40.8 F
Fort Worth
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Martha Rowan Hyder: Force behind Van Cliburn Piano Competition, civic leader dies


4 p.m. Tuesday at University Christian Church. Interment: Greenwood Memorial Park.

Memorials: The Hyder family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition or the Fort Worth Zoo.

Martha Rowan Hyder, a civic leader and community volunteer as well as a major force behind the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, died Friday at her home in Fort Worth.

From the obituary on the Thompson Harveson and Cole Funeral Home website:

Martha Rowan Hyder, a legendary force who was instrumental in guiding the iconic Van Cliburn International Piano Competition from its inception to its world-renowned status, died on August 17, 2017, at her home in Fort Worth,

The ultimate civic leader and committed volunteer, Martha served on the Executive Committee of the Competition from 1962 to 1993, and helped establish the Cliburn Council, which holds lectures, concerts, and benefits during oÙ-contest years. One of her primary goals in life was to promote her love of classical piano music worldwide, abetted by her strong belief that classical music transcends personalities, politics, and culture. Carla Thompson, Chairman of the Board of The Cliburn, said: “We will be eternally grateful for the pivotal role that Martha played in elevating the international status of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and her tireless dedication to achieving that goal.” “She wanted the Cliburn to be the best in the world and used everything at her disposal to raise its profile and promote its winners,” Thompson noted.

Martha devoted her life to the arts and humanitarian causes, locally and internationally. She was Vice President and Trustee of the National Symphony in Washington D.C., a member of the International Committee of the New York City Ballet, Co-Chair of the Northwood Albert Schweitzer Music Award in New York, a Board member of Friends of Carnegie Hall, and a member of the Foundation for Art and

Preservation in Embassies. Her international leadership in the arts was eclipsed only by her loyal commitment to her hometown of Fort Worth, where she served on the Executive Committees of the Boards of Directors of the Fort Worth Symphony and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Martha was also an early and avid supporter of Planned Parenthood and CASA Women’s Clinic and Hospital of San Miguel de

Allende, Mexico.

Martha’s vision and leadership were transformative, as evidenced by her tenure as a Founding Board member of the then-nascent Sunny von Bulow National Victim Advocacy Center in 1986. Today, the renamed National Center for Victims of Crime is the nation’s largest nonproÚt serving victims and survivors of crime.

Before the creation of the World Wide Web, Martha Hyder was the “human internet.” Her prodigious memory, combined with her walls of organized files and overflowing rolodexes, made her the ultimateresource for reaching out to others to support many critical charitable and civic causes. On any day, one could observe Martha standing over a phone system with five lines lit, cell phone to her ear, taking copious notes and offering her sage guidance and advice, at all hours. Fueled by Hershey Kisses, she chose long nights and early mornings over sleep for the detailed planning and plotting that ensured her every venture’s success. Those ventures included the many fabulous parties and benefits she frequently hosted at her home, where it was not unusual to find a visiting musician, author, or scientist of world renown, for whom a stay in Fort Worth would not be complete without time spent at Martha’s.

Martha’s insatiable curiosity was the foundation of her profound influence on her many friends and professional peers. She was a lifelong student of history who applied the lessons of the past to her everyday life. By constantly challenging her own strong intellect, she challenged others as well – in the arts, culture, history, design, style, and pursuits of life-long learning. She gave her advice firmly and frequently and, in her opinion, her opinions were always correct.

Design and decoration were two of her passions. Many people have quipped that she was a “frustrated architect.” Her widely admired decoration skills were executed at her alma mater, Sweetbriar College, and on five floors of the University of Texas Law School featuring a collection of over 4,000 artifacts. She saw the world in terms of how to improve it, often through aesthetics and unsolicited advice. Martha couldn’t cook, but she could design a beautiful kitchen.

Martha was an imposing figure: tall, statuesque, and always elegant. Yet perhaps her true splendor was her encouragement and appreciation for what people could do to make the world a more beautiful and humanitarian place. Martha’s accomplishments are all the more extraordinary in light of their historical context. In a “Mad Men” society, with the Cold War in full force, Martha’s singular intelligence and charm succeeded where others failed.

Her best friend John Giordano, Jury Chairman Emeritus of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, fondly recalls when he was the first American to visit China after the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s. After a lengthy and grueling trip, he met with China’s Minister of Culture, whose first words to the Maestro were: “How is Mrs. Hyder?” While the Maestro lauds Martha’s universal reach and inspiring influence, he remembers her first as a compassionate and committed friend. “Martha was the most loyal and caring person,” he said. “When she loved you, you had a friend for life.”

Indeed, anybody who entered Martha’s world left a better person.

Among her many honors, Martha was the Fort Worth Altrusa Club’s 1978 “Woman of the Year” and the first recipient of the Arts and Humanities Award given by the Fort Worth Press Club.

Martha Hyder was born on December 9, 1927, in Dallas, Texas, and grew up in Fort Worth. She attended Sweetbriar College and graduated from the University of Texas with majors in history and government. It was there on a blind date that she met the brilliant young attorney Elton M. Hyder, Jr. Their marriage was an enduring partnership that produced not only their beloved family but also a lifelong, shared commitment to the arts and philanthropy.

Preceded in death by her husband, Elton Hyder, Jr., Martha is survived by her daughter, Whitney Hyder More and Whitney’s husband, Doug More; and sons, Brent Hyder and Elton Hyder III and his wife, Christine.

Martha’s nine grandchildren brought her great joy: Matthew Hyder (Amy Hyder) and Lili Hyder Luth

(Matthew Luth); Sam More (Kate More) and Peter More; Charley and GeoÙrey Hyder; and Andrika Sorokolit

King, Alexandra Frankel, and Lara Francis. They also gave Martha seven great-grandchildren upon whom she doted: Grace, Lyla, Tex, Freddy, Jack, Emily, and Sam. Other beloved family members include Kelly

Rowan Greenwell (Paul Greenwell) and her children Blake Elliott (Samantha Elliott) and Jordan Lerum (Jahmin Lerum); and her nephews Joseph Horn, Stephen Horn, Michael Horn, and Bryan Horn.

Related Articles

Our Digital Sponsors

Stay Connected


Latest Articles

Get our email updates

Stay up-to-date with the issues, companies and people that matter most to business in the Fort Worth.