Published: April 25, 2017
BOCA GRANDE, FLA. – Dorrance “Dodo” Hill Hamilton, 88, died on April 18 surrounded by family at her home in Boca Grande after a long illness. Many cultural organizations and societies that were beneficiaries of her generous philanthropy and dedication to fundraising mourn her loss.
Hamilton was the granddaughter of John T. Dorrance, who invented the condensing process for soup and became the president of the Campbell Soup company in 1914. She was, however, much more invested in carefully distributing her wealth and making sure that the money she generously bestowed was put to good use.
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library is among the organizations paying tribute to Hamilton, who was a respected former Winterthur board of trustees member.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the death of our dear friend Dodo, a valued member of the Winterthur board of trustees from 1995 to 2001 and an enormously inspiring and visionary leader,” said Winterthur director David P. Roselle. “Winterthur is grateful to Dodo for her more than 20 years of spirited friendship and loyal service. Her warmth and dedication to causes in which she believed resulted in remarkable successes at Winterthur and beyond.”
An energetic and visionary member of the Winterthur Garden Committee from 1996 until her death, Dodo, the affectionate nickname given to her by her mother, was a founding member and driving force behind the Winterthur Garden and Landscape Society, serving as honorary chairman and providing successive challenge grants to encourage new memberships. Her tireless dedication and influential recruitment efforts were critical in recruiting founding members.
As a member of the Winterthur Collectors Circle, Dodo spearheaded the highly successful fundraising efforts that brought to Winterthur the Campbell collection of soup tureens, a world-renowned collection of elegant ceramic and metalwork vessels on exhibit in the specially designed Dorrance Gallery. The exquisite collection was a legacy of John T. Dorrance Jr, chairman, and W.B. Murphy, president, of the Campbell Soup Company, and includes a wide range of tureens and soup-related objects made in Europe, Asia and America from 1720 to modern times. In celebration of its arrival in May 1997, Winterthur curators published Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens at Winterthur, an important, well-illustrated book on the collection (Winterthur, Delaware, Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 2000).
Hamilton was recognized for her philanthropic endeavors, as well as her restoration of gardens and houses. Some of her well-known philanthropic projects were the Blue Garden in Newport, the Fernery at the Morris Arboretum and the Philadelphia Flower Show. She founded the Newport Flower Show in 1996. Hamilton served on many boards, including the women’s board at Jefferson Hospital, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), University of the Arts, SVF Foundation, the Hamilton Family Foundation and the Newport Restoration Foundation, and was the first woman on the board of Jefferson Hospital.
In Philadelphia where she supported several organizations, she is held up as “an example for what it meant to be a philanthropist in this town,” according to Patricia D. Wellenbach, president and chief executive officer of the Please Touch Museum, where Hamilton stepped in at critical times. “She brought great joy to Philadelphia and beyond. Think of all the work she did with the flower show, her work with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Please Touch Museum, the zoo. I don’t think there was a corner of the city that she hasn’t touched.”
“It’s a great loss. She will be very much missed,” said her daughter-in-law Anne Hamilton, co-chair of the Philadelphia Antiques & Art Show, chairman of the Newport Antiques Show and honorary chair of the Mainline Antiques Show.
Her involvement with Thomas Jefferson University stretched nearly five decades, supporting research, professorships, scholarships, breast imaging and other clinical programs. Among other roles, she was president of the women’s board from 1969 to 1972, oversaw an expansion of Pennywise Thrift Shop and took on fundraising for the heliport on Foerderer Pavilion.
Her lead gift of $25 million helped create the building at Jefferson that bears her name and helped facilitate team-based training of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
Similarly, at PAFA, she acquired an important collection of watercolors, hosted parties at her Newport home to introduce PAFA leaders to art collectors and patrons from across the United States and helped make possible PAFA’s expansion into a building just to the north on Broad Street now named for her husband, PAFA’s onetime board chairman.
“She made the lead gift that catalyzed the rest of the campaign,” said PAFA president and chief executive officer David R. Brigham, who called Hamilton one of the school and museum’s “leading lights” over its 210 years.
Hamilton was predeceased by her husband of 47 years, Samuel M. V. Hamilton, and survived by her three children, Margaret H. Duprey, N. Peter Hamilton and S. Matthews V. Hamilton Jr, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be conducted on Thursday, May 11, at 11 am, at 218 Strafford Avenue in Wayne, Penn. She will be laid to rest at a private graveside service in Newport.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, c/o The Dorrance Hill Hamilton Fund, to Advance Nursing Excellence, 125 South 9th Street, Suite 600, Philadelphia PA 19107 or the Newport Hospital Foundation, c/o The Dorrance Hill Hamilton Fund, to Advance Nursing Excellence, 11 Friendship Street, Newport RI 02840 or The Redwood Library, 50 Bellevue Avenue, Newport RI 02840.
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