The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Lifetime Trustee Reminisces on Her Life

Lifetime Trustee Reminisces on Her Life
Margaret McDermott, a lifetime trustee, is 101 years old. She knew Ela Hockaday personally and has a unique perspective on the school. Photo provided by Charlotte Hoskins
Margaret McDermott, a lifetime trustee, is 101 years old. She knew Ela Hockaday personally and has a unique perspective on the school. Photo provided by Charlotte Hoskins

As Hockaday reaches its centennial year, the community is looking back on our past and rec­ognizing individuals who have made Hockaday the place that it is today. This list includes numerous teachers, administrators, students, parents, board  members and donors. One of these people is Margaret McDermott. De­spite the life McDermott has lead, she is still incredibly relatable, clear headed and forward thinking. Her house, though modest, holds some of the finest art collections in the Dallas community; it includes work by Picas­so, Braque and Renoir (this interview was conducted with the backdrop of one of Monet’s famous “Waterlilies” series paintings).

A conversation with her leads to inevitable self-reflection, as meeting a person of such kindness and generos­ity often does. But most of all, she is a role model for girls throughout Dallas as a woman who has done astonishing things throughout her life and contin­ues to do so. All of this is remarkable, but it withholds one crucial detail: Margaret McDermott is 101 years old.

Philanthropy

If you were to meet McDermott, she would never mention the good she had done for the city of Dallas and the greater community. Some highlights of her philanthropy in­clude her dona­tion of $3 million to the Meyerson Symphony Cen­ter, her creation of the Eugene Mc­Dermott scholars program at the Uni­versity of Texas at Dallas and, most rel­evant to Hockaday, the endowment of Hockaday’s “Eugene McDermott Head­mistress,” titled in honor of her late husband. This donation to the school means that the budget for Hockaday’s headmistress comes exclusively from McDermott’s gift, simultaneously at­tracting quality candidates for the job while leaving the money that would be used for the salary for other areas of the school.

This philanthropist has earned a reputation for her humility. As Dal­las Morning News reporter Alan Pep­pard wrote in Feb. 2012, “In a town that loves to brag, Margaret McDermott remains the exception…[she has] con­tinued to do more civic good and take less credit than perhaps anyone in the history of our city.”

Hockaday, Then and Now

McDermott offers a perspective on Hockaday that few others can give to the school; she has seen the school through its entirety and even knew founder Ela Hockaday personally. Instead of a second-hand description of Ela that students and faculty have become familiar with, McDermott of­fers her own first-hand perspective.

“[Ela] was [an] aristocratic and a perfect lady. She encouraged girls to study and work hard and was like a general under a regime, but she also cared for her students like they were her family,” McDermott said.

McDermott was given the hon­orary position of a life trustee to the school in 1976.

Current Eugene McDermott Headmistress Kim Wargo comment­ed on the importance of the McDer­mott influence on Hockaday and the greater Dallas area.

“Margaret told me that she and Eugene believed leadership to be ab­solutely vital,” Wargo said. “To them, a healthy institution grows through leadership, and to invest in leader­ship is to invest in the entire commu­nity and their future, so that’s where they have focused frequently in the organizations they partner with.”

Wargo, who has kept in touch with McDermott since their initial introduction in 2010 by attending lun­cheons and corresponding through handwritten letters, also said that McDermott has high expectations for those she works with.

“If you’re invited to meet with her, you better be ready for good conversation and have an idea to contribute,” said Wargo. “She wants everyone around to contribute to the conversation at some point, and she keeps you on your toes.”

McDermott herself prefers to keep busy contributing to her community, and still packs a full schedule into each day following the principle she and her late husband, the Texas Instruments, Inc. co-founder, held dear.

“Eugene believed that fi­nancial success should be shared, so he did. And he showed me how to do it too,” McDermott said. “Even when [Eugene] was just getting start­ed, we weren’t sure if we could finance all the projects we hoped to. We still did, because he said, and I still believe, we will run out of time to do good before we run out of money.”

Looking To the Future

In addition to her gener­osity and perspective on the school, McDermott’s ability to be candid in conversation is nothing short of refresh­ing and often hilarious. When reminiscing about the differences in the school from the ‘40s, when she was an active member of the board, to now, she had one key observation: “The girls were smart and independent then and they’re still smart and independent now, but today they look a lot differ­ent. In the ‘40s, the girls wore bloomers and obviously that isn’t true today; the girls are more adorable now.”

Aside from the school’s uniform, McDermott also not­ed the change in the lives of the girls from when she was a high school student in Texas herself, to today.

“Think of these girls and what they’ve done, where they’ve been at my age; I’d only been to Colorado Springs,” Mc­Dermott joked, “So they’re bet­ter than we were, and frankly they should be.”

An important figure of support and growth for the school, McDermott embodies so much of what the school stands for. She knows that it will only continue to become better in its next 100 years.

“I have great expectations for the future of the school and the future of its students, and I know Hockaday shares these expectations with me,” she said. “The school is a relic of education, and it’s furnish­ing a varied education for the girls of Dallas, Texas and the world. It has been so fun to be a part of it.”

– Molly Montgomery

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