This week during the early days of the new school year, St. Mark’s honored the legacy and impact of Eugene McDermott, marking the fiftieth anniversary of his passing.
As the School’s longest serving Board leader, Eugene McDermott paved the way for the remarkable community, opportunities, and resources that Marksmen now enjoy. As President of the Board of Trustees from 1946 to 1956, he played a pivotal role in the merger of Texas Country Day School and The Cathedral School
in 1950 that produced the newly formed St. Mark’s School of Texas and continued to provide critical, foundational leadership during arguably the most important period in the School’s history, and would continue to push the School forward for several more decades until his death in August of 1973.
In 1960, Gene and his wife Margaret joined forces with good friends and fellow Texas Instruments co-founders, Cecil and Ida Green, to fund a state-of-the-art Math and Science Quadrangle, which gained national attention for its innovative and forward-looking capabilities that included closed-circuit television, a planetarium and observatory, a greenhouse, and much more. Soon after, the Eugene McDermott Scholarship Endowment was established, a fund that today supports approximately 20% of St. Mark’s need-based financial aid for talented Marksmen across the campus. The McDermotts and Greens together went on to transform virtually every aspect of the School, endowing scholarships and teaching chairs, funding academic and co-curricular programs, and building new facilities on the campus. These investments inspired students like Alan Stern ’75
, principal investigator and team leader of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto who said, “Looking back, St. Mark’s was very much about making a man out of a boy, and I felt that even in high school. I could feel I was on an escalator going somewhere.” Similarly, Steve Winn ’64
enjoyed the new McDermott-Green Math Science Quad as an Upper School student, studied engineering, and would ultimately return to honor that important legacy by funding the construction of the new Winn Science Center which opened in 2018.
The McDermott name is forever woven into the fabric of St. Mark’s and is an integral part of the School’s history. A variety of large endowments embody the philanthropic spirit and leadership that Margaret and her late husband stood for, including the Eugene McDermott Headmaster Endowment, the Eugene McDermott Master Teaching Chair in Science, the Margaret McDermott & Ida Green Lectureship Fund, the Margaret McDermott Centennial Fund, the Eugene McDermott Scholarship Endowment, and more.
“Every day I look across the desk and watch the boys moving about on the Quad,” said current Eugene McDermott Master Headmaster David Dini. “Between the two windows in my office is a portrait of Mr. McDermott which continually reminds me of the responsibility we all share to care for this wonderful institution and to reach for the stars. I feel privileged to come to work every day and see the impact of the McDermott family in the lives of countless Marksmen who walk our hallways.”
Mr. McDermott’s widow, Margaret
, would go on to serve the School for many more decades as a Life Trustee and major benefactor until her passing in 2018. The McDermott’s daughter, Mary McDermott Cook, also has served on the St. Mark’s Board of Trustees and has been an important supporter of the School throughout her adult life.