Tobin’s views were more global than what San Antonio could offer him at the time. It wasn’t so much that San Antonio stifled his artistic aspirations–on the contrary, San Antonio was never meant to be the end game for Tobin. After a very public, and publicly chronicled, dust-up regarding the building location of the Southwest Medical Center in the early 1960s, the world became his venue. The Tobin’s family friend, Candes Chumney, who identified herself as “the daughter Mag Tobin never had” believes the Medical Center battle soured Robert on his hometown. “Here was a very dignified gay man, who at the time never discussed his sexuality in any open environment. Family and close friends knew, of course, but that kind of personal, frank disclosure simply wasn’t the norm then.”
Thereafter, he slowly withdrew from San Antonio’s public, social, and philanthropic scene. San Antonio’s loss was the world’s gain. Obligations and interests in New York, Santa Fe, Spoleto, and European capitals made his local appearances ever rarer. Robert became a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera for some 20-odd years, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, president of the Spoleto and Glyndebourne Festivals and collaborated with his friend, John O. Crosby, in the early days of building the Santa Fe Opera.
As Robert’s health began to decline after a cancer diagnosis in 1990, he returned to his home town of San Antonio to set a course for his continuing legacy of philanthropic support for his various interests, including his beloved McNay Art Museum, the Santa Fe Opera, the arts, and other civic support for San Antonio. In 1998, Robert asked his long-time trusted advisors Leroy G. Denman, Jr. and J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. to oversee his various business and philanthropic endeavors, which after his death in 2000, evolved into The Tobin Endowment.
Since Robert’s passing in 2000, visitors to the McNay Art Museum can enjoy not only the Tobin Wing established by Robert’s mother in 1984 to house Robert’s Theater Arts Collection, but visit the new “Tobin Galleries” which opened in 2008 as well. Also, San Antonians enjoy the Tobin Library at Oakwell, the 100 acre Tobin Park and soon, the Robert L. B. Tobin Land Bridge in Phil Hardberger Park, among many other gifts by The Tobin Endowment in honor and memory of Robert Tobin. Under the leadership of the late Leroy G. Denman, Jr. and Chairman of The Tobin Endowment, J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., The Tobin Endowment has contributed over $65 million to the arts since 2000, including a $15 million naming gift to build The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio.
In fact, under the leadership of the late Leroy G. Denman, Jr. and J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., Chairman of The Tobin Endowment, The Tobin Endowment has contributed over $65 million to the arts since 2000, including a $15 million naming gift to build The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio. In 2017, in recognition of The Tobin Endowment’s philanthropic work in the State of Texas, it received the Texas Medal of the Arts by the Texas Cultural Trust.
In addition, The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, established shortly before Robert’s death in 2000, has donated rare costumes and design materials to The University of Texas, San Antonio, among other gifts, and published a history of stage design and technology. Months before his death, Tobin personally donated more than 30 paintings by Robert Indiana, Paul Cadmus, Joan Mitchell, and other notable American artists to the McNay.
The former manager of the Argyle and Board Chairman of the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, Mel Weingart, was a close confidante of both Mag and Robert. He lived for a time in the Tobins’ side-by-side Manhattan townhomes on Park Avenue and managed their New York dealings. “I think Robert would be in seventh heaven about the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts,” Weingart said. “He was humble. He would have never sought out name recognition on his own. This is a way to acknowledge the person and the family, who, for a significant period of time, honorably represented the city in the art world in a profound and noteworthy way.”