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Margaret McDermott
A member of DCCCD’s inaugural board of trustees who deeply appreciated the arts, Margaret McDermott generously supported our students through the years.

​Contact: Ann Hatch

For immediate release — May 3, 2018

(DALLAS) — Margaret McDermott was breaking the glass ceiling more than 50 years ago as the first woman to serve as a member of the Dallas County Community College District’s inaugural board of trustees. She also was well-known for decades as a significant contributor to higher education, the arts and the Dallas community. The former DCCCD trustee and generous donor, who preferred to be known as Mrs. Eugene McDermott, passed away on Thursday, May 3.

“Mrs. McDermott has supported the Dallas County Community College District since it was created — when it was called the Dallas County Junior College District,” said Dr. Joe May, DCCCD’s chancellor. “She was dedicated to our students, to sharing the arts with everyone, to breaking new ground through our STEM Institute and to the success of this district. She leaves a lasting legacy that we will never forget.”

McDermott’s financial support and her involvement with the DCCCD Foundation brought scholarships to students who needed them; funds for the DCCCD STEM Institute; and an appreciation for the arts — especially students’ works — with money that created the Founders Foyer at the District Office, which continues to feature a rotating student art exhibit and an artists’ reception twice a year to showcase their creations.

Over the years, gifts from Mrs. McDermott and the Eugene McDermott Foundation to the DCCCD Foundation totaled more than $2.45 million.

With McDermott’s extraordinary aesthetic guidance, DCCCD’s seven colleges were built by different architects from around the country, with national, award-winning designs. Throughout her long and productive life, she believed that beauty is a necessary part of function. “As a great city must be beautiful,” she once said, “an outstanding college shall also be beautiful.”

During her early years of involvement with DCCCD, McDermott purchased art for several of the district’s colleges, and she also commissioned a piece familiar to many people who have visited the District Office, first at 701 Elm St., and then at 1601 S. Lamar St. The quilted piece features logos for each college and the district.

Her love of art was reflected in the floral arrangements she donated on a regular basis to several DCCCD offices — a practice that started when Richland College offered a horticultural program and has continued through the years, even today.

Her wisdom and dedication to higher education — whether it was DCCCD or several other colleges and universities — was a testimonial to an individual who was a philanthropist and who valued arts, education and science.

Margaret McDermott and other original DCCCD board members
Margaret McDermott (left) joins R.L. Thornton II (center) and founding Chancellor Bill J. Priest at an early meeting of the DCCCD Board of Trustees.

In a 1970 DCJCD edition of “Outlook,” McDermott recalled the board’s early days.

“After their election in the spring of 1965, the Dallas County Junior College trustees faced problems that even the hardest-pressed college boards would seek to avoid,” she wrote. “Several members had never met, much less worked together. They had no dedicated chancellor, creative staff and faculty, constructive program, an inch of land or a student.”

McDermott continued, “However, from the first meeting, there was one unifying determination — that the Dallas County Junior College system stress excellence and endeavor to be outstanding in the nation. The hiring of Chancellor Bill J. Priest, his selection of first-rate associates and faculty, acquisition of valuable property, and the opening of El Centro with its fine student body brought the planned impact.”

McDermott, a former journalist who wrote for the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News, was an alumna of the University of Texas. She served as a society editor and, again, was breaking the glass ceiling in that field many decades ago.

Married to Eugene McDermott, she and her husband — who co-founded Geophysical Service Inc. and its offspring, Texas Instruments — established a foundation that has provided millions of dollars to civic, cultural and educational organizations. Some of those civic organizations included the Dallas Public Library, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Opera and the Dallas Arboretum, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Other recipients included the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and St. Mark’s School of Texas, among many other institutions.

McDermott also served on other foundations and boards of directors in the business sector, arts and theater, and she received numerous arts, education and civic awards, all recognizing her service and philanthropic practices.

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