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Philanthropy & Nonprofits

Lyda Hill Surprises Hockaday With $20 Million Donation

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A memo went out to the Hockaday staff today about Lyda Hill’s surprise donation yesterday. You can read it after the jump. But it’s more fun to watch Hill make the shocking announcement onstage. I like the way that woman rolls.

TO: Members of Hockaday Faculty and Staff
FROM: Jeanne Whitman
RE: Historic Announcement for The Hockaday School
DATE: April 7, 2011

Lyda Hill, Hockaday Class of 1960, has committed $20 million, the largest single gift in Hockaday’s history and the largest single gift from a living alumna among independent girls’ schools in the nation, according to the National Association of Independent Schools. The significance of this gift is not only its staggering generosity; more importantly, it indicates that Hockaday’s Centennial Campaign (we are now in quiet phase) will be positioned by and led by the people who have made Hockaday great–our alumnae.

Miss Hill is a businesswoman, volunteer, philanthropist and environmentalist. With Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, she is a member of The Giving Pledge, a group of the nation’s wealthiest individuals and families who have committed to donating the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes either during their lifetime or after their death. Her gift is a landmark for Hockaday and for American philanthropy, generally. In making her commitment, Miss Hill leads the national trend of women donors coming to the forefront.

For more than 30 years, Miss Hill has exemplified leadership in the business and non-profit communities. She started her own travel company and built it into the largest travel agency in Texas. From that business base, she managed other family owned businesses, including Colorado Springs’ Seven Falls, Kissing Camels Estates land development, and the Garden of the Gods Club. When she joined Young President’s Organization, she was one of only five female members.

In addition, Miss Hill has made significant impact in several civic arenas. She created the Volunteer Connection to promote volunteerism throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, a model that has been replicated in more than 70 cities and earned her the President’s Volunteer Action Award from the White House. She was appointed to President Reagan’s Advisory Board for Private Sector Initiatives. In Dallas, she led the first campaign for the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), one of her many community passions, and helped build the VNA’s new headquarters. In addition, she initiated a planned giving program at VNA and the VNA Caring Society. She is a Life Member of the Board of Directors and serves as a Director of the VNA Foundation.

Miss Hill sits on the M.D. Anderson Advisory Board and the Garden of the Gods Foundation Board. She organized the first LPGA Skins Game for Dallas Easter Seals; began the M.D. Anderson Board of Visitors annual Living Legends Luncheon; and for the Garden of the Gods Foundation, created the Summer of Celebration. In addition, she is a significant donor to Dallas’ Museum of Nature and Science, which is under construction. Her extensive mineral collection will be housed in the museum, as well.

Miss Hill’s tenure at Hockaday was marked by her early acumen in mathematics and polite distaste for the classroom. She was awarded the Esther B. Moody Trophy in Mathematics at Hockaday in 1960. She was White Team captain and the only member of her class to serve on one of the three governing boards each year of Upper School.

With Miss Hill’s gift, Hockaday will be a national leader in STEM education in secondary schools. Of the gift, $10 million is for the construction of new classrooms and research space for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), a Hockaday focus for the last decade. The other $10 million is for faculty and program support. Since 2006, enrollment in science courses has increased 59 percent and Advanced Placement course enrollment has increased 250 percent. More than one-third of graduating seniors have indicated that they intend to study STEM disciplines, including medicine, in college.

“Science is the solution to most of the worlds challenges, be they food shortage, energy, medicine or pollution. These matters have become my life’s interest,” Miss Hill said. “Hockaday is educating the most promising girls in the country — the women who will solve many of these problems. I thought it would be fun to set the bar high.”

Needless to say, we are deeply grateful for her commitment and her recognition of the value of her Hockaday experience. Her gift will be transformational in more ways than simply the construction that it makes possible.