A Private Gala Toasts Center for BrainHealth’s New Brain Performance Institute Building

Debbie Francis and Paul and Gayle Stoffel*

The private grand opening for the Center for BrainHealth‘s new Brain Performance Institute building off Mockingbird Lane felt like a who’s who gathering of Dallas’ philanthropic, civic, and business leaders. There were Debbie and Jim Francis (she’s the center’s board chair), Laura and Tom Leppert, Richard C. Benson, Lyda Hill, Brent Christopher, Barbara and Don Daseke, Sally and Forrest Hoglund, Allie Beth and Pierce Allman, Minnie and Bill Caruth, Ann Carver, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, Keana and Morgan Meyer and Stacey and Dan Branch.

Morgan and Keana Meyer and Amanda Rockow*

Stacey and Dan Branch*

Minnie and Bill Caruth and Ann Carver*

Patty and James Huffines and Shelle and Michael Sills were among the 220 guests, too, as Patty and Shelle were co-chairing the exclusive, Thursday, October 12, gala. And at the center of it all, of course, was Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. Sandi took a pause from greeting the guests and said, “I feel like I’m on a mountaintop.”

James and Patty Huffines, Shelle and Michael Sills*

In a way, she was. The $33 million, 62,000-square-foot BPI is the headquarters of what’s said to be the world’s first institute focused on scientifically-based programs aimed at increasing brain performance, enhancing brain resilience, and inciting brain regeneration to the general public.

Larry Speck and Tom Leppert*

Larry Speck of Page, the new building’s lead architect, pointed out that the elliptical, three-story glass structure features communal as well as private areas, plus natural light throughout. Sun shades not only provide shade but are sound-dampening, and all the office desks are standing desks to promote better brain function.

Following an outdoor reception, gala-goers were ushered into the new building for a wonderful dinner of kale salad, roast beef tenderloin and crab cake, and panna cotta with gingerbread. First, though, they heard brief opening remarks by Sandi, UT Dallas Executive Vice President Hobson Wildenthal, and Ian Robertson, the Center for BrainHealth’s T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Scientist. Quipped Robertson: “I’m really honored to be Sandi’s wing man.”

Soon 30 “Distinguished Guests” swooped down from the second floor to take their place among the diners, leading each table in dinner conversation about the center’s cutting-edge work. Among the distinguished guests were Clint Bruce, Dr. Elliot Frohman, Xiaosi Gu, Daryl Johnston, and Rob Rennaker.  

Earlier in the day, Chapman had led a “Reimagined Ribbon-Cutting” for the new BPI building. As guests including Former First Lady Laura Bush and Benson, the UT Dallas president, looked on, the ceremony depicted the lighting of two glass neurons igniting across a simulated brain synapse. The neurons had been designed by artist David Gappa, who also created an “educational synapse glass ceiling” in one of the building’s rooms that’s shaped like an ellipse, representing the frontal lobe of the brain.

“This isn’t just about preventing dementia, although that’s important to so many. It’s about improving brain performance and health in everyone right now,” Leanne Young, the BPI executive director, commented about the new headquarters. “The Institute will help young people focus in school, retrain the minds of those affected by military experiences or sports injuries, strengthen mental acuity among corporate leadership, and empower each … of us to take charge of our own brains.”

To wrap up the private opening gala, guests were ushered into the BPI room that’s shaped like an ellipse. There, Johnston told the crowd, “As usual, when you work with Sandi Chapman, it exceeds your expectations.” Then everyone lifted their glasses in a champagne toast to the BPI’s long-awaited, much-anticipated new home.

* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman