It is with heartfelt sadness that we share the news that our firm’s founder, Richard “Dick” Dini, died unexpectedly on Saturday, May 21. Mr. Dini was a genuine leader in philanthropy and fundraising having brought his capital campaign knowledge to Texas to run the first capital campaign for Rice University in the 1960’s. Dick was the son of proud Italian parents who were the owners of the renowned Dini’s Sea Grill restaurant in Boston. After graduating from his beloved Boston University, Dick turned his attention to making the world a better place through fundraising. His early career began with his service on the development staffs of the United Way in Boston and the Harvard Medical School. By 1965 Dick made his way to Texas where he would settle in Houston to run a successful $33 million first capital campaign at Rice University working with Houston business leader and philanthropist George Brown. That campaign ended with $44 million raised and Dick on his way to a spectacular career in fundraising and fundraising consulting. In 1969, Dick Dini left Rice University to found the firm that would bear his name. Over the years, Dini & Associates grew to become Dini Partners, and now, Dini Spheris.
Dick was a storied fundraiser with so many accomplishments over his career. His campaign successes are far too many to number. A few that he would mention as having been important over the years were Baylor College of Medicine, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Rice University, Southwestern University, University of Houston, University of St. Thomas, Trinity University, Hockaday School, Houston Christian High School, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston Symphony, YMCA of Metro Houston and YMCA of Metro Dallas. The friendships made with chief executives and trustees of institutions across Texas were countless. He was a spreader of enthusiasm for fundraising and great dreams. So many campaigns succeeded because of Dick’s incredible positivity and capacity to work with institutional leaders and trustees of all kinds.
Anne Murphy, Dini Spheris principal, speaking of Dick said, “Dick Dini began a new era of philanthropy in Houston and Texas when he ran the Rice campaign and then opened his fundraising firm. The impact he had in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and beyond will be felt for generations to come. I feel fortunate to have worked with and learned from him as I began my career in consulting at the firm.”
Though he thrived on his work as a fundraising consultant and as the founder of this firm, no part of his life had more meaning than his love for his family –- his wife, Jeanne, their two sons, Mark and David, and their grandchildren. Dick was immensely proud that his two sons followed him into the field of fundraising. Today, Mark Dini is the Director of Advancement for the prestigious St. John’s School in Houston and David Dini is the headmaster of the equally prestigious St. Mark’s School of Dallas.
Former Dini principal, David Jones, talked with Dick by telephone just two weeks ago. “I am so grateful to have had that call with Dick. He talked about what he valued more than anything else, his family, and he asked me about mine. With all his many accomplishments, that last conversation is how I will always remember him.”
Dick’s love of his Catholic faith was evident in his many relationships with religious communities of priests and sisters across the greater Houston area. Over the years, Dick and Jeanne developed a special relationship with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province and the friars of the Dominican Province in New Orleans. Dick’s special relationships with religious communities included the Basilian Fathers of St. Thomas High School and the University of St. Thomas as well as the Jesuits of Strake Jesuit College Prep and the Dominican Sisters of St. Agnes High School. The list could go on.
Larry Vaclavik, the managing principal of Dini Spheris remarked, “It is a privilege to continue the work of the firm that Dick Dini began almost 50 years ago. Dick taught so many of us at the firm to dream big, to write always in the positive, to see the world through a lens of goodness, and to help institutions have visions that will carry them from good to great. The world is a richer place because of Dick Dini’s life and goodness, his wisdom and fundraising counseling skills. His faith taught him that we are called to live by love, generosity and gratitude. Dick Dini, indeed, did practice what he preached.”
More than a decade ago Dick retired from the firm but his heart remained in the work of helping institutions and their leaders reach new levels of success. In 2007, the Greater Houston Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals recognized Dick with the Byron Welch Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fundraising -– a fitting tribute to his nearly six decades of service to the common good and the noble work of fundraising.
Dick Dini will be dearly remembered and greatly missed by many.