Mrs. Gayle Marie Benson, wife of New Orleans Saints (NFL) and New Orleans Pelicans (NBA) Owner Tom Benson, is a philanthropist and former interior design business owner. She began her career as a manager in New Orleans for a New York-based costume jeweler. Then in the late 1970s she became an interior designer and began buying and selling historic properties in New Orleans.
Mrs. Benson’s design career grew from residential to commercial spaces including hotels and car dealerships, leading major redesigns and renovations. She has also redesigned suites and public spaces in the Superdome and opened a wholesale design showroom for her industry peers. An accomplished seamstress, Mrs. Benson launched a successful women’s clothing line.
Mrs. Benson and her husband, Thomas "Tom" Benson, are lead donors to Tulane’s Yulman Stadium, having named the playing field as Benson Field. Mrs. Benson is currently working on a campaign called "I Will Give You Shepherds," which plans to renovate the second floor of the historic Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
Mrs. Benson will be one of the chairs for the museum’s Odyssey Black & White Ball. The annual event helps ensure NOMA’s ability to present world-class exhibitions, public programs and education initiatives. She also chaired last year’s inaugural "Moonlight and Miracles" event, Ochsner Cancer Institute’s gala to benefit cancer services. She will hold the same position for the event in 2014, leading a committee of more than 125 volunteers with the goal of raising more than $1million.
The Bensons have been committed leaders in the New Orleans community with philanthropic endeavorsthat include gifts to Brother Martin High School, Ochsner Hospital, and Loyola University New Orleans. Mr. and Mrs. Benson established an endowment fund at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas dedicated to the memory of son, Robert Carter Benson, who graduated from the school in 1962. The Bensons also established the Gayle & Tom Benson Stadium & Benson Fieldhouse at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
The Bensons received the 2012 Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award, the highest papal award granted to a layperson. In 2014, she started GMB Racing to continue her love for thoroughbred racing.