There was no shortage of grateful words for Dallas philanthropist Mary Anne Sammons Cree upon her death in July 2021 at the age of 91.
SMU President R. Gerald Turner said Cree was "dedicated to making Dallas a better place for everyone." Joanna St. Angelo, executive director of the Sammons Center for the Arts, said, "she was so gracious and humble, I don't think Dallas fully understands the powerful impact Mrs. Cree's support has had across the Dallas arts community." And Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas whose headquarters bear Cree's name wrote that "through the decades, the generosity of Mary Anne and her family underlies some of the most significant resources and civic services in Metropolitan Dallas."
So generous was Cree that even after her passing, she continues to give back to her beloved hometown: On Sept. 29, Heritage Auctions
will offer more than 125 pieces from Cree's extraordinary jewelry collection as the centerpiece of the Fall Fine Jewelry Signature® Auction. Proceeds from the sale of Cree's jewelry will benefit The Rosine Foundation Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas, so named for Mary Anne's mother, from whom she inherited her spirit of giving.
Among the myriad highlights in this auction is a stunning 17.63-carat fancy intense yellow diamond ring estimated at $300,000 to $400,000. Another centerpiece is a diamond-studded butterfly brooch set in 18k gold.
"That is only fitting since, in 2001, Mary Anne made a generous gift and worked with CFT to establish an endowment to provide ongoing support for the Butterfly House and Insectarium at the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park," says Monica Christopher, Senior Vice President and Chief Giving and Community Impact Officer at Communities Foundation of Texas.
"The proceeds from its sale will continue to support our vibrant nonprofit community long beyond Mary Anne's lifetime."
Indeed, as Christopher notes, Cree partnered with CFT more than 30 years ago to support her philanthropy through the Rosine Foundation Fund. It ensures that Cree will continue contributing to her hometown for years.
"The grants that Mary Anne made to nonprofits over the years aligned with her personal passions for the performing and visual arts, museums and nature," Christopher says.
Upon her death, Cree left the jewelry to CFT, which manages more than 1,200 charitable funds and has awarded more than $2 billion in grants since its founding in 1953. Heritage Auctions is honored to have been selected to offer Cree's jewelry, the sale of which is expected to generate more than $1.5 million for the fund.
"As a Dallas-based auction house, it was kismet for Heritage Auctions to partner with Communities Foundation of Texas to present Mary Anne's stunning jewelry collection in our Fall Fine Jewelry Signature® Auction," says Michelle Castro, director of Trusts & Estates. "We are proud that our local community will continue to benefit from Mary Anne's generous spirit."
"We work with fund holders like Mary Anne Cree to help identify their charitable passions both during their lifetime and to develop and carry out their legacy of giving beyond their lifetime," says Melissa Hardage, CFT's director of donor initiatives. "The community will truly benefit from her forward-mindedness. This is such a special gift, as the pieces in the auction were special to Mary Anne, and now these special things will have a positive impact on the community she loved long after she is gone."
Cree's eulogies overflowed with the names of organizations, institutions and causes Cree supported during her lifetime from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to the Dallas Arboretum, the Dallas Opera to the Dallas Museum of Art, Southern Methodist University (her alma mater) to the Girl Scouts, the Trinity River Conservancy to the United Way, to whom she left $10 million when she turned 90.
She, too, was responsible for some of Dallas' most beloved, significant and most-visited landmarks, including the Observation Deck at the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence and Sammons Park at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. She commissioned Santiago Calatrava's sculpture Wave on the SMU campus to celebrate the opening of the Meadows Museum; funded Rosine Hall, the popular gathering space at the Arboretum; and helped create the Girl Scouts' STEM Center of Excellence.
Cree inherited her generosity from her mother, Rosine Smith Sammons, which explains why so many of the landmarks and events Mary Anne founded and funded bear her name, including the butterfly house in Fair Park, the observation deck at the Girl Scouts camp and the annual Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics at SMU. Rosine, who died at 62, spent years raising money for Dallas' Community Chest, long before it was renamed United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and organized Dallas' first Brownie troop.
"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 once told The Dallas Morning News. "That's why I like to put her name on things."
Mary Anne's father, Charles Sammons, likewise was a generous longtime supporter of Communities Foundation of Texas. He made provisions for CFT to receive a significant gift from the Sammons Dallas Foundation, which became an endowment used for discretionary grantmaking at CFT in support of local nonprofit organizations making a positive impact in Dallas.
Says Hardage, "Cree was quiet in her giving and had a tremendous impact across North Texas. CFT is honored to partner with her and other like-minded, forward-thinking individuals to carry on charitable legacies supporting the causes they care for."