Recognized for her remarkably varied philanthropic contributions, Eleanor Searle Whitney McCollum led a remarkable life distinguished by a constant sense of giving. Born in Plymouth, Ohio Eleanor went on to New York City to take voice lessons and become an opera singer. There she met and married her first husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.
While living in New York and later in wartime Washington, D.C., Mrs. Whitney McCollum was involved in numerous cultural and charitable activities, lending the Whitney name to many causes. She and her husband maintained close relationships with many foreign dignitaries and people of political and cultural status. She was also known as a leader of style and fashion, regularly appearing in a variety of society publications.
Eleanor had a particularly close relationship with her mother-in-law, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, whom she fondly called "Mamma" and took great pride in her devotion to the arts. In her 1971 autobiography, Mrs. Whitney McCollum writes "Mamma's greatest contribution to the American people was that of bringing American art to their attention. There were two interrelated focuses to this commitment: first, her patronage of aspiring American artists, and second, her own work as a sculptress. The first shocked the artistic establishment; the second scandalized her friends. In 1900 no prominent art gallery or museum in the United States would handle, sell, or show the works of contemporary American painters or sculptors. But Mamma believed in America and in the ability of its young to produce works of quality." Beginning as a small gallery, the collection grew into The Whitney Studio, a meeting place for artists, and then became the Whitney Museum in 1931.
Mrs. McCollum's second husband was the legendary Houston oilman, cattle breeder, banker and philanthropist, Leonard F. "Mac" McCollum. During their marriage and after her husband's death in 1993, Mrs. McCollum continued her tradition of service to the community, including the launching of an historic preservation program in Plymouth, Ohio.
Among her many commitments, Mrs. McCollum served on the advisory board of ORBIS International, the worldwide sight-saving organization, served on the national board of Paget's Disease Foundation, was an Ambassador-at-Large for UNICEF, and was recently instrumental in the establishment of The Bone Disease Program of Texas, a collaborative program of Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was a Life Trustee of the Houston Grand Opera and a devoted, long-time supporter of its nationwide "Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers Concert of Arias" program which develops the careers of young operatic artists.
PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF ELEANOR SEARLE WHITNEY MCCULLUM
New England Winter Farm Scene