You may not know the name Mary Anne Cree, but you know Mary Anne Cree. You’ve seen her (and her family’s) touches on the culture and lives of Dallas for years, in the Texas Discovery Gardens Butterfly House, Rosine Hall at the Dallas Arboretum, Santiago Calatrava’s Wave perched at the main entrance of SMU, and countless other ways.
Mary Anne Sammons Cree died July 21, at age 91.
Cree was born on Jan. 8, 1930, to Charles and Rosine Smith Sammons. A class of 1947 Highland Park High School graduate, she went on to Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, before returning to Dallas and graduating from SMU in 1951. She was raising five children as a single mother when she married Richard “Dick” Cree Sr. in 1968 — between the two of them, they had 10 children.
“Even in our sadness, we are filled with thanksgiving for the extraordinary life she led and shared with so many here in North Texas,” said Jennifer Sampson, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas president and CEO, in a statement.
In January 2020, the organization gathered to celebrate Cree’s 90th birthday, and to recognize the historic $10 million gift from her 10 children.
“In her honor, they named the United Way building for Mary Anne,” Sampson said. “Forever, we are honored to remember her legacy each and every day as we walk through the Mary Anne Sammons Cree United Way of Metropolitan Dallas building in the heart of the city she so dearly loved.”
Sampson said that Cree was part of a Sammons family legacy of support for the organization that dated back to support from her mother, Rosine Smith Sammons, who provided public relations support for the then Community Chest, and championed United Way and other causes in her newspaper column as well. A young Cree went door to door with her mother to raise money for the United Way. In 2018, she honored Rosine with a $1 million gift to the Unite Forever campaign.
“Mary Anne is forever in the pantheon of Dallas UW leaders who are both foundational pillars and guiding lights,” Sampson said.
But the United Way was not the only cause she took up. She was a supporter of Thomas Jefferson High School students and is fondly remembered by alumni there.
She was also a patron of the arts — honoring her father and his second wife with the Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park at AT&T Performing Arts Center.
She also served on the boards and councils of numerous arts organizations, including the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Dallas Opera, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Sammons Center for the Arts, and contributed to the expansion of the Meadows Museum at SMU.
She contributed to her alma mater (she graduated from the school in 1951) by honoring her mother — a 1925 journalism graduate — by starting the Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture Series in Media Ethics and the Rosine Smith Sammons Endowed Scholarship in Journalism.
Cree also supported the Girl Scouts, having been one of the first Brownies in Dallas and a member of a troop led by her mother. Cree also served as a Brownie leader, and helped found the STEM Center of Excellence. In 2019, she received the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Cree was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, and granddaughter Katherine Rosine Williams. She is survived by her 10 children, Richard Cree Jr., David Cree, Lee Williams, Stephanie Cree, Charles Addison Williams, Chris Cree, Elaine Myers, Bruce Williams, Brian Paul Cree, and Brian E. Williams. She is also survived by 23 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.