Artwork gift takes generosity to new heights at Clements University Hospital

The plaque reads simply: “Gift of Barbara Thomas Lemmon in honor of Mark L. Lemmon, M.D.” The gift itself is an artistic stunner.

Unveiled in July, the artwork floats within the atrium of the newly opened third tower of William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. Its graceful form evokes a flock of birds undulating through the sky. Measuring 64 feet long by 35 feet high, the sprawling mobile is composed of more than 5,000 hollow, stainless steel spheres suspended from more than 1,300 individual steel cables.

Sculpture made up of thousands of reflective steel balls hung from thin steel wires.
"Myriad" by artist Danielle Roney hangs in the entry atrium of the third tower of Clements University Hospital. UT Southwestern Medical Center

The commissioned work, titled "Myriad" by New York-based artist Danielle Roney, is the latest donation – and the first gift of art – from Barbara Thomas Lemmon. Mrs. Lemmon’s support of the institution spans 30 years, much of it given together with her late husband, plastic surgeon Dr. Mark L. Lemmon.

“The main goal of this gift is to bring great pleasure and happiness to the many people who enter this hospital,” said Mrs. Lemmon, a member of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s President’s Advisory Board. “UT Southwestern has always strived to include original works of art on campus to both enhance the aesthetics of its hospital and clinics and inspire its patients, visitors, and employees. And I always felt that this particular piece could play just that role in encouraging those upbeat feelings.”

The artwork’s impressive presence in the hospital atrium resonates with special strength for its donor Mrs. Lemmon, who is also a member of UT Southwestern’s Arts and Interiors Committee, which advises on acquisitions to the institution’s campus art collection.

“What I particularly like about this mobile’s placement is that it is so wonderfully visible from both outside and inside,” Mrs. Lemmon said. “And when the sun shines a certain way, it produces stunning reflections on the walls. I think that makes it exceptional.”

The artwork is notable for its beauty and symbolism.

Artist Danielle Roney visits with donor Barbara Lemmon and UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky during the installation of Myriad
Artist Danielle Roney (left) describes the installation progress to donor Barbara Thomas Lemmon (center) and UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky while crews work to hang the massive sculpture on July 16, 2020. UT Southwestern Medical Center

"This gift is significant for the ways it transforms the Clements University Hospital atrium for our patients and caregivers."

Dr. Daniel K. PodolskyPresident
UT Southwestern Medical Center

“Art simultaneously changes our surroundings and how we view the world, and this gift is significant for the ways it transforms the Clements University Hospital atrium for our patients and caregivers,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “This gift is also a physical reminder of how Barbara Lemmon’s sustained philanthropy has shaped this institution and serves as a stirring tribute to the memory of Dr. Lemmon.”

Dr. John Warner, Executive Vice President for Health System Affairs at UT Southwestern, feels a special connection to Mrs. Lemmon and her gift of art.

“I was her husband’s physician – he was a wonderful person and doctor,” said Dr. Warner. “And Barbara, who is on our art committee, has always been such a great friend to our community over the years – which endows her spectacular gift of art with even more special meaning to me.”

Decades of support

The Lemmons’ charitable giving to UT Southwestern harkens back to 1989, when Mrs. Lemmon joined the former Friends of the Center for Human Nutrition, a giving organization that supported nutrition research. Four years later, the couple established the Max L. Thomas Distinguished Chair in Molecular Pulmonary Oncology. The Chair, which provides research support for a prominent faculty member, is currently held by Dr. John Minna, head of UT Southwestern’s Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research.

Mrs. Lemmon made a subsequent gift in 2015 in honor of Dr. Warner and the care he gave her husband.

Artist Danielle Roney visits with donor Barbara Lemmon and UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky during the installation of Myriad
Comprised of more than 5,000 stainless steel spheres, "Myriad" spans 64 feet. UT Southwestern Medical Center
Artist Danielle Roney visits with donor Barbara Lemmon and UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky during the installation of Myriad
The polished spheres are suspended by more than 1,300 steel cables above the first floor atrium of Clements University Hospital. UT Southwestern Medical Center

Her generosity has also impacted other institutions of higher education and a number of arts organizations throughout Dallas, including The Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Dallas Historical Society, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Born and raised in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, Mrs. Barbara Bogy married Max Thomas. The couple had one son, Michael Thomas.

After Max Thomas’ death from cancer in 1982, Mrs. Lemmon later married Dr. Lemmon in 1990. Dr. Lemmon, a former Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery at UT Southwestern, retired the following year. Dr. and Mrs. Lemmon were active philanthropists in the Dallas community, donating to support medical research, the arts, and education. Upon Dr. Lemmon’s death in 2018, the family requested that memorial donations be directed to the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern.

Affinity for art’s healing power

Though admittedly not an artist herself, Mrs. Lemmon is an enthusiast of art in all its myriad expressions. She believes some of her passion for the arts influenced Michael Thomas’ pursuit of art as a career. He holds a doctorate in art history from UT Austin and is Director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at UT Dallas.

“Michael and I would walk into the Louvre Museum in Paris,” said Mrs. Lemmon, recalling one of the family’s trips to Europe, “and once we entered the museum, my son would immediately tell me that he had to run off to see the Mona Lisa. I didn’t have to tell him where it was. He knew exactly where she was on display.”

Her husband had a similar affinity for art, which underscored Mrs. Lemmon’s decision to dedicate her gift in his memory.

Artist Danielle Roney visits with donor Barbara Lemmon and UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky during the installation of Myriad
With "Myriad" hanging in the background, Barbara Thomas Lemmon (left) speaks with artist Danielle Roney on the second floor of Clements University Hospital during a tour on July 16, 2020. UT Southwestern Medical Center

"I really believe art can have a curative effect on people."

Barbara Thomas Lemmon

“I feel my late husband would be very pleased with it,” she said. “He was so open-minded and had a great appreciation for art. And so, this beautiful mobile, as the first art gift I’ve ever made – to do it in Mark’s honor was something I always wanted to do.”

The gift’s connection to people is a recurring motivation, and while reflecting on the artwork’s special place in Clements University Hospital, Mrs. Lemmon’s thoughts immediately turn to those who will experience it.

“I just want it to be something that when people walk in there, they are purely enthused simply by seeing it,” she said. “I consider this work to be another part of our continuing efforts to make Clements University Hospital as welcoming as possible for patients, visitors, and the faculty and staff who care for them.

“I really believe art can have a curative effect on people. When someone looks at a piece of art, they feel the day is that much brighter.”

  • Dr. Minna also holds the Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research.
  • Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.
  • Dr. Warner holds the Jim and Norma Smith Distinguished Chair for Interventional Cardiology, and the Nancy and Jeremy Halbreich, Susan and Theodore Strauss Professorship in Cardiology.