Dorrance Hill Hamilton, 88, the billionaire Campbell Soup Co. heiress whose generous hats and more generous philanthropy made her a spirited presence in society and cultural circles of Philadelphia and Newport, R.I., died Tuesday Janaury 18 2017 at her home in Boca Grande, Fla., after a long illness.
Known as “Dodo” -- a nickname she received from her mother -- Mrs. Hamilton was a dogged competitor at the Philadelphia Flower Show for almost three decades and funded the $1 million Hamilton Horticort, the area for the show's plant competitions. She leaves the city and region dotted with new buildings, gardens, and other spaces bearing the Hamilton name.
Mrs. Hamilton was the first woman to be named to the board of Thomas Jefferson University. One of her longest associations locally was with the University of the Arts, first as a trustee of the Philadelphia College of Art (one of the university’s predecessor institutions) in 1970. In 1989, two years after PCA’s merger with the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, she became chair of the new board of trustees of the University of the Arts. It was under her leadership that the school expanded its degree offerings, increased faculty salaries and student aid, and boosted its fund-raising.
Born Aug. 16, 1928, in New York and raised there and at “Bois Dore,” a 36-room formal French estate in Newport, she was a granddaughter of John T. Dorrance, who invented the soup-condensing process and became president of Campbell Soup Co. in 1914.
Her family spent weekends from fall to spring in Radnor, where her grandparents' estate, Woodcrest (now the site of Cabrini University), helped establish her love of horticulture, according to a biography provided by the Hamilton Family Foundation.
She attended Foxcroft, a boarding school in Virginia for young ladies, where she met her future husband, Samuel M.V. Hamilton, whose grandfather was president of Baldwin Locomotive Works. They married in 1950. He became a brokerage executive for the firm now known as Janney Montgomery Scott, and died in 1997.
Mrs. Hamilton's net worth was recently estimated by Forbes at $1.26 billion.