About

Jane Dudley

Founder


The Swan Ball was established in 1963 by Nashville native Jane Anderson Dudley as a means of raising funds for the new Tennessee Botanical Gardens and Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood. The idea was suggested in a casual conversation during a tennis game between the then president of the new horticultural and arts center and Jane Dudley, at 36 already one of Nashville’s leading hostesses. A short time later, Mrs. Dudley was appointed to take charge of the event, which was envisioned as a grand gala to be held under a tent in Cheekwood’s sweeping Swan Garden, overlooking the rolling hills of Nashville. Mrs. Dudley enlisted the support of the city’s social leaders, men and women alike—a somewhere unusual move in a town where social entertaining was considered a woman’s domain.

The first Ball was a smashing success. With the national press coverage and socialite celebrities in attendance, the ball immediately took on the status of an international social event. The Ball simply got bigger and better, more glamorous, more spectacular each year. The Ball continues to raise millions of dollars for Cheekwood annually.

Mrs. Dudley was a graduate of Parmer School, Ward Belmont and Vanderbilt University (1947), then worked briefly for the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. In a later career, she managed corporate accounts for Tiffany & Co. for more than two decades. Her husband Guilford Dudley was Ambassador to Denmark from 1969 to 1971, an opportunity for her to express her talent for hospitality at the highest levels, entertaining diplomats, politicians and royalty, many of whom remained lifelong friends.

A member of the International Best Dressed list, she was a lover of all things glamourous and beautiful, from fine porcelain to her prize-winning roses to a breath-taking sunset. Above all, she loved people—and she loved a party. She put those passions to good use, not only entertaining frequently and memorably herself, but chairing more than 25 charity events around the world, through which she raised millions of dollars—and often changed the face of the fundraiser in the process. She certainly changed the face of fundraising in Nashville, and for that, the community is eternally grateful.


History


Founded in 1963, the Swan Ball is a white-tie gala in Nashville, Tennessee attended by prominent southeastern, national and international guests. The Ball takes place on the Swan Lawn at Cheekwood each June, and includes an evening of cocktails, seated dinner, live auction, dancing to nationally acclaimed entertainment and a featured fine jewelry exhibit.

Past Entertainment, Swan Award Recipients and More History


Cheekwood

Our Beneficiary


Cheekwood is a 55-acre American Country Place Era estate in Nashville, Tennessee. Built in 1929 by the Cheek family who amassed their fortune through the Maxwell House Coffee business, the estate was gifted and opened as a public institution in 1960. Today, it features 12 distinct gardens, a woodland sculpture trail, an 8,000-piece permanent art collection, and Georgian-style Mansion with historically furnished rooms and galleries. Over 225,000 visitors come to Cheekwood annually for year-round seasonal festivals, world-class art exhibitions, breathtaking gardens, and educational and public programs for all ages. A member of the American Public Gardens Association, Cheekwood is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its mission is to preserve Cheekwood as an historical landmark where beauty and excellence in art and horticulture stimulate the mind and nurture the spirit.