David Woo/Staff photographer
United Way will rename its building in honor of $10 million gift
by Cheryl Hall | January 9, 2020
Mary Anne Sammons Cree picked out her own gift for her 90th birthday. She wanted her family to give $10 million to the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ endowment campaign.
“I told them, ‘I want to do my own birthday present and my own birthday party, and after that it’s on you,’” Cree said.
The family thought both were swell ideas.
In return for her family’s largesse, United Way is naming its headquarters building on Lamar Street downtown for her.
Cree, the daughter of the late legendary self-made billionaire Charles Sammons, became a nonagenarian Wednesday and celebrated at the Dallas Country Club.
The legacy gift, which will be announced Friday at a luncheon in her honor at United Way, will be icing on her birthday cake.
“I’m a Dallas girl, and I like that [United Way] does many, many good things for local people who don’t have the benefits that our family certainly had,” Cree said before her birthday party.
The Cree family donation is the largest contribution so far to United Way’s $100 million endowment campaign called Unite Forever. It has raised $72 million in commitments toward that goal.
Cree, who is chairman of the Sammons Center for the Arts and serves on the United Way Foundation board, gave $1 million to the fund in October 2018 to honor her mother, Rosine Smith Sammons. Her mother did the first pro-bono public relations work for Dallas’ Community Chest before it grew into the United Way.
That’s how Cree became a lifelong supporter in her childhood.
Her mother was a pathfinder for her in more than the United Way. She also formed the first Brownie troop in Dallas in the late 1930s. Rosine died from a fall at 62 while she and Charles were remodeling their home in the Park Cities.
“My mother died at an early age, so I often regret that she didn’t have the chance to make some of these gifts that I’ve had the chance to do,” Cree said. “That’s why I like to put her name on things.”
There’s the two-story Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium at Fair Park’s Discovery Gardens and a long-running Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics at SMU. There will be a tribute plaque in the United Way building honoring her mother.
Cree wanted her mother’s name on the United Way building, but her stepson, Brian Paul Cree, and United Way president and CEO Jennifer Sampson persuaded her to accept the honor and name the building The Mary Anne Sammons Cree Building.
“My father didn’t like his name on anything, and so I inherited some of that,” Cree said. “But United Way is a cool thing to have your name associated with. It’s a very worthwhile project for Dallas.”
Sampson, who is a close friend of Cree’s, said, “Mary Anne has enriched the lives of North Texans through her generous support of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas through the decades. Her longtime and continuing devotion to our community is a radiant and powerful example for others to follow.”
In addition to Cree’s family, other prominent donors to Unite Forever include Capa and Troy Aikman, Diane and Hal Brierley, Karen and Tom Falk, Lyda Hill, Sally and Forrest Hoglund, the family of Caroline Rose Hunt, the Eugene McDermott Foundation, and Margot and the late Ross Perot.
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