Lyda Hill Surprises Hockaday With $20 Million Donation

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.


  • me

    A classy lady, and a great role model.

  • Stephanie

    Good thing, too… Those food banks and domestic violence shelters are just in the way. Let’s give all of our charitable money to an over-priced girl’s school in a wealthy part of town. I love the idea of breeding even more elitists. If we all do this then the real community-assisting organisations will finally die off! USA! USA! USA!

    • Stephanie: I just did, literally, the simplest Google search possible based on your comment: “Lyda Hill charity.” Actually, I didn’t even put it in quotes. The sixth entry was this. The $1 million she gave to seed that Safety Net Fund (started so those places would not go out of business) went to:

      “* One Dallas agency, which offers emergency aid and operates a free medical clinic, has had a 110 percent increase in the number of individuals receiving food between February and September. The organization’s 2009 budget anticipates a $100,000 decline in donations.
      * A domestic violence shelter has had an 8 percent increase in requests for help. The agency turned away 376 people this year because of lack of funds and predicts a $300,000 deficit.
      * A major provider of childcare and childcare referrals has watched increasing numbers of low-income families lose childcare subsidies because parents have lost jobs.
      * Another nonprofit group, which works in East and Southeast Dallas providing emergency aid, adult education, and after-school programs, has seen calls for assistance triple since September.”

      I mean that is from a press release, so, grain of salt and all that. Later, in that extremely simple search, there was this, wherein she joined a number of rich folks in pledging “to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.”

      Anyway. I hope this reaches you where you are volunteering.

  • Tom

    Always nice to see people giving back to their school. Are there any wealthy DISD alums who can make similar donations?

  • Zach B

    Thats pretty damn cool.

  • Daniel

    They have scholarships at elite private schools, Steph. They are typically funded by donations from alums. We (semi-)lefties posting here get unfairly razzed enough for our purported “class envy” without your help, thanks. Guess what, some people are prettier than you, too, and more charming and better at volleyball. Bitches!

  • Stephanie

    @Zac – Awesome. Great.

    1/20th of what she has announced is going to a school that charges $25k per student went to a fund. And she pledged. Great.

    I think it’s great when people do things to help others. Really. What I don’t get is that large of a gift to a school that resides in an unbelievably wealthy part of town and gets large amounts of dollars per student to attend, already.

    How many poverty-stricken girls are they bussing in to Hockaday every day? It is all about spreading education to create tomorrow’s leaders, right?

    60% of the world is in poverty.
    1/3 of women will be assaulted in their lifetime. One woman is beaten every 15 seconds in this country alone.
    We have kids in this very area who don’t eat unless it’s a school day and they have their food provided by the reduced / free lunch programs.

    Nice back-hand at the end, by the way. Where shall I send my list of current community and philanthropic efforts? I am sure I can manage to create a pretty CV for your enjoyment.

    • @Stephanie: Do we know she doesn’t give to other schools? Do we know none of that money goes to help that 60 percent of the world in poverty? Or the third of all women who are assaulted? Or any other worthy cause? She’s a billionaire and gave $20 million to a place that is important to her. Do we know that she has not given that much to other places? She has pledged to give the majority of her wealth. That means many more tens of millions. I cited one specific example and an idea. That does not encompass everything.

      Obviously, we are in complete agreement that philanthropy needs to be spread around. Obviously. I apologize for being flip.

  • Stephanie

    @Daniel – I’m just looking for some understanding behind it all. Ultimately, it’s her money and she can do what she pleases with it. I just don’t get it. I suppose it’s easier for us to not understand when we surround ourselves with so many who truly need. Our perceptions = our realities. She perceives need in her way as I do in mine. I just don’t get it. It seems like a ludicrous amount of money going to a place that already commands so much from its attendees. Then again, that doesn’t seem like a lot of money to a group of people who don’t work mulitple jobs to raise kids on their own like some of us.
    I just don’t get it; and, yes, I do understand that there are those that may be considered “prettier” than I. I really don’t care.

  • jennywren

    She could have given it to Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. It’s the first all-girls public school in the state of Texas. It’s a STEM school, too, and nominated to be a Blue Ribbon School.
    But yeah, private schools need a lot of help these days. Those poor rich people. Bless their hearts.

  • Glenn Hunter

    Get your class warfare, right here. The shameless variety.

  • Paul

    Stephanie: You mentioned “food banks.” Lyda Hill is also one of the largest individual contributors to the North Texas Foodbank (if not the largest). She threw a birthday party for herself last year at the NTF facility in order to introduce it to a large number of her friends.

  • Zach B

    You know what’s fun? Telling other people how to spend their money.

  • Stephanie

    @Zac – accepted… just as I apologise if I was initially insensitive. As I said in my comment at 11:48, I just don’t get it but – hey – it’s her money and she can do what the heck she feels like with it.

    Maybe I am a touch-feely sensitive type. Okay – I admit that I am.. but, it’s terribly difficult for me to find sympathy for a group of people who consider $25k per student a normal thing to write a check for. What need is there? Pressing life needs?

    It is tough to fathom when you watch others crumble under the weight of their own lives every day and you wish you could fix so easily.

