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Arts patron Nancy Hamon dies

July 31, 2011

DALLAS (SMU) – Noted Dallas philanthropist Nancy Hamon, an arts visionary who became a major contributor to the arts at SMU and beyond, died Saturday.

Nancy Hamon
Nancy Hamon
Mrs. Hamon leaves a legacy of generosity and commitment to philanthropy, which included major gifts to SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and the Meadows Museum at SMU.

“Nancy Hamon’s impact on the arts at SMU and in Dallas was profound,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Her personality was a force of nature that made her a natural leader. She will be missed by all of us, but her legacy as an arts visionary is secure.”

Mrs. Hamon's contributions to SMU included her principal gift of $5 million to establish the Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library in the Meadows School of the Arts. Her husband, Jake Hamon, preceded her in death in 1985. In addition, she gave $1 million to the Dean's Discretionary Fund of the Meadows School of the Arts.

Mrs. Hamon also gave $1 million to create the Jake and Nancy Hamon Galleries exhibition space at the Museum.

Most recently, Mrs. Hamon contributed in 2009 to the renovation of the Meadows Museum Plaza and to the acquisition of a sculpture by contemporary Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

Caren Prothro, chair of the SMU Board of Trustees, praised Mrs. Hamon's contributions to SMU and the community.

“Dallas has lost an extraordinarily generous benefactor with the passing of Nancy Hamon," Mrs. Prothro said. "SMU has been blessed by her decades of generosity, notably the gift of  the Nancy and Jake Hamon Arts Library, her support of the Meadows Museum and the Meadows School of the Arts. She often expressed her fondness for her good friend, the late Greer Garson, and took delight in having the Nancy and Jake Hamon Arts Library located next to The Greer Garson Theater on the SMU campus.

"Her decades of support for the arts in Dallas has been pivotal in the development and growth of the downtown Dallas Arts District," Mrs. Prothro added. "My husband (the late C. Vincent "Vin" Prothro) was President of the Board of Trustees of the Dallas Museum of Art in the early 1980s when Nancy Hamon gave the historic $20 million gift to double the size of  the DMA.  He promised her that she would have a great time in the process of constructing the Hamon Building, and she did.  There was a big party when it was completed, and being a true party lady, Nancy was in her element!

"Additional major building campaign gifts to The Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet School and the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts  elevated Dallas to its ascendency as an internationally recognized cultural center.  The citizens of Dallas owe a debt of gratitude to a great lady, a truly one- of- a- kind philanthropist whose large life and reach literally transformed our city and made it what it is today.”    

In 1995, Mrs. Hamon received SMU's Foundation for the Future Award honoring individuals whose longtime service and philanthropy have had a lasting impact on the University. She received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from SMU at its May 2000 commencement, when she was cited for having "nurtured and transformed the city's major cultural institutions." She has served SMU on the boards of Meadows School of the Arts and the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in Dedman College.

Jose Bowen, dean of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts, said, "We are very sad about the loss of our friend, Nancy Hamon. Her life has meant so much to so many people in all walks of life – the Arts, Education and Medicine. We at the Meadows School of the Arts are extremely proud to call her our friend, board member and generous donor. Her generosity to the MSA and the Meadows Museum has affected so many in Dallas and her legacy will long be remembered and her gift of her friendship cannot be measured."

Born in San Antonio, Mrs. Hamon attended the University of Texas at Austin. In 1949, she married Jake L. Hamon and moved to Dallas, the national headquarters for her husband’s oil and gas operations company. Mrs. Hamon became the owner and president of Hamon Operating Company after the death of her husband in 1985.

In Dallas, Mrs. Hamon was a major donor to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the Dallas Opera, the Dallas Zoological Society, the Dallas Historical Society and the Museum of African-American Life and Culture, as well as the Dallas Museum of Art and the Hamon Arts Library.

Other beneficiaries of her generosity included the San Antonio Museums Association, the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio; the Legion of Honor, the deYoung Museums and the Grace Cathedral, all in San Francisco; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

She was awarded the TACA-James K. Wilson Silver Cup Award in 1990, the Flora Award in 1992 and the prestigious Linz Award in 1994 for her many philanthropic efforts.

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