On Oct. 18, nearly 300 alumni, corporate partners, faculty, staff and students gathered in the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center for The University of Texas at Dallas’ annual donor celebration recognizing the University’s many supporters. Chief among these was the late Mrs. Margaret McDermott, whose generous contributions to UT Dallas throughout her lifetime were acknowledged during the event with the renaming of the Margaret McDermott Mall and Margaret McDermott Trellis Plaza. Following a record year of fundraising for UT Dallas, there was much to celebrate. Over the course of the 2018 fiscal year, more than 7,100 donors contributed over $59 million to causes around the University, the second-highest philanthropic giving total in UT Dallas history. Dr. Kyle Edgington, vice president for development and alumni relations, pointed out the critical role that supporters play in catalyzing the University’s success. “UT Dallas is the fourth fastest-growing public university in the United States,” he told the crowd. “We are extremely proud of that, and your philanthropic support is the engine driving everything we do.” Amidst green and orange decorations and the musical stylings of the Texas Instruments Jazz Band, UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson mused that the Celebration of Support may be the second happiest day on campus each year after commencement. “This University is growing by leaps and bounds,” Benson said. “It is wonderful to recognize the people who have been so generous to UT Dallas. This includes individuals, longtime corporate sponsors, friends of our institution and especially students and staff who have also chosen to give back to our community.”
At a time when wives often remained in the background, Mrs. McDermott took a leading role at UTD and around Dallas. What a way to remember her legacy.
– Erica Yaeger MBA’02
Recent graduate Issac Vilchis BS’18 echoed the president’s message. A first-time donor to UT Dallas last year, Vilchis was motivated by his experience in the University’s Academic Bridge Program to begin helping future UTD students in the same way in which he benefited from past alumni support. “It’s important to recognize those people who use their time and resources to help others,” he said. The evening’s highlight was President Benson’s public announcement that the UT Dallas Campus Mall and Trellis Plaza would be renamed in honor of Mrs. Margaret McDermott. The wife of University co-founder Eugene McDermott, Mrs. McDermott lent her vision and indomitable spirit to the project of transforming UT Dallas into an accessible home for generations of Comets. Known throughout the Dallas area for her philanthropic endeavors, Mrs. McDermott is credited at UT Dallas with transforming a concrete-filled prairie into one of the most aesthetically unique campuses in Texas. The focal point of her efforts can be found in the central mall and Trellis Plaza, two of UT Dallas’ most iconic destinations that serve as the spiritual heart of campus. Erica Yaeger MBA’02 reflected on the importance of this renaming. “Mrs. McDermott was a visionary woman,” Yaeger said. “At a time when wives often remained in the background, Mrs. McDermott took a leading role at UTD and around Dallas. What a way to remember her legacy.” Mrs. McDermott’s support extended beyond campus beautification. She also endowed the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program, which provides full scholarship support to some of UT Dallas’ most talented and deserving students. Scholars also enjoyed a personal relationship with Mrs. McDermott, which included invitations to her home for salons and networking events. Several current and past McDermott Scholars joined the evening to remember their benefactor. “A lot of Mrs. McDermott’s support over the years was either anonymous or done in her husband’s name,” said Megan Coker BA’10, a 2006 McDermott Scholar and president of the program’s alumni association. “But she continued to take an interest in our lives even after graduation, so it’s nice to be able to see her legacy continue through this renaming.”