Dorothey Phillis Hall DeGree, known as Kitty DeGree, was a real estate developer, civic figure, and philanthropist in her adopted city of Monroe, Louisiana.. In the last years of her life, she was the largest single donor to the University of Louisiana Monroe.
Born in rural South Sutton in Merrimack County in south central New Hampshire, DeGree was one of six children of Richard Elmer and Helen Crampton Hall. With her husband, Joseph Alex Napoleon DeGree, a United States Navy veteran of World War II, DeGree came to Monroe in 1949 so that he could take a position in the paper mill industry. She or her husband had also lived in Vermont in their younger years, locations not available. After numerous years as a housewife, DeGree obtained employment as a secretary and thereafter as a bookkeeper, receptionist, and assistant to a dentist. In the 1970s, she convinced a bank to lend her money in her own name to start a real estate business in which she worked initially nearly round the clock.
With burgeoning financial success, DeGree in 1984 contacted the ULM, then known as Northeast Louisiana University, to donate three hundred apartments through her charitable trust. She was also a donor in the development of the Louisiana Delta Community College in Monroe. For three decades, she was aligned with St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Monroe to improve regional health care. The ULM School of Nursing and the Breast Health Center at St. Francis Hospital are named in her honor. So is the Kitty DeGree Speech and Hearing Center at ULM. The Monroe Lifetime Business Achievement Award is also named in her honor.
DeGree was inducted in 2008 into the Louisiana Center for Women and Government Hall of Fame at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. DeGree also dedicated much time and money to veterans causes. She pushed for the establishment of the Veterans Administration Clinic and the War Veteran’s Home in Monroe. She personally funded the memorial monument commemorating Selman Field at the Monroe Regional Airport. An exhibit at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum in Monroe is dedicated to DeGree, who herself served in the United States Coast Guard during World War II.