magnolia on campus mall
Magnolia-lined reflecting pools run the length of the Margaret McDermott Mall from the Naveen Jindal School of Management to the Eugene McDermott Library. In 2005 Margaret McDermott made a truly transformative impact by contributing funds to improve the UT Dallas landscape. This led to the selection of famed architect Peter Walker to design and implement a total transformation of the University’s 500-acre campus.

The McDermott Legacy

Margaret McDermott was passionate about The University of Texas at Dallas. The impact of her philanthropy has forever transformed the young institution that was co-founded by her husband, Eugene McDermott. Distinctive landscaping and outdoor spaces, art installations, and an increasingly accomplished, competitive student body are hallmarks of the McDermott legacy.

The pre-eminent private benefactor of the University, Margaret McDermott donated $32 million in 2000 to establish the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program. The program attracts bright students from around the world with both its academic curriculum and its focus on experiential learning. From the beginning, McDermott made it a priority to engage the scholars by hosting them at an annual cookout and weekly lunches at her ranch in Allen. Service, study abroad and arts-engagement components remain central to the program, which now numbers more than 300 current and former scholars.

Margaret and Eugene McDermottMargaret McDermott poses with her husband, UT Dallas co-founder Eugene McDermott, a Brooklyn-born geophysicist who was chairman of Texas Instruments, Inc. He died in 1973; she passed away in May 2018.

The significant investment in people also extended to the creation of the Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellows Program in 2014 as an analog to the undergraduate program. Her generosity also made possible several faculty chairs, professorships and fellows and the naming of the University’s Hobson Wildenthal Honors College, which honors Wildenthal, executive vice president and the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Chair of Academic Leadership.

McDermott Scholars
In 2000 Margaret McDermott endowed the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program with a $32 million gift in honor of her late husband. At the McDermott Ranch in 2016, she and President Richard C. Benson gathered with more than 50 alumni of the program.

A Campus Transformed

Tangible examples of the McDermott legacy can be seen during a walk around campus. Once defined by Brutalist concrete façades and the gray ambience of corporate buildings, UT Dallas was transformed with a Campus Landscape Enhancement Project, with funds from McDermott totaling more than $50 million.

Architect Peter Walker shaped the overhaul that began in 2008. More than 5,000 trees and shrubs were planted. Hallmarks of the project are the five reflecting pools and the wisteria-covered steel trellis that is located outside of the Eugene McDermott Library. Aptly, the UT System Board of Regents recently approved the naming of this focal point for campus activity as the Margaret McDermott Mall and Margaret McDermott Trellis Plaza.

One of McDermott’s great interests — the visual arts — found a home on campus. She funded permanent installations, including the Love Jack that is now displayed outside of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building. In 2017 she endowed the Richard Brettell Award in the Arts, which annually recognizes an artist with a lifetime-achievement award.

The McDermott legacy has changed UT Dallas and will continue to do so.

“It is impossible to know what we would have become as a University without the unwavering support of the Eugene McDermott family,” Wildenthal said. “The effects of their legacy will reverberate for decades to come.”

top view of campus trellis
The Margaret McDermott Trellis Plaza serves as an anchor and central element of campus and features a circular fountain and mister. A key element of the Campus Landscape Enhancement Project, the trellis is 165 feet wide, 146 feet long and 25 feet tall.
Reena Schellenberg, Michael Zhang and Peng XiePeng Xie (right), a member of the first cohort of the Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellows Program, poses with Reena Schellenberg (left), director of the program, and his mentor, Dr. Michael Q. Zhang, director of the Center for Systems Biology and the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair of Systems Biology Science.
Rashaunda HendersonDr. Rashaunda Henderson receives the honor of Fellow, Eugene McDermott Professor, during the Investiture Ceremony held April 27, 2018. Henderson is an associate professor of electrical engineering.
Richard Brettell and Peter WalkerLandscape architect Peter Walker (right) poses with Dr. Richard Brettell, the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, in April 2017. Walker received the first Richard Brettell Award in the Arts for designing and implementing the transformation of the University’s 500-acre campus, a project that was dedicated in 2010.
love jackThe 10-foot-by-10-foot red, steel “Love Jack,” created by American modernist sculptor Jim Love, came to UT Dallas in 1976 and was later gifted to the University. It has resided in several locations but now rests in an open courtyard of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.
campus trellis and mist fountain