2015 Mary Harriman Award Winner
2015 Mary Harriman Leadership Award Winner Lyda Hill
The Junior League of Dallas
Because she has embodied the vision of our founder in every aspect of her life, Lyda Hill of The Junior League of Dallas is the winner of the 2015 Mary Harriman Award for Community Leadership.
Though she committed to donating the entirety of her holdings to charity when she joined the elite Giving Pledge in 2010, Lyda has never seen her wealth as the limit to her ability to serve in all aspects of her life—as a philanthropist, volunteer, entrepreneur and booster of public institutions.
Her innovations and accomplishments are legion. She created the Volunteer Connection, which sits at the vital juncture of supply and demand, matching volunteers with organizations in need. The concept was replicated in 70 cities across the U.S. and Lyda was honored with the President’s Volunteer Action Award and an appointment to President Ronald Reagan’s Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiatives.
She lent her mathematics know-how to the League by serving in positions requiring financial savvy, and ultimately served as the first President who also was a professional businesswoman, having built her company Hill World Travel, into the largest travel agency in the country at the time. She spearheaded a campaign for $5 million to build a new headquarters.
She not only broke gender barriers by working as a female executive in a male world but she also broke with industry tradition by incorporating computers into her business. In 1975 she was invited into the Young Presidents’ Organization, becoming one of the first women in its membership.
Lyda’s business acumen combined with her own personal battle with breast cancer to inspire investments in game-changing scientific and medical developments. She launched Remeditex Ventures, which invests in early biomedical research by universities and health care institutions, and the Oklahoma Breast Care Center.
In 2013, Lyda became the only living single woman to make the Philanthropy 50, the annual list of America’s most generous donors, her gifts amounting to tens of millions of dollars to date. Among the recipients of her generosity are her alma mater, The Hockaday School, which will use her contributions to fund a STEM program, and the University of Colorado’s UTeach, which prepares a new generation of math and science teachers. She has underwritten a substantive Challenge Grant to Meals on Wheels; funded the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Moon Shots Program as well as the Center for BrainHealth, which aids the recovery of military veterans from traumatic brain injuries; and supported numerous environmental and marine conservation efforts by the Nature Conservancy and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
In addition, Lyda gives her time and ideas to a wide variety of causes including the Visiting Nurses Association, the Dallas Chapter of the World Presidents’ Organization, the Crystal Charity Ball, the Dallas and Texas chapters of the American Heart Association and Easter Seals of North Texas, among many others. For her uber-voluntarism, Lyda was given the Governor’s Award as the Outstanding Volunteer in Texas in 1988.
“I don’t get interested in something that can be done easily,” she says. Mary Harriman couldn’t have said it better.