Houston billionaire philanthropist passes away

March 30, 2010 3:25:54 AM PDT
He was a tycoon in the energy industry, a multi-billionaire and one of the most generous philanthropists in the city. Houston's richest man has passed away, and left behind a big mark on the Bayou City. You may not have known Dan Duncan's name, but more than likely you know some of the causes he has supported with major donations -- MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, just to name a few. Duncan was the richest man in Houston and he consistently made the Forbes list of top 100 millionaires or above. He was not a household name, and that's probably how he liked it. But Dan Duncan left a very large footprint, certainly at the Texas Medical Center.

He was a Texas energy tycoon, but Dan Duncan's life was more interesting than that. He was a self-made billionaire who worked for a time as a roughneck, but his friends say it was his character that made him stand out.

Dr. William Butler, President of Baylor College of Medicine, said, "He was a gracious soul and a fine gentleman and the nicest kind of person you'd like to have as your friend."

And he was a friend to the Texas Medical Center. Treated successfully for prostate cancer by Baylor doctors 15 years ago, he later became one of the medical school's trustees. He gave generously throughout the Medical Center for research -- $135 million to Baylor, millions to MD Anderson, the Texas Heart Institute. The Duncan Pediatric Neurological Center at Texas Children's Hospital is still under construction.

All told, Dan Duncan lived a prosperous life that gave back to others. What he left here is a gift that will continue to give.

"Many people know they can't take it with them," Dr. Butler said. "But they could leave it in hands that would allow the betterment of the community. I think Dan was that kind of person."

Duncan co-founded Enterprise Products Company in 1968 and took Enterprise Products Partners public in July 1998.

"The entire Enterprise family mourns the unexpected passing of Dan Duncan who will be truly missed," said Michael A. Creel, Enterprise president and chief executive officer. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Dan Duncan's passing, we're told, was completely unexpected. He had spoken to friends just last night. His wife was out of town at the time. He passed away at his River Oaks home. He was 77 years old. He is survived by his wife, Jan, four children and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.