Lynn McBee: Philanthropist and Scientist
Lynn McBee is both. She moved to Dallas after graduating from the University of Texas with a biochemistry degree almost 25 years ago, and has been a philanthropic force in the community ever since, her board service totaling 26 different nonprofits and organizations. The two worlds – philanthropy and science – have collided in unexpected ways for her.
“I can look at the big picture and distill down to the granular what needs to get done,” she said. “This kind of work is similar – I have a hunch and set out to do the work. If something isn’t the solution, I find what is. That doesn’t take the heart out of it, though. I always want to do more.”
McBee is the Chief Executive Officer of Young Women’s Preparatory Network – two years officially last month – and says this position is “the ultimate giving back.” Young Women’s Prep supports single-gender, college-preparatory, public education giving young women the academic and leadership skills to achieve success.
When McBee was at the University of Texas, only 25 percent of her classes included women. She said the number has only increased by 10 percent, which helps fuel her self-proclaimed passion for girls and leadership in her current role.
“It’s growing the whole girl. I didn’t grow up thinking girls couldn’t do math and science,” McBee said. “We’re here to encourage girls to advocate for themselves, to pursue STEM.”
Alongside growing a successful career with a biotech firm for more than 20 years, Lynn’s volunteer work includes being part of the Margaret Hunt Hill project and West Dallas’ newfound vitality, and the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
“If you choose to live in certain parts of the city, you could never see poverty. I went to school with kids who had nothing, and there were no barriers to that poverty. You learn to be sensitive,” McBee said. “A lot of philanthropy is exposing people to things that some of us have been exposed to our whole lives. Accessibility to everything is important to me.”
And that theme rings through her work at Young Women’s Prep to her extensive board service. This mentality was instilled in her from a young age, starting with parents who provided seed money for Meals on Wheels, a dad who “would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” and a mom who was active in Junior League.
Those two organizations gave Lynn her start in Dallas – and from there, she says, everything is a blur. While she called the Visiting Nurse Association/Meals on Wheels to be a driver, they needed her skills on a committee, and one thing led to another.
“I really didn’t realize the cumulative effect until people started pointing it out. For me, it’s more like ‘exercise, brush teeth, give back,’” she said. “It’s one of my core beliefs. I was taught to help others where you can if you’re blessed to be able to do that.”
Lynn is also close friends with Ruth Altshuler, Dallas’ leading lady of philanthropy, civic leadership and volunteerism. Mrs. Altshuler will receive the 2016 VolunteerNow Lifetime Achievement Award at the 10th Annual Hearts of Texas Luncheon, and Lynn considers her a major inspiration and role model.
“I have the most admiration, appreciation and respect for Ruth,” she said. “She is the ultimate philanthropist, mentor – the definition of Dallas philanthropy and leadership. They just don’t make them like that anymore.”
Mrs. Altshuler – and peers such as Lynn McBee – are what shape Dallas’ spirit of giving and transformative volunteer work.
“Where I come from and how I was raised, you don’t let people down,” McBee said. “It’s always part of me, and it’s helped living in a city where it’s almost the norm to give back. Failure is not in Dallas’ lexicon. We’re all in this together, and there are no lines in the sand in how we help.”