $10 million gift to the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation helped build an education and recital hall named in her honor; and a $20 million gift to the Dallas Museum of Art helped fund construction of the Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building, a 140,000-square-foot wing for collections and special exhibitions.

Her sole survivors are the grandchildren and nephew of her late husband.

Dr. Wildenthal holds the Carolyn P. and Frank M. Ryburn Jr. Distinguished Chair in Basic Research in Heart Disease.

Dr. Maddrey holds the Adelyn and Edmund M. Hoffman Distinguished Chair in Medical Science and the Arnold N. and Carol S. Ablon Professorship in Biomedical Science.