The variety of folks who gathered at Belo Mansion Tuesday night to honor Trinity Trust President Dr. Gail Thomas was as broad as the Trinity. The occasion was Les Femmes du Monde‘s “Woman of the Year” dinner. In addition to city officials, community leaders and members of her Trinity Trust team, there were even neighbors from the days when she and husband Bob lived on Lorraine who had flown in from California and Florida to pay homage to the lady who continues to lead the massive development of the Trinity corridor.
But despite the composed and classy honoree, whose list of accomplishments is not only lengthy but oh-so-well respected, there was a back-scene situation rumbling. It seems that the video/slide presentation that was so perfectly orchestrated and rehearsed last week was not behaving itself. Earlier in the afternoon Trinity Trust’s Tierney Kaufman had done a test just to make sure all things were in sync at Belo. First try didn’t work. Maybe it was Tierney’s computer, so another one was brought in. No luck. After more computers and attempts, it was apparent that flexibility was going to be the order of the night.
Now, that would have sent many folks to their bedrooms with a migraine. Ah, but Dr. Gail isn’t most folks. She welcomed one and all with the graciousness that redefined Southern charm.
Her morning walking buddy/1997 WOTY Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison could only stay for the cocktail reception/silent auction. There’s a policy in the Hutchison household that mom has to be home for dinner with the kiddos. Kay was so popular that people were waiting in line just to chat with her and/or have their picture taken with her.
When asked about her plans after the Senate, the outgoing Republican senator said, “I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to winnow all the opportunities there are. I definitely want to be here, in the professional/business world, and be around interesting people.”
Of course, there was girl talk. Upon arriving in a Lanvin black cocktail dress that she picked up during the 10 Best Dressed, Lynn McBee wanted to know where emcee Jocelyn White had gotten her form-fitting black lace cocktail dress. The answer: Elements.
Former WOTY recipient Dee Wyly was back in town after spending the summer in Colorado and attending a weekend wedding in Washington. . . Other former WOTYs in the crowd included Caroline Rose Hunt, Billie Leigh Rippey and Yvonne Crum. . . Brenda and Nelson Spencer were catching up with Emily Summers and Nancy Marcus, who hosted Les Femmes du Monde’s patron party last week. . . World Affairs Council head honcho Jim Falk said he had just returned from Grand Rapids, where he interviewed former Mexican President Vincente Fox for the WAC of Western Michigan. It came out that the former president caused a stir when he said the U.S. should legalize drugs. . . Dr. Larry Allums, who succeeded Gail as the Dallas Institute executive director, said they’re planning another forum on sustainability.
Following a seated dinner, Gail took her place at the podium. She opened with, “What a remarkable family reunion this is!” Looking out at the audience, she admitted that due to “technical issues,” the video and slide show weren’t working properly. With that admission and without notes or TelePrompter, she delivered a from-the-heart talk about how Dallas was not a city of the world in 1962, but now it is. She stressed how “love” was a vital ingredient to the city’s development and future growth saying, “A city that nourishes love has these traits:
- Education for the soul, not just economics,
- Good urban design and
- Nature . . . because 82% of all people on the planet today live in cities.
It was at this point that Gail regretfully admitted that had the technical gods been smiling on them, she would have been able to show a wonderful, lively documentary by Judy Kelly.
Then she updated the audience on the various projects associated with the development of the Trinity — the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the conversion of the Continental Avenue Bridge into a pedestrian bridge starting in December, the construction of the Margaret McDermott Bridge, the opening of Trinity Grove and a big event “coming up October 17th at the Four Corners, which is a beer brewery and we’d love for you to come. This opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge showed us that Dallas wants to come together as a community. And all people — all sizes, all colors, all shapes — as Kathleen Raine said in this documentary, which you didn’t get to see . . . you know the people — black, white, drunk or sober [laughter] — we want all these people to come. We want everyone to come. We love our people. And Dallas, I think, has been a little too uptight. . . . and we need each other. We need community. And we need to embrace that spirit of community. And our young people need to live downtown and we’re creating places in downtown Dallas, where I hope all of you [looking at her children and grandchildren] sitting right here in front of me will want to live. [laughter] You know, not in Highland Park, Bluffview where we live or where we have lived but downtown.”
Following her talk, she was presented with her award by Gala Chair Markita Thompson and Les Femmes du Monde president Connie Rhoades. But before stepping down from the stage, Gail was surprised to learn that Les Femmes de Monde organizers had arranged for her to receive two proclamations — one from Gov. Rick Perry and one from Mayor Mike Rawlings.
Opening the governor’s proclamation for the first time, Markita was unable to read it because she didn’t have her glasses. Still, Markita reassured Gail and guests that the governor “was honoring Dr. Gail Thomas.”
Markita then introduced Mayor Rawling’s Chief of Staff Paula Blackmon to present the mayoral proclamation. Before handing the mic over to Paula, Markita added, “It’s a very special recognition for Dr. Gail and I got to help write it, so listen.”
So, while the video and slide presentation may have not followed the POA, Gail’s grace-under-fire proved to this gathering of family and friends why she was indeed Les Femmes du Monde’s “Woman of the Year.”