    She’s going to do as she pleases and I don’t want to discount what she has done beyond this one moment that I can’t wrap my brain around.

    It is what it is.

  • Dubious Brother

    My prayer is that my daughters grow up to be more like Lida Hill and less like Stephanie.

  • LakeWWWooder

    We have the Woodrow Wilson High School Community Foundation , which funded the application and accreditation of Woodrow as an IB World School offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (24 hours of college credit) and is doing the same for J.L. Long Middle School to acquire IB MYP (Middle Years Programme). Next on the agenda is working with elementary schools to apply for IB PYP (Primary Years Programme).

    The foundation also offers scholarships as do other benefactors and alums – the 2010 Woodrow class of 288 earned $8 million in scholarhips.

  • Hein

    Tim, Zac, you’re kinda missing the real question here: What kind of name is Lyda?

  • amanda

    Hey, Stephanie…

    The girls at Hockaday are taught from grasshopper-high about the importance of giving back. It’s part of the 4 Cornerstones. Google it.

    Although Hockaday does cost $25K/year for day and $45K/year for boarding, I think something like 40% of the students are on financial aid. On top of that, google the demographics of the school…it’s not a haven for SMART girls, “Bright girls, brilliant lives.” Hockaday calls it “inclusive,” I call it a reflection of reality.

    Aside from the tuition we pay (and, yes, I’m a Hockaparent), it costs, from the generous trusts of people like Ms. Hockaday and Ms. Hill an additional $9K a year to provide this education to every single girl. I’m sorry DISD and other districts don’t do the same with the funds they have. Sometimes, you have to think outside of the box…

    The students are required to do community service at food banks and shelters, over and above what is asked of other private schools, and more than what college admissions is looking for. Community service is STRESSED. My daughter is currently at twice the hours required…something like 40+ just for this year. If she continues to keep this level of giving to the community, she will graduate with HUNDREDS of hours in service. Multiply that times 1000 students? Not bad.

    Hockaday has an intensive admission process. They are looking for students that will give back…either by acting in service to others, or pursuing futures that impact others.

    For example, the students, have, for years worn green/white saddle oxfords. The founder of Toms is so impressed by the school’s pledge to community service, he designed a shoe for them. Check this:

    The 4 Cornerstones are: scholarship, athletics, COURTESY, and CHARACTER.

    I’m just sorry you didn’t go to Hockaday, Stephanie.


  • A.D.

    @Stephanie: I’m a Hockaday grad. I’d love to send you a copy of our alumnae magazine so you can read about the amazing, philanthropic things that the elitists apparently bred from the school are doing.

    The only person throwing judgment around about groups of people is you.

    (BTW: Liza Lee, the former headmistress of Hockaday instituted the vigorous scholarship program there and was instrumental in forming the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School.)

  • amanda

    @LakeWWWooder: Yeah, WWHS has an AWESOME IB program. There’s no one, absolute way, to launching our future…I know several kids (and adults) who have incredible lives from WWHS. And, those at WWHS also give back. Mnay of those students live, and at the same time, benefit from community service projects. GOD BLESS anyone who walks the walk (vs. talking a talk).

  • David

    @ dubious AMEN Brother! @ Stephanie, that “overpriced” girls school sure helped educate someone who became extremely successful, and who somewhere along the way, maybe even at Hockaday god forbid, learned the power in giving back. How can you criticize how someone spends their hard earned money?

  • @Hein: Lyda was named after her grandmother Lyda Bunker Hunt, who was a remarkable lady. You can read about her in H.L. and Lyda written by the late Margaret Hunt Hill, Lyda Hill’s mother.

    @Stephanie: I think Lyda explained why she gave the $$ to Hockaday. It was her way of thanking the school for providing her with values and education and supporting its future.

    Lyda has time and time given money to various nonprofits, both in her name and anonymously.

  • Sammy

    I have sympathy for rich people who donate to various causes, because no matter what they do someone will point out “Well, why didn’t you donate to THIS charity/cause/organization instead?”

    I believe that Ms. Hill has said that she plans on donating ALL of her fortune during her lifetime, similar to Buffet, Gates, etc.

    On another note, what the heck caused all the Hunt/Hill women to turn out so well, but the sons (well, most of them) don’t quite measure up?

  • Jen Murphy

    @Stephanie – You might look into Hockadays community service requirement. Each girl is required to give a certain number of hours per year…HANDS ON.

    They don’t jst “write a check”…they go to the shelter and serve food, or they go tutor underpriveledged children. It is not only about giving back…it is about “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

    P.s. I know of plenty of parents who struggled to pay the tuition just like I know plenty of girls who wouldn’t have been there at all if it hadn’t been for the generousity of the others in the Hockaday Community.

    p.p.s You might also Google Tom’s Shoes…have heard it was started by a Hockaday Grad…

  • Rico

    @ Jen – Unless Blake had a sex change operation or otherwise managed to pull off an amazing feat, I think you are mistaken.

  • Hein
  • Hein


    Also, because it’s what I do. Why ask someone to Google something when you yourself haven’t done it?

