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Arlington philanthropist Allan Saxe dies, leaving long legacy around city, UTA

Allan Saxe.
Courtesy photo
/
UT-Arlington Library Special Collections
Allan Saxe died June 18, 2024, at 85, quickly prompting voices from across the community to remember his legacy.

Victoria Farrar-Myers saw a friend and colleague in Allan Saxe who wanted his life and the conversations he facilitated to matter.

“To me, he was someone who lived his life out loud,” said the former Arlington City Council member and University of Texas at Arlington political science professor. “It’s like he lived his values the way he lived, right? He valued other people, he valued wanting to be the one person to make a difference. And he did that in everything he put his hands on.”

Saxe died June 18 at 85, concluding his lifelong pursuit of philanthropy and community investment. That pursuit, which includes an estimated $1.5-2.5 million in donations and a 54-year-long tenure teaching political science at UT-Arlington, has led to many of Arlington’s most influential leaders citing Saxe as their own inspiration.

“There’s not a person in Arlington that didn’t feel Allan Saxe’s reach,” said Arlington philanthropist Dan Dipert, a lifelong friend of Saxe.

When Dipert recalls his first meeting with Allan Saxe — they met for breakfast at a Denny’s in the 1960s — two things stand out in his memory: Saxe’s voluptuous afro and an instant connection. As the two friends matured, Saxe grew to be a leader to everyone around him, Dipert said.

“He was always different; he just had a different mindset,” Dipert said. “He saw the world differently than any of us did.”

Saxe had a reputation for giving away every dollar he earned — including the entire $500,000 inheritance he received from his mother in the 1990s, according to The Dallas Morning News.

He was the benefactor to nearly every charity and community service organization in the city, former Mayor Richard Greene said. Saxe also was a founder of the Arlington Life Shelter, a nonprofit organization helping homeless individuals find self-sustainability.

“He was a special, special, special kind of person,” said Rebecca Deen, senior associate dean of UT-Arlington’s College of Liberal Arts. “There will never be another one like him.”

Deen met Saxe during her job interviews with the university in 1997. When she landed the job, Saxe was one of the first people to walk into her office and introduce himself, acting as if he’d never met her before.

“That was Allan — very humble,” she said. “Why would he assume anybody would remember him? That was his approach to the world.”

But all of Arlington remembers Saxe, and it will continue to for decades.

Whether they know it or not, athletes will feel his impact as they run the bases of Allan Saxe Field. Students will feel it when they read books from the Allan Saxe Little Free Library stands scattered across UT-Arlington. Children will feel it as they play tag in southwest Arlington’s Allan Saxe Park.

“He’s just one of those guys that you feel like no matter where you go in Arlington, he’s had his fingerprint on everything,” said Mayor Jim Ross.

His also name adorns numerous scholarships, meeting spaces, pencil sharpeners at UTA and — because Saxe never took himself too seriously — the road that leads to Arlington’s landfill.

“People don’t realize when they see a name on a stadium, or a name on a room in a library, or a name on a patch of grass that’s got wildflowers going on it, they don’t realize who Allan Saxe is,” said Geraldine Mills, executive director of Arlington Historical Society. “They just see that name and they think, ‘Well, that was nice of him,’ but they don’t know who he was.”

Part of that is what Saxe wanted. Despite what his citywide presence might suggest, Saxe never expected much fanfare for what he did, said Gary Hardee, a former Arlington Star-Telegram editor who worked in many of the same circles as Saxe.

The fanfare just came naturally because Saxe did so much, Hardee said.

Every community dreams of having their own person like Saxe, Hardee said. Saxe not only poured his finances into seeing Arlington grow, but he did so with wisdom and thoughtfulness — two values his political science background underscored.

“He was always balancing competing interests in the city with what was best for the overall good of the community,” Hardee said. “I never, ever got a sense from him that he was acting some way in what’s good for Allan Saxe, more that he acted out of what’s good for the community.”

Nikkie Hunter has vivid memories of Saxe’s classes. The conversations lively, Saxe’s quips quirky and the classes packed.

