Houston Philanthropist’s “Grande” Gesture Renames Building to
Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Dance
Margaret Alkek Wiliams, scion of legendary Texas oil family Margaret and Albert Alkek, bestowed another equally legendary gift to Houston Ballet—$10 million! This celebrated philanthropist was feted at an elegant seated dinner with 150 close friends, who raised their glasses as they toasted to the renaming of the building to Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Dance, which is considered the largest facility dedicated to dance in the country.
This six-story, sleek current home to Houston Ballet, unveiled in 2011, is our country’s fifth largest ballet company. It was designed with sustainable features by globally-recognized architecture firm Gensler and boasts nine dance studios, sixty dancers, a dance lab that seats 200 for presentations as well as rehearsals, and artistic, administrative and support facilities for the Ballet and its academy. This state-of-the-art performance space is also the largest professional dance facility in America.
Houston Ballet Executive Director James Nelson said, “It is because Margaret has been such a cherished friend, enlightened leader, and generous benefactor that we will meaningfully honor her legacy in perpetuity. Her significant patronage to the Houston Ballet will forever represent cornerstones of Houston Ballet’s history.”
“Margaret is truly a prima philanthropist. There will never be a last dance with Margaret, as she is, and will forever be, a testament and treasure to all our city’s world-class arts organizations,” said Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM, who serves as Artistic Director with the Ballet since 2003. Williams welcomed his arrival in Houston by underwriting Swan Lake, his first full-length classical ballet staged for the company.
This celebrated Houston icon’s Ballet legacy began with her parents, who taught her to give back to her community at an early age. She joined Houston Ballet’s Board of Trustees in 1989 and began quietly using her generosity and love for the ballet to transform this organization into what it is today. She and her family’s foundation have endowed principal dancers, supported the Center for Dance’s capital campaign, sponsored fundraising events over the years, and provided funds in perpetuity for Jubilee of Dance—the one-night-only gala event showcasing the work of Houston Ballet and highlighting the dancers. Margaret Alkek Williams’ beneficence secured her position as a founding member of the Etoile Society, which recognizes the Ballet’s most generous supporters.
“I am so proud to see the Houston Ballet become an international arts ambassador for our city,” said Margaret Alkek Williams. “I am deeply honored that the iconic Center for Dance building, where ballet company members can be seen twirling or leaping in the studios from the windows, will bear my name. It is my sincere hope that as one walks through the doors they will continue to learn, enjoy and excel in this beautiful art form.”
The evening’s festivities began with remarks from Jim Nelson and Margaret Williams, followed by a three-course feast, created by City Kitchen, which was held in the Center’s Dance Lab. Their first offering was a delectable Lobster Salad with truffle citrus sauce. Course two presented a Pan-Seared Sea Bass with mustard-chive vinaigrette served with Asparagus Risotto and long-stem artichoke. The dessert course stunned with a strawberry, white chocolate and mascarpone Mille Feuille with strawberry coulis.
Traveling through a massive floral arch, guests entered the darkened room and were treated to a visual delight. The Events Company, helmed by famed decorator Richard Flowers showcased the room with elegant crystal chandeliers and breathtaking floral arrangements on pillars that were strategically placed for maximum impact. Floor-to-ceiling draperies around the room were softly lit from below to add a sense of mystery and dramatic ambiance.
Post-dessert, the festive crowd was treated to a procession of Houston Ballet dancers who, in single file, each presented a pale pink rose to Margaret as the “The Triumphal March” from Aida played in the background. Margaret was overcome with delight and was emotionally moved. A perfect ending to a perfect evening!
The Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Dance is a tangible symbol of Houston’s passionate commitment to the arts. It will cement Houston’s reputation as an international center for the performing and visual arts for generations to come. Brava Margaret!
Socially present: Randa and Charles Williams, Lynn Wyatt, Honorable Joanne King Herring, Maria and Neil Bush, Sarahbeth and Pierce Bush, C.C. Conner, Molly and Jim Crownover, Rose Cullen, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Ginni and Richard Mithoff, Bobbie Nau, Ann Trammell and Lynda Underwood, Regina Rogers, Phoebe Tudor, Jo Furr, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Director Gary Tinterow and Christopher Gardner, HGO 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, Jim Nelson, Stanton Welch AM, Ballet board Vice President Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones, Ballet board Vice President Beth and Nick Zdeblick, David and Tara Wuthrich, Penny and Paul Loyd, David and Mary Ann McKeithan, Kristina and Paul Somerville, Thecla Harper, Monica Hartland, Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Kelley and Stephen Lubanko, Beth Wolff, Cheryl Byington, Judy and Dan McClure, Carroll and Hugh Ray, Akemi Saitoh and Reiko Smith, Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia, Valerie and Tracy Dieterich, Cheryl and Scott Seaman, Angie Lane and Yuriko Kajiya, Angel Rios, Alicia and Lance Smith, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Sylvia Forsythe, Ryan Jay, Jeff Henry, Scott Evans, Ishwaria and Vivek Subbiah, Cabrina and Steven Owsley, Alex Blair and Mark Grace, Beth Madison, Rachel and Tom Regan, Diana and Chase Untermeyer, Dr. Peggy Smith and Mr. Ashley Smith, Amy and Rob Pierce, Princess Anna-Maria Galitzine and Prince Piotr Galitzine, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Paul-David Van Atta and Gregg Harrison and Bill Stubbs and Kurt Grether.