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This Philanthropist Just Donated His $300 Million Art Collection to Seattle University

This American college’s art program just got a major boost.

Philanthropist and hotel developer Richard “Dick” Hedreen has donated his $300 million art collection to Seattle University (SU), the school announced on Wednesday. The extraordinary trove—which includes over 200 pieces of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and photography—is the largest gift of art ever made to a U.S. university, according to SU, and the largest of any kind given to a university in Washington. Hedreen is gifting the collection to honor his late wife, Elizabeth (a.k.a. Betty), who was an alumna of the institution and, alongside her husband, was a longtime supporter of the works in its permanent collection; she died in 2022.

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Elizabeth and Richard Hedreen
Elizabeth and Richard Hedreen

The couple began gathering pieces in the mid-1970s, amassing a series of works acquired in both the U.S. and international markets. Today, Hedreen’s treasures include pieces by a number of iconic artists such as Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, and Thomas Gainsborough. Lucien Freud’s etchings and photography by names like Andy Warhol, Irving Penn, and Henri Cartier-Bresson are also part of the collection. Several paintings by Cecily Brown round out the donations.

“Betty and I always felt we were custodians of the artworks we acquired, holding them in trust for a larger purpose,” Hedreen tells the SU Newsroom. “The Jesuits place a special focus on the arts and humanities, including art history, and that has long been reflected in Seattle University’s Jesuit education and its connection to the Seattle arts community.”

Giovanni Toscani (Italian, 1371-1430), Adoration of the Magi, unknown year. Tempera on panel, 33.5 x 64 cm.
Giovanni Toscani (Italian, 1371-1430), Adoration of the Magi, unknown year. Tempera on panel, 33.5 x 64 cm.

In addition to the art collection, Hedreen has shelled out $25 million in seed funding to develop the Seattle University Museum of Art in efforts to keep the collection together. Poised to be set in one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, the new institution is meant to become an extension of the classroom for learning. Schools in the area, other art and cultural organizations, and SU students will all have access to its world-class art displays.

“This new museum will serve as a bridge between our campus and the city, expanding access to the arts for traditionally underserved communities,” university president Eduardo Penalver said.

News of the art donation and museum is just the latest chapter in the Hedreens’ involvement with SU. Over the last 25 years, they became lead donors of the Chapel of St. Ignatius and co-chaired the funding campaign to build the university’s Lee Center for the Arts. The latter houses the Hedreen Gallery, which showcases emerging artists.

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