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Lester & Sue Smith's Legacy of Giving

Legendary Philanthropists Make Landmark Gift for Texas Children’s Future

In loving memory of Lester Smith and in celebration of a life lived to the fullest.

“I was honored to call Lester Smith my friend. He lived his life honorably, and among his greatest joys was his dedication to the service of others. Texas Children’s is so fortunate to be a beneficiary of the extraordinary philanthropy that defined everything that he and his wife, Sue, did in their lives. Their commitment to our patients and their families was unmatched.”

Mark A. Wallace
President and CEO

Whatever the occasion, Lester and Sue Smith commanded attention. Whether it was nabbing championship ballroom dancing trophies or sharing their wealth with the community, they always went big.

And they really went big at the Legacy of Motown Gala on September 29, 2018. The event was, by all counts, simply incredible and raised more than $83 million, breaking the Texas record for the highest-grossing fundraising gala ever. The Smiths let it be known ahead of time that their foundation would match the gifts made that evening, which inspired others to give generously.

The biggest hit of the night was the announcement of the naming of Texas Children’s Hospital’s most recent expansion project: the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. The Smiths, much loved and admired for generously sharing their private wealth for public good, made a transformational gift of $50 million to support the hospital’s newest facility that is now home to Texas Children’s Heart Center, as well as expanded surgical and critical care services. Their generosity also supported Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers.

This was not the first time the Smiths had overwhelmed Texas Children’s with their generosity. They had several philosophies by which they lived their life together, and one of them was “You Gotta Dance Like No One’s Watching”—also the title of a book authored by Lester. Putting this philosophy into practice, they hosted the 2012 Disco Legends event and matched the funds raised that night with a personal gift. In recognition of their extraordinary leadership, the Lester and Sue Smith Clinic at Texas Children’s Cancer Center was named in their honor.

Drawing from a place of gratitude for the life-saving care Lester received during his battles with cancer, this dynamic couple has dedicated more than $150 million over the years to support research at numerous institutions including Texas Children’s, Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health System.

In addition to medical research, the Smiths enriched the arts, education, social services and humanitarian causes of Houston while raising the bar on giving with passion and creativity. They advanced the mission of dozens of nonprofits, leaving a legacy of support for generations to come.

“Another of Lester’s philosophies in life was: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’” noted Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children’s. “Lester and Sue gave from their hearts, and they gave so much more than anyone could ever have expected. All of us at Texas Children’s Hospital are so grateful for their amazing generosity and commitment. It is an honor for us to ensure that their incredible legacy will live on for generations to come in the medical advancements and state-of-the-art care for patients and their families in the tower that bears their names.”

The Smiths also supported:

  • Texas Children’s Purple Songs Can Fly program.
  • University of Miami’s FDA-approved stem cell research.
  • The Lester Smith Cardiovascular Training Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
  • The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
  • The Smith Distinguished Lecture Series at the Holocaust Museum Houston.