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Edith O'Donnell

The Board of Trustees and Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director, are pleased to formally acknowledge Edith O’Donnell, longtime patron of arts and education, for her multiyear $9 million gift made in November 2013. 

Mrs. O’Donnell’s commitment expands access to art and education to all audiences by ensuring free general admission and enabling the Museum to publish its entire collection online.

This multimillion dollar gift is the latest in more than 60 years of unwavering support that began when the Dallas philanthropist became a volunteer in 1952.  Her volunteer leadership, focused support and financial contributions, along with those of her husband and the O’Donnell Foundation, have been ongoing for 62 years, with particular emphasis on audience growth, education and technology.

“I am delighted to publicly thank Edith O’Donnell for the exceptionally generous $9 million gift, and, perhaps more importantly, for over six decades of support of the DMA,” said Anderson.  “Her innovative philanthropy has enabled us to serve as a leading educational resource for more than 60 years.  She recognizes the importance of making our museum accessible to everyone, from childhood through adulthood.  The $9 million contribution removes all barriers to accessing the Museum’s resources by guaranteeing free admission and allowing us to publish our entire collection online—with exceptional images and deep content.  It’s a game changer.  Her lifelong dedication to expanding access to arts education has changed Dallas’s cultural landscape.”

O’Donnell’s $9 million donation has enabled the DMA to become one of world’s most accessible and open museums both on-site and online.  In 2013, the DMA returned to a policy of free general admission.  In fiscal year 2014, it welcomed more than 668,000 visitors, a 37% increase over its 10-year average, the largest in its history.  In addition, the free general admission policy has contributed to record attendance in the Museum’s interactive learning space, the Center for Creative Connections, and the monthly “Late Night” education program.

The digitization of the Museum’s permanent collection is creating one of the most sophisticated online art collections in the world.  It will provide access to the DMA’s entire collection and lead the field in the quality of information available for use by students, teachers and scholars.  The first phase of this initiative launched in August 2014, and the project will be completed by 2016.

Prior to the launch, only 7,000 works of art were published online with images or descriptions.  Of those, approximately 3,000 were illustrated with images.  Today, the Museum’s entire collection of over 22,000 objects is available to the public via, and nearly 11,000 of those objects are illustrated with digital images.  Access to high-quality images and accurate data about each object will significantly enhance research and learning about the DMA’s collection in a way that has not been possible until now.

Mrs. O’Donnell volunteered as a DMA docent for 10 years; has served as a member of the DMA Education Committee for 17 years (and acted as Chair in 1992); has served as a DMA trustee since 1989; and participated on a number of other Museum committees from the late 1970s through the present.

This spring, the DMA will host the 17th annual Young Masters exhibition, which features select works created by Advanced Placement® Art History, Music Theory and Studio Art students participating in the O’Donnell Foundation’s AP Fine Arts Incentive Program.   Mrs. O’Donnell created this program in 1994 to support high school students’ interest and success in rigorous college-level arts courses.  In the 21-year history of the program, more than 16,000 arts and music students have benefited from the O’Donnell Foundation’s AP Fine Arts programs.

In May, Edith O’Donnell made a $17 million gift to the University of Texas at Dallas to establish the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History.  In October, the Institute of Art History and the Dallas Museum of Art announced a partnership to create the first PhD degree–granting institute in the U.S. hosted by a major art museum. This latest act of benefaction is a remarkable demonstration of Mrs. O’Donnell’s lifetime of strategic philanthropy in support of her firm belief and dedication to arts education for life.

About the Dallas Museum of Art

Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures.  Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum welcomes on the average over 650,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country, which currently has over 80,000 members.  For more information, visit


The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

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