  • Hein


    Heated discussions such as this one illustrate the flaw in Wick’s comment-moderation system.

    (Not saying I’ve added anything of value to this particular discussion. I haven’t.)

    It’s been 45 minutes since we’ve seen a new comment go up. For those who actually do want to offer their opinions, lengthy delays while comments sit in the queue really stifle discussion and frustrate visitors. I don’t blame the moderators for this. They have other duties.

    I blame Wick. A free flow of comments would get people coming back again and again to read and respond. That, in turn, generates more clicks/eyeballs/ad revenue.


  • Spectator

    Stephanie – would you like some dip to go with that chip on your shoulder?

  • Fake Al III

    Dear Aunt Lyda,

    The missus and I need some cash to cover legal expenses and some teensy credit lines that we have at Neiman Marcus and Stanley K.

    Would you be interested in buying 99% of my house?

  • amanda

    I don’t think Toms was chick thing…the CEO just really liked the school, and I was told, the community service emphasis.

    They held “a day without shoes” this week. At first, the students loved it, but then, they started to walk a mile without someone else’s shoes, and “got it.”

  • Andrea

    Y’all, teaching privileged students to give back isn’t honorable, exceptional or amazing. It’s the BARE MINIMUM any person of reasonable means should be doing for their kids.

    Separately, just because you’re a philanthropist doesn’t mean you’re not an elitist, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing something that addresses larger structural inequality. I have a hard time seeing how giving $20 million to a school full of mostly wealthy kids does anything but reinforce inequality, even if those kids go on to form real nice charities. We’re still keeping the money, know-how and empowerment in the hands of people who, for the most part, were going to have much of that anyway. So that’s disappointing to me, in terms of the bigger picture.

    • @Andrea: Absolutely right on the first count.

      On the second, I don’t disagree, because you’ve phrased it in a way (genius) which makes disagreeing sort of impossible. BUT, I would just suggest that — again — if all Lyda Hill ever donated was $20 million to one private school, well, of course you’d be right. I just don’t think anyone could really comment completely in the negative or the disappointed or the whatever unless it was put into the larger context of overall donation. Just poking around a little, it’s clear she’s given a lot to other places, places that it would be hard to categorize as elitist. How much? I really don’t know. She doesn’t have to tell anyone and it seems most of the times she has not and done it quietly. Maybe she shouldn’t have made such a production over this particular donation, but that seems more the school’s doing.

      Yes, I agree that money needs to be spread around a bit. But I also, having seen them in action, know that some of those “real nice charities” actually do a decent job of that. Not all of them, of course, but nothing is absolute.

  • Troll

    It’s her money, let her spend it as she chooses without public reproach. Think of all the ways she could have improved her family’s Balance Sheet by investing elsewhere.

    I think that philanthropic-minded billionaires should be lauded for giving to schools…even if it’s Hockaday, SMU, Stanford, or Georgetown. If her investment improves the educational experience (either by enhancing the facilities, bringing on high quality faculty members, or making the experience affordable for students), let’s just take a moment to honor her generosity.

  • Past Student

    “Admission to Hockaday and the awarding of Financial Aid are two separate decisions. After a student is accepted, the Awards Committee determines the student’s need, the family’s ability to pay, and the availability of financial aid funds.”

    I was one of those students. And absolutely not the only one. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Hockaday.

  • Fake Al III


    You’re asking for Wick to redevelop his digital strategy. He’s decided to stick to his cash cow, which is print, and specifically his specialty mags and ad revenue. His target readers are not Frontburner readers, but there is a little overlap.

    More important, he’ll tell you that Frontburner is his property, and he’ll manage the damn comments anyway he wants. What he won’t tell you is that he dislikes the two way communications like blogs. When he writes an editorial in D Magazine, he controls which dissent he prints. I would, too. How often does he respond to blog comments? Answer: not much, unless it’s a punctuated statement or an attempt to end a conversation.

    Wick is an important Park Cities guys who delivers important opinions – many are his own – but blogs disrupt his messaging strategy. I would he imagines that blogs are the equivalent of a smart-ass child who does not follow directions.

  • Texas Mom

    Way to go, Lyda. That is a great and generous gift. You inspire me. Your detractors have to reach deep for something to complain about.

  • @Hein and @ Fake Al III: At some point later this summer we will roll out some new features on all our blogs. People will be forced to register a real email address. Folks will be able to flag comments. Enough flags, and comments automatically come down.

    We’ve got lots of tricks. But tricks take time, and our development team is small.

    Thanks for your comments and your patience.

  • Deborah

    Lyda is a wonderful example of giving with joy. She is a great lady!

  • SMH

    Rich keep getting richer.

  • As a graduate of Hockaday in 1975, I applaud this gift. The young women of this school not only excel academically, but give countless hours in community service.

    I am thrilled to see her charity includes cancer as well as Easter Seals. I am certain the years I spent at Hockaday have left me a woman with a passion to give as many hours as possible and this gift is beyond inspirational. Thank you!

  • Terrific paintings! That is the type of info that should be shared across the net. Disgrace on the search engines for no longer positioning this put up higher! Come on over and visit my website . Thank you =)