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Houston Grande Dame Gives a Record $10 Million to Houston Ballet — Inside Margaret Alkek Williams’ Monumental Legacy Donation

Continuing Her Parents Mission On a Night Worthy Of Grand Celebration

BY // 05.10.22
photography Wilson Parish

The reveal of Margaret Alkek Williams’ unprecedented $10 million legacy gift to Houston Ballet Monday evening saw one of the most beautiful soirées in recent memory, a flower-decked celebration befitting the philanthropist’s gentility and generosity.

A well-heeled coterie of 150 (most Williams’ own guest list) gathered for the surprise reveal in the Dance Lab of the company’s six-story home, officially renamed as of this evening the Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Dance. A standing ovation ensued when Houston Ballet executive director Jim Nelson and creative director Stanton Welch made the announcement.

“Margaret’s generous leadership has elevated the Houston Ballet for decades,” Nelson tells PaperCity. “To receive from Margaret our largest philanthropic gift in the ballet’s 52 year history, makes it particularly meaningful. Stanton and I will be forever grateful for her devotion to us and to the company.”

A longtime fan of the company, Williams joined the board of trustees in 1989. She was instrumental in creating the endowment for the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation Principal Dancer position. In 2003, she joined the executive committee of the board of trustees and underwrote Welch’s Swan Lake, that premiered in 2006. In 2008, a generous donation to the capital campaign for the current facility at 610 Preston in downtown Houston resulted in naming of the center’s black box theater in her honor. Eight years later, she endowed the delightful Jubilee of Dance, now known as the Margaret Alkek Williams Jubilee of Dance.

Of this, the largest gift in her generous history of philanthropy, Willams tells PaperCity, “Giving was instilled in me by my parents and continuing my parents’ generous legacy has always been critically important to me. This gift will ensure Houston Ballet flourishes in perpetuity and can deliver on its mission to inspire a lasting love of dance for generations to come.

“It’s a mission that has always been close to my heart.”

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Stanton Welch AM, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Nelson at the Houston Ballet reveal of the $10 million legacy gift that Williams has made to the company. (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Stanton Welch AM, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Nelson at the Houston Ballet reveal of the $10 million legacy gift that Williams has made to the company. (Photo by Wilson Parish)

Margaret Williams’ father Albert Alkek was the son of Lebanese immigrants who moved to Texas in 1909. He succeeded in the Texas oil fields and eventually formed Alkek Oil Corporation in 1952. With a wealth estimated at hundreds of millions, over the years Alkek and his beloved wife Margaret contributed $77 million to various institutions in the Texas Medical Center. He died in 1995.

Among the many gifts that have resulted in the philanthropist’s name gracing things are the Houston Grand Opera Margaret Alkek Williams General Director Chair; the Houston Symphony Margaret Alkek Williams Executive Director/CEO Chair; the Margaret Alkek Williams Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Performing Arts Medicine Endowment for Arts Integration at Houston Methodist; and the Margaret M. Alkek and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair for the Director of the Moores School of Music.

“I love supporting Houston’s vibrant arts community and proud to have a long history of helping these and other organizations like Alley Theatre, the Center for Performing Arts Medicine at Houston Methodist, Performing Arts Houston (previously Society for the Performing Arts) and Theatre Under The Stars to further their missions,” Margaret Williams says.

On this glorious evening, Richard Flowers and The Events Company transformed the black box theater into an enchanting salon lighted with crystal chandeliers and bursting with lavish floral bouquets (hydrangeas, roses, orchids, stock and more). As guests entered the fully draped space, theatrical fog rose from the floor creating a magical moment.

City Kitchen provided the exceptional dinner, the menu selected by the honoree. The festive meal began with lobster salad with avocado salicon, crispy potato strings and truffle citrus sauce. The entrée was pan seared sea bass with mustard-chive vinaigrette served with watercress and asparagus risotto, cherry heirloom tomato confit and long stem artichoke. Williams’ choice for dessert was a strawberry, white chocolate and mascarpone mille feuille with strawberry coulis.

Houston Ballet crowned the evening with presentation of a rose for Williams from each of the company’s dancers who paraded through the theater to the sounds of “The Triumphal March” from Aida. Throughout it all, the petite star of the evening was like a schoolgirl on prom night.

PC Seen: Randa and Charles Williams, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow and Christopher Gardner; Houston Grand Opera general director and CEO Khori Dastoor and BenJoaquin Gouverneur; Alley Theatre executive director Dean Gladden and Jane Gladden; Houston Ballet board chair Shawn Stephens and Jim Jordan; Ballet board vice president Beth Zdeblick and Nick Zdeblick; Ballet board vice president Jay Jones with Terry Wayne Jones; Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Kelley and Stephen Lubanko, Carroll and Hugh Ray, Brenda and Marc Watts, Jo Furr, Kristy Bradshaw, Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia, Lynn Wyatt, Phoebe Tudor, Rose Cullen, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Molly and Jim Crownover,  Janiece Longoria, Ginni and Richard Mithoff, Joanne King Herring, Tara and David Wuthrich, and Nancy Ames and Danny Ward.

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