Nancy Barry Munger, a philanthropist and alumna of Stanford who served for 10 years on its Board of Trustees, died Feb. 6 at her home in Los Angeles, surrounded by members of her family. She was 86.

Nancy Munger

Nancy Munger was committed to improving the institutions that she loved best. (Image credit: Don Milici)

“The Stanford family is deeply saddened by the loss of Nancy Munger,” said John Hennessy, the university’s president. “Through her service and support to her alma mater, she touched the lives of many, and her warm and generous spirit will continue to be felt throughout the campus, from the light-filled Munger Rotunda that welcomes students to the Bing Wing of Green Library, to the recently completed Munger Graduate Residence. We are very fortunate to have known her.”

Munger, who was born in Los Angeles, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1945 from Stanford, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

By attending Stanford, Munger was following in the footsteps of her parents. David Noble Barry Jr., ’20 (economics), and Emilie M. Hevener, ’20 (mathematics), met as students at Stanford. Her father later worked in insurance and real estate; her mother, a California native, was a teacher.

Thirty years after graduating from Stanford, Munger was elected to the university’s Board of Trustees, a position she held from February 1976 to February 1986. Upon her retirement from the board, she was praised in a board proclamation for her “good nature and good sense” and the “wisdom, fairness and balance” she brought “to every task that has come her way.”

She joined the board of overseers at the Hoover Institution at Stanford in 1982, a position she held for nearly three decades. She also served on Hoover’s executive committee from 1991 through 2002.

In 1997, she received the Gold Spike, an award for exceptional volunteer leadership service in development for Stanford.

Munger and her husband, Charles T. Munger, vice chair of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., contributed to the restoration of the Bing Wing of Green Library; a rotunda on the second floor of the building bears their names. They also endowed the Nancy and Charles Munger Professorship of Business at Stanford Law School, a chair currently held by Michael Klausner.

More recently, the Mungers donated $43.5 million toward the construction of the Munger Graduate Residence, which opened in late 2009 and is now home to 600 law and graduate students. It was the largest gift ever earmarked for university housing at Stanford.

Quiet and unassuming strength and intelligence

Munger’s family described her as “a person of modesty, with a quiet and unassuming strength and intelligence.”

In a statement, the family also said she was “a loving wife, mother, mother-in-law, stepmother, and grandmother, and a consummate master of each role she played as her large and complex family evolved.”

That complex family began to form in the mid-1950s when Munger, then known as Nancy Borthwick, met Charles T. Munger on a blind date. Both were divorced; both had young children. The couple wed in 1956; their blended family would eventually include eight children of hers, his and theirs.

“For everyone fortunate enough to know her, Nancy was an adviser, supporter, and confidant without peer; she was always there in time of need, never asking anything for herself,” the family said.

Munger loved to paint in watercolors, both indoor and en plein air. She was also an avid gardener, a passion she inherited from her father, a noted horticulturalist and importer of rare bromeliads, palms and orchids.

Dedicated to institutions in her native Los Angeles

Munger, who dedicated herself to serving others throughout her life, was committed to improving the institutions that she loved best, including both her alma maters.

From 1966 to 1976, she served as a trustee of the Marlborough School, an independent urban day school, where she earned her high school diploma. She also served as president of its board of trustees from 1971 to 1973.

She served as a trustee of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens and was later elected a trustee emerita.

She also served as a board member of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles for more than 32 years; her name is written in its Golden Book of Distinguished Service. In 1979-1980, she served as president of Las Madrinas (The Godmothers), which provides financial support to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and its medical research programs.

Nancy and Charles T. Munger supported the institutions they believed in with transformational gifts, including the Munger Research Center at the Huntington Library, the Munger Hall at Marlborough School and the Munger Science Center at Harvard-Westlake School, an independent, co-educational college preparatory day school in the Los Angeles area.

In addition to her husband of 54 years, Munger is survived by eight children, Molly Munger, Wm. Harold Borthwick, Wendy Munger, David B. Borthwick, Charles T. Munger Jr., Emilie Munger Ogden, Barry A. Munger and Philip R. Munger, and 16 grandchildren. She also is survived by her brother, David N. Barry III, and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Munger’s life will be held for family and friends on March 2 at 3 p.m. at the Huntington Library in San Marino (Los Angeles County). The interment will be private.

Should friends desire, they can send contributions in Munger’s memory to any of her charities or to their own favorite charity.