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Dallas businessman and philanthropist Cary Maguire dies at 93

Cary McIlwaine Maguire Sr., a Dallas businessman and philanthropist whose charity left an indelible mark on Southern Methodist University, died Tuesday at his home. He was 93.

Maguire died of natural causes, said his daughter, Blainey Hess of Dallas.

Born May 30, 1928, in Ardmore, Pa., Maguire graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics in 1950. The next year, following his father’s footsteps into the oil business, Maguire moved to Wichita Falls.

He met Ann Thompson on a blind date in Dallas in 1956 and married her four years later. It was through his wife, an alumna of SMU, that he became involved with the university community.

Over the course of his life, Maguire donated nearly $9 million to SMU. His contributions helped establish the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility and supported the Cox School of Business, where he founded the Maguire Energy Institute in 1974.

Rita Kirk, director of the SMU ethics center that bears Maguire’s name, described him as “one of those colorful Texas oilmen you always heard about, with a swagger in his walk, smile on his face and rugged determination.”

To Maguire, Kirk said, “your word was more than just your bond.”

“He held you to it, and you didn’t make promises to him lightly,” she said.

Maguire made “an enormous impact” on SMU, and he stayed involved with the ethics center without trying to control it, said Robin Lovin, who was the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics.

Maguire came from a business environment where personal integrity and trust were crucial, and he saw a need to discuss ethical questions as they grew more complicated, Lovin said.

He also consciously and visibly learned from events sponsored at the center, Lovin said.

Loved ones recalled how the philanthropist frequently took notes during meetings and referred to them years later when relevant subjects were broached.

“Cary didn’t remain in that boom-and-bust environment,” Lovin said. “He grew into being a 21st-century businessperson who understood the complexity of institutional relationships and, working with the university, was trying to make that understanding more widely available.”

Maguire’s impact extended beyond SMU. He founded the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in American History and Ethics at the Library of Congress and also funded the Maguire Fellow in Applied Ethics at The American College.

Across the business and philanthropy communities, he earned wide respect, Lovin added.

“It seemed to me — always — that he was held in high regard by the people around him, both for his successful strategic sense and for his personal integrity,” he said.

Maguire’s passion for ethics began at a young age — he frequently told others that he learned at his mother’s side to always do the right thing, according to Bobby Lyle, a trustee at SMU and vice chair of the university’s ethics center and energy institute.

Maguire’s dedication to ethics cut across all that he did, but he didn’t stick with just one endeavor, Lyle said, adding that his interests included public safety, politics and the oil business.

He also liked to paint and had a passion for collecting presidential memorabilia. He adorned his house with displays of rare presidential artifacts and historical documents, his loved ones said.

“He defined a Renaissance person,” Lyle said. “He was a Texan by choice, but he brought a broad interest with him when he came to the state, and he continued the breadth of that interest.”

Maguire’s contributions and involvement across organizations and institutions earned him numerous awards, including from SMU, the Dallas Police Department, American College and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

His proudest accomplishment, however, was his relationship with his family, Lyle said, noting that Maguire’s wife and children were his top priority and he loved to take them on vacation.

“He and Ann were gracious entertainers, and they loved to have their friends around,” Lyle said. “They made it possible through their generosity to bring people together and have a good time.”

Maguire was serious about his interests, but he was also a fun person to be around, Lyle said, adding that the philanthropist was a man of his word who was endlessly loyal to his organizations, institutions and loved ones.

“He was consistent and he was predictable in the sense that you knew that he was always going to be there,” Lyle said. “He was candid, he was transparent — but he also did that with a loving spirit.”

Maguire is survived by three children and their spouses, Cary Maguire, Jr (Rhonda), Melinda Maguire Down (Martin), and Blainey Maguire Hess (Marshall) and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Maguire’s name may be made to the Maguire Center of Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU, P.O. Box 750316, Dallas, TX 75275-0316.


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