Old Ned

Arizona Historymakers™

Arizona Historical Society

Richard "Dick" Snell

1930 -

Honored as Historymaker 2008

Civic Leaders and Philanthropists

Oral History Transcript:

Alice (Dinky) and Richard (Dick) Snell have devoted their lives to making Arizona a better place. Dick was born and raised in Phoenix, while Dinky grew up in New Mexico and Southern California. They met as students at Stanford University, where Mr. Snell received his law degree.

After graduation in 1954, they married and spent two years with the U.S. Army in Germany. Dick remembers, “The Cold War was really at its hottest, so we were on the front edge of the defense of Europe. It was the best learning experience in my life. I learned to follow and to lead. I think I’m a dramatically better person as a consequence.”

In 1956, the Snells returned to make their home in Phoenix. For twenty-five years, Dick worked for Snell and Wilmer, the law firm founded by his father. Subsequently, he was head of both Ramada Inc. and Pinnacle West. He also served as chairman of the board for Thunderbird American Graduate School of International Management as well as various community organizations including YMCA, Phoenix 40, Arizona Community Foundation and Phoenix Symphony.

During those years, Dinky Snell raised their three daughters and gave her time as a volunteer for numerous education and health care programs. She was the first woman to chair the Valley of the Sun YMCA, and she served on the Board of Samaritan Health Services. She also recorded for the blind and worked for the Arizona Department of Education. In 1990, she was a candidate for the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. She says it was a learning experience. “It was a state-wide job and I went all over the state. I met a lot of people. It was a nice experience, all except for losing.” She was also honored as “Woman of the Year” by the Phoenix Ad Club.

Dinky Snell attended Stanford University on scholarships and she is passionate about the need for scholarships for today’s students. She has been an active volunteer for Arizona State University and served as chair of the ASU Foundation. She says, “After I got involved at ASU, I was really hooked.” Together, Dick and Dinky Snell co-chaired the ASU Campaign for Leadership that raised more than five-hundred million dollars for the university. Dick Snell explains, “I think that ASU’s got great potential along with Phoenix to make major strides in the world.” Mr. and Mrs. Snell both received honorary doctoral degrees from ASU in recognition of their volunteer work and commitment to higher education.

As philanthropists and community leaders, Dick and Dinky Snell have set an example for future generations. Mrs. Snell reflects, “I think that I’ve served the community well, but I’ve received more than I’ve given.”