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Hazel and William Hough make historic endowment gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida
This generous gift will also allow the Museum to add a curator of modern and contemporary art—a first for the institution. Photo: Thomas U. Gessler.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.- Hazel and William Hough of St. Petersburg are giving $2 million to the MFA to establish an endowment fund to support its curatorial mission. The Hazel and William Hough Curatorial Endowment Fund will be recognized by naming the Museum’s chief curator, The Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator. This generous gift will also allow the Museum to add a curator of modern and contemporary art—a first for the institution.

“The Hough gift allows the MFA to realize a dream—adding strength to strength in our staff of top-flight professionals,” said Director Kent Lydecker. “Expertise in the art of our time will expand the Museum’s celebration of excellence, both through our collection and special exhibitions. The Houghs’ engagement with contemporary art is a model, and their philanthropy is an inspired endorsement of the mission of the Museum of Fine Arts.”

During her 17-year tenure, Jennifer Hardin, the newly named Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator, has organized more than 75 exhibitions, produced numerous catalogues, and enhanced the collection in concert with three directors, trustees, private collectors, and donors. “Hazel and William Hough have done so much for the Museum and the community. This is a great professional and personal honor to hold this position,” Dr. Hardin said.

“With this gift, Hazel and I hope that the Museum of Fine Arts can show and collect more modern and contemporary art,” said Mr. Hough. “Collecting the art of our own time has been an adventure for Hazel and me and has immeasurably enriched our lives and the lives of our family. We believe that another full-time curator will take the Museum in many exciting directions. With this gift, we are looking to the Museum’s future. We encourage others to join us.”

The Houghs have been longtime collectors and champions of modern and contemporary art. In honor of her husband, Mrs. Hough provided the funds for the Museum to acquire its first piece of video art, Peter Sarkisian’s Extruded Video Engine II (2007), which is currently on view in the Lee Malone Gallery.

That innovative work was unveiled during the opening reception for the Hazel Hough Wing in February 2008. The wing opened to the public in March. That addition more than doubled the size of the original building. The Houghs gave a major lead gift for the expansion.

Most recently, the Houghs have lent 14 works to Global + Local: Studio and Contemporary Glass on Florida’s West Coast, featuring more than 100 objects and continuing through October 14. This is one of the largest and most diverse exhibitions of art glass ever presented at the MFA.

The Houghs’ involvement at the MFA has truly been a series of “firsts.” They provided the funds in 1976 to acquire the Museum’s first major sculpture—Antoine-Louis Barye’s Peace—for the new Sculpture Garden. They challenged others to donate funds to purchase Barye’s companion work, War. These remain two of the most important sculptures in the Museum’s collection.

For many years, Mrs. Hough served as chair of the Education Committee of the Board of Trustees and advocated for a full-time professional Curator of Education. Due to her influence, the position was added in 1991.

The Hazel Hough Wing allows the Museum to show larger special exhibitions, as well as more of the collection in the original building. The Houghs commitment to education led to the popular Explore More Gallery—yet another “first” for the Museum.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Hough have served repeatedly on the Board of Trustees. Mrs. Hough is a current trustee and a member of the Accessions Committee, the Education Committee, and the Museum Store Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the Collectors Circle Board and The Stuart Society. Mrs. Hough was one of the Museum’s early docents, completing the class in 1972. For many years, she actively conducted tours and is now a docent emerita.

The city’s cultural and educational landscape is very striking and has attracted international attention. The Houghs’ role has been substantial in this transformation. They have been major supporters of American Stage, the Salvador Dalí Museum, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and the Canterbury School of Florida. At Canterbury, preK to fourth-grade students study on the Hough Campus. The Hough Concert Hall of The Palladium at St. Petersburg College also recognizes their dedication to the community.

A loyal alumnus of the University of Florida, Mr. Hough was a member of the first MBA class in 1948. His endowment gift at UF established the Hough Graduate School of Business to support teaching and research. It also provided the lead gift for a new building, named in his honor, to house graduate business programs. Mrs. Hough holds her BA in journalism from Florida State University.

Mr. Hough founded William R. Hough & Co. in St. Petersburg in 1962, which he directed until his son Rob took over. His company specialized in municipal bonds and in 2004 merged with RBC Dain Rauscher for which he continues as a financial consultant. He was also chairman of Republic Bancshares, which was acquired by BB&T, also in 2004.

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