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Lee Hage Jamail, School of Nursing Advocate, Dies
Longtime supporter of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, as well as numerous other statewide institutions of science, education and culture, Lee Hage Jamail, 76, has died.
She and her husband, Houston attorney and lifetime Development Board member, Joseph D. Jamail Jr., have contributed more than $1 million to the health science center. In 1997, the couple established three distinguished professorships at the UT School of Nursing at Houston, two of which are held by Janet Meininger, Ph.D., and Mara M. Baun, D.N.Sc.
In addition to being a longtime advocate of PARTNERS, the School of Nursing community support organization, Lee Jamail was instrumental in the recent addition of the school's doctoral nursing degree plan, according to Dean Patricia Starck, D.S.N.
"I don't think we'd have our doctoral nursing program if it had not been for Lee's help when we had to get approval from the state educational board, where she was a leading member," Starck said. "Her support in this way, plus the Jamail Professorship gifts, has resulted in the education of many fine nurses for our community. Nursing owes her a lot."
James T. Willerson, M.D., president of the UT Health Science Center, added, "Lee and Joe Jamail have given enormously of themselves and their resources to The University of Texas, to the Texas Medical Center and to Texas. We are very grateful. Lee Jamail's generous support of our nursing school has been crucial in its rise to national prominence."
The endowments to the School of Nursing were among many gifts the Jamails made in 1997 to a number of Houston and Austin medical, scientific and cultural institutions and, according to her husband, were the brainchild of Lee Jamail.
"We'd have a drink each evening and talk about what we wanted to do in our lives," Joe Jamail recalled. "One time she asked me, ‘Don't we have enough money yet?' I said, ‘Yes,' and she said, ‘Then why don't we give some of it away?' So we did."
In addition to the endowment to the health science center, the couple, both UT alumni, made substantial gifts to the UT M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and to UT Austin, where the Swimming Center is named in her honor.
Joe Jamail credits his wife of 57 years with more than the idea of giving so generously of their financial resources.
"I never would have gone to law school if not for her and my mother, but mostly for Lee," said Joe Jamail. "When we first got married, we made a promise to each other that we wouldn't hurt each other and I knew it would hurt her if I left school, so I stayed with it."
Lee Jamail worked as a special education teacher at a public school in Austin while her husband attended law school at UT, where he graduated in 1953.
He said he owes her more than his tremendous success as a plaintiff's attorney. "I have her to thank for every bit of happiness in my life," he said.
Joe Jamail achieved success and a level of notoriety by winning a precedent-setting $11.2 billion verdict for Pennzoil in its lawsuit against Texaco in 1987 and has handled more than 200 multimillion-dollar lawsuits. He said that the fame that accompanied his courtroom successes did not affect his wife. "She was just so genuine and unspoiled," he said. "Money never changed her."
Last year, Houston Mayor Bill White declared Sept. 26, "Lee Hage Jamail Day in Houston." Though honored by the accolade, her husband said Lee Jamail remained humble.
"She was appreciative, but she was a person that didn't go skyward with every compliment," Joe Jamail said. "She was just a very real, down-to-earth person. She was real easy to love."
Honorary pallbearers for the Jan. 17 service included former U.S. President George Bush and his wife, Barbara; Texas Heart Institute President Denton Cooley, M.D.; UT Austin President Bill Powers, J.D., and his wife, Kim; UT Austin Head Football Coach Mack Brown and his wife, Sally; and former UT Head Football Coach Darrell Royal and his wife, Edith.
By Wendy K. Mohon, Institutional Advancement
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