Ground Breaking Art Gift

In a truly transformative gift, philanthropist Richard Hedreen donates $300M art collection to Seattle University, along with seed money to fund a Museum of Art.

It would be hard to overstate what the Hedreen Art Collection—the largest gift of its kind ever made to a U.S. university—means for Seattle University, the student experience and the city as a whole.

It not only enhances the university’s reputation in a substantial way but it also will be a vital component in students’ learning across colleges and disciplines and with the creation of a Museum of Art—with seed money as part of the gift. This remarkable collection of art will serve as an extension of the classroom and be accessible to families, area schools and the community. 

All of this is made possible because of the generosity of Richard “Dick” Hedreen and his family.

Dick and Elizabeth “Betty” Hedreen’s interest in art started modestly with a desire to find a few pieces to outfit a new home they were decorating. That was 60 years ago. In the time since, they assembled an extraordinary collection of art—spanning the 15th and 16th centuries to modern and contemporary works—that is regarded as among the most prized and finely curated private collections in the U.S. And this stunning collection gifted to Seattle University is valued at more than $300M and comprised of more than 200 works—with paintings, pottery, photography, etchings, sculptures and more. 

This is a truly transformational gift from Hedreen, which includes $25 million in seed funding to develop the Seattle University Museum of Art. Dick’s late wife Betty went to school here and, with her husband, was a longtime supporter of many of the university’s most vital artworks that are part of its existing permanent collection (the university also acknowledges the support of Dick and Betty’s children: Guy M. Hedreen, Elizabeth H. Hill, Jane M. Hedreen and Carl W. Hedreen.) The donation is the largest gift of any kind to a university in Washington state and the largest ever to Seattle University. 

“My impression has always been that the Jesuits are great educators and that as such they provide a finer education because of their interest in literature, poetry, music and art. So that was attractive to me,” says Hedreen on the decision to gift the collection to SU. “Betty went to Seattle University and I wouldn’t have met her had she not attended school there. I always felt like I wanted to support Seattle University.”

As noted, central to this overall gift is the creation of an on-campus museum. “In a single magnificent gesture, Dick Hedreen has provided Seattle University with the world-class holdings for a teaching museum that will span centuries of art history and spark learning and discussion across the entire curriculum,” says President Eduardo Peñalver. “Just as important, this new museum will serve as a bridge between our campus and the city, expanding access to the arts for traditionally underserved communities and helping us realize our mission.”

The Hedreen Art Collection features works by some of history’s greatest artists. It’s an impressive roster that includes Jacopo da Pontormo, Jan Lievens, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Luis Egidio Meléndez, Thomas Gainsborough, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana. There are etchings by Lucian Freud that represent three decades of his career and photography by Berenice Abbott, Irving Penn, Louis Stettner and Andy Warhol, among others. Several prominent paintings by Cecily Brown are in the collection alongside works by Rashid Johnson, Vik Muniz, Amy Sherald and Anna Weyant.

Giving their art collection to Seattle University, says Dick, is a way to honor Betty, who passed away in 2022, and to acknowledge the Jesuits in the arts (Dick and Betty were inducted into the Jesuit Honor Society on April 30, 2024). The couple lovingly built this collection together, with Betty often leading Dick to unique pieces that he otherwise wouldn’t know about.

A photograph of Dick and Betty Hedreen over another portrait of Dick Hedreen 

“Betty and I always felt that we were custodians of the artworks we acquired, holding them in trust for a larger purpose. 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 connections to the Seattle arts community,” he says. “My goal is to keep the collection together in the new Seattle University Museum of Art, which will have a profound and lasting impact on students and faculty.” 

Go inside the collection with this photo gallery featuring some of the works in the collection.

The museum’s location, in one of Seattle’s most vibrant neighborhoods, will provide access to world-class art for our neighbors, including serving as a teaching complement for area schools and other art and cultural organizations.

“The teaching museum will enhance the quality of our academic enterprise by integrating the transformational power of art into our curriculum,” says Provost Shane P. Martin. “This will engage students who are studying art and in all academic majors for which art can be a window into a range of perspectives.”  

With art spanning several centuries, “the collection is a perfect fit for an academic museum. You can teach an art history course from just this collection,” says President Peñalver.

In talking about the importance of art museums on university campuses, Hedreen points to the museums at Yale and Harvard. An on-campus art museum “gives the university the tools to teach art history and visitors experience art and how the art speaks to them.”

“I think the same people who go to the Seattle Art Museum will search out Seattle University’s museum,” Hedreen says. “It will have a better collection than some other museums and be an attractive place for people who already visit art galleries, for art collectors and people generally interested in art.”

Adds President Peñalver, “This new museum will serve as a bridge between our campus and the city, expanding access to the arts.”

Art Gift Grabs Headlines

News of the Hedreen Art Collection gift and SU’s plans to create a Museum of Art generated major buzz and media coverage literally across the globe. Here’s a sampling:

Screenshots of different online news agencies that wrote about the Hedreen gift to Seattle University

Written by Tina Potterf

Monday, July 1, 2024