“As a matter of fact, that was one of the biggest classes I had ever been in,” Hunter, now an Arlington City Council member, recalled. “It was huge. I mean, everybody wanted to be in that class.”

Deen eventually inherited the responsibilities of creating every semester’s political science class schedule. She quickly learned she had to work around what she called the “Allan Effect.”

Allan Saxe participates in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay in Arlington.
Courtesy photo
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UT-Arlington Library Special Collections
Allan Saxe participates in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay in Arlington.

Any other professor’s class scheduled at the same time as Saxe’s would struggle to find students. He would often attract long waitlists of students wanting to be a part of the lively discussions and “genuine authenticity” his teaching was known for, Deen said.

The Allan Effect especially complicated things given that, every year, Saxe would persist in teaching as many classes as possible.

“‘I need to work some extra classes so that I can stay on top of my giving,” he would tell Deen, she said, recalling their conversations. “Literally, he was teaching extra so he could give it away.”

Saxe taught until he physically couldn’t, finally ending his tenure — unwillingly, Deen said — at 80 after falling ill. When Deen took over his classes to close out the semester, she got to see firsthand what Saxe meant to his students.

“I would not have expected any different. He taught until he absolutely could not do it,” she said.

When UTA’s magazine staff asked alumni to submit entries of Allan Saxe memories, hundreds of Saxe’s former students responded, university President Jennifer Cowley said in a statement on social media.

“For nearly six decades, Allan Saxe has been a Maverick institution — one of our best known and most beloved professors,” Cowley said. “He was engaging, smart, funny and opinionated, and his classes were considered can’t miss by generations of UT-Arlington students.”

Cowley’s statement, posted Wednesday morning on the university’s Facebook page, has received comments from generations of students. Many echo the same feelings of admiration and love for Saxe’s teaching, acting as testimonies to his influence.

That influence also lives on in current and former council members for the political science professor and one-time Arlington City Council candidate.

Farrar-Myers said Saxe gave her lessons on all things Arlington between classes. He was the first person Farrar-Myers about her run for City Council — to which he responded, “about dang time.”

“He was just like, ‘I lost by this number of votes in my runoff. Just win by that amount, OK? Promise me that,’” Farrar-Myers said. “He was always extremely supportive.”

Saxe took pride in his book, “Politics of Arlington, Texas: An Era of Community and Growth,” using it to write a detailed account of the city’s history.

“In the pantheon of Arlington, that book about Arlington politics is really one of the stalwarts that I think of when you think of the ‘need-to-know’ for anyone who wants to really know about Arlington,” she said.

Hunter said she carries with her Saxe’s lessons about giving back to the community in her City Council position.

“I think continuing to love this city and continuing to give back. That’s the best way to remember him because that’s what he was about,” Hunter said.

Saxe started donating his money after he contracted polio as a child, he told a crowd in 2013 at a TEDxUTA event. Around the same time as his childhood hospitalization, he made his first donation – $100 to a hospital in Oklahoma City.

“I have the great privilege of teaching, but I can’t build anything, I can’t construct anything, I can’t go to the moon, I can’t do those things. My brain isn’t wired that way, so I try to give money away to people that can do those things,” he said during the event.

Having money around made Saxe uneasy, so Greene, the former mayor, recommended Saxe invest the money in order for it to grow.

“He said, ‘Well, that’s fine, except for the fact that it’ll take a long time, and I can’t sleep at night with this money in my bank account. I have got to start moving it into the community,’” Greene recalled.

Dipert, Saxe’s contemporary Arlington philanthropist, would have to tell his friend to “hold back” before he gave too much away, he said.

Saxe always saw the wholeness of humanity, Dipert said, and he never hesitated to love others. After over 50 years of friendship, the two would still always call each other on holidays.

“All of us on holidays think of people that we love, that mean something to us,” he said. “Love is the undermining story of his life.”

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

Drew Shaw is a reporting fellow for the Arlington Report. Contact him at drew.shaw@fortworthreport.org or @shawlings601.

Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.