JUST IN: Dr. Kern Wildenthal To Serve As Interim General Director/CEO Of The Dallas Opera Following Keith Cerny’s Resignation

With The Dallas Opera‘s General Director/ CEO Keith Cerny‘s announcing his resignation last Friday, the interim stand-in has just been revealed.

According to The Dallas Opera Board Chair Holly Mayer, “As has been the case in the past, there is a need for an executive presence in the office during this transitional period, while the search committee prepares to begin its task of identifying a permanent replacement.

Holly Mayer (File photo)

Kern Wildenthal (File photo)

“The transition team offered the post of Interim General Director and CEO to former Board Chair Kern Wildenthal, who has accepted. Dr. Wildenthal is well known and respected, not only within The Dallas Opera, but throughout the community.”

Until the full-time position is filled, Kern will “be serving with no compensation.”

JUST IN: Dallas Opera Board Of Directors Chair Holly Mayer To Receive 2017 National Opera Trustee Recognition Award

Holly Mayer (File photo)

For ages The Dallas Opera Board of Directors Chair Holly Mayer has been happily flying under the radar. But for those in the know, she has been the sweetheart of The Dallas Opera (DO). She has served on the DO’s board for 27 years, and what years they’ve been. From the DO’s being on the edge of ruin to its present glory days, she’s stayed the course as vice president of development from 2001 to 2014. Need proof?

According to The National Opera America Center, “During Ms. Mayer’s time as vice president of development, the company achieved a 50 percent increase in annual giving over a two-year period. She helped lead numerous multi-million-dollar fundraising campaigns, resulting in $20 million for the company’s endowment (more than doubling its size), $5.1 million for the construction of the company’s administrative offices and $3.1 million in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary, among other successes.”

But her low profile was unveiled to many unknowing types when she received the TACA Silver Cup in 2014 and was recognized as Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser by the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals this past November.  

Fellow DO Board Member/Silver Cup Awardee John Cody described Holly this way: “Perhaps most impressive is Holly’s willingness to take on leadership roles during challenging times — evidence of her blend of optimism and tenacity. She is well-known for her ability to listen and to offer valuable insight, and can be counted on to apply the highest professional standards to all she endeavors. The trust she instills in others is evident in the number of times her colleagues are willing to say ‘yes’ when Holly asks them to join her.”

So, it should come as no surprise that Holly has just been named one of four recipients of the Opera America’s 2017 National Opera Trustee Recognition Awards. Along with Carol Lazier of the San Diego Opera, R. Marsh Gibson of Opera Memphis and Jerry Clack of Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Holly will be honored at a dinner in NYC on Friday, February 24.

The selection of the recipients is based on their displaying “a significant range of accomplishments, profound generosity and a deep devotion to promoting opera in their communities.”

Congrats to Holly and the DO for having her.

Much To Everyone’s Delight, Philanthropy Day Luncheon’s Spotlight Was Once Again Hijacked By The Outstanding Youth In Philanthropy

There are those who worry about the importance that the next generation will place on philanthropy and fundraising. But all they need to do is attend the annual National Philanthropy Day Luncheon put on by the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Each year, it seems like the recipient of the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy knocks it out of the park. This year’s presentation at The Hyatt Regency Dallas on Friday, November 18, once again had youth showstopping despite the eloquence of the elders. Here is a report from the field:

The Greater Dallas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 31st Annual National Philanthropy Day Luncheon, held Friday, November 18, at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, honored six of Dallas’ finest philanthropists and volunteers for the differences that they have made in our community. This year’s awards honored Mike Myers as Outstanding Philanthropist; Holly Mayer as Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser; Jim Lewis, CFRE, as Outstanding Fundraising Executive; The Theodore and Beulah Beasley Foundation as Outstanding Foundation; Bank of America as Outstanding Corporation; and the Garage Sale Girls as Outstanding Youth(s) in Philanthropy.

Jeanie Wyatt, Holly Mayer, Jim Lewis, Kristen Lee, Scott Murray, Mike Myers, Victoria Beasley Vanderslice and Bob Beasley*

Judy Wright*

Event chair Tara Judd Longley, CFRE, CPECP, shared a message of gratitude with the crowd of 500, thanking them for their philanthropy, service, dedication, and investment in the future. 2016 AFP Greater Dallas Chapter Board President Judy Wright recognized additional major sponsors South Texas Money Management, Dini Spheris, The Dallas County Community College District Foundation, Texas Health, M. Gale and Associates, Parkland Foundation, Texas Capital Bank, and Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern.

Judy also thank longtime event emcee Scott Murray, along with son Doug Murray, who came on board with Murray Media as the luncheon’s presenting sponsor, producing the videos of the award recipients speaking prior to receiving their awards. 

The Most Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy video was one of the most memorable of the day showcasing the creativity, sense of humor, and hard work of the Garage Sale Girls – a group of childhood friends from Lewisville, who each had one parent diagnosed with cancer within a short time frame. The girls, stunned that cancer had entered each of their families’ lives so close together, decided to make a difference by organizing a garage sale. From 2011-2015, Kristen Lee, Cailee Dennis, Stefanie Doyle and Anna Elkin, raised a combined total of $90,000 to benefit cancer research at the American Cancer Society. 

As Kristen spoke on stage she said they could not believe they were able to make so much money. “I thought the first year we might make $1,000, and we made $5,000! We couldn’t have done it without the help of the community – it was amazing!” The audience roared with laughter at the video which not only showed the girls and their moms organizing the garage sales, but also included comical scenes of group driving around “dumpster diving” to find items to sell. The final scene in the video showed the group – cue the theme song from “Sanford and Son” – driving off in a red truck loaded with lots of “stuff.” Kristen Lee accepted the award on behalf of the other girls who were competing in the NCAA soccer tournament that day and could not attend the luncheon. All of the girls are freshmen at the University of Arkansas. As Scott Murray visited with Kristen on stage, he suggested they might take a selfie showing the audience behind them to text to the girls who couldn’t be there. 

Kristen Lee and Scott Murray*

He asked her for advice to the audience. She concluded, “If you have a dream, go for it! She referenced her conversation (at the age of 12) with her mom about her garage sale idea. She said her mom said, “Sure, honey, whatever…you’ll raise $10.” But she went for it anyway, and her mom and dad are her biggest cheerleaders.  

Outstanding Fundraising Executive Jim Lewis shared the most rewarding thing about fundraising is that it’s a team game, humbly acknowledging that “any significant gift in which I have been involved has had many fingerprints in it.” He went on to say his role is merely one of a facilitator working on behalf of a cause and assisting those who are the difference makers through their philanthropy.  He also gave a moving tribute to his late wife Cheryl, whom he lost last January, and gratefully accepted the award on her behalf and in recognition of countless other spouses who have made great but significant contributions “ to support folks like me who endeavor to serve the greater good through our work.”

Sammye and Mike Myers*

Outstanding Philanthropist Mike Myers shared that his personal inspiration for giving was his mother. “As a school teacher and Sunday School teacher, she taught me the importance of giving. She not only talked the talk, she walked the walk.  It was through her example and guidance that I developed a compassion for and a commitment to those who need a helping hand.”

Attendees included Mary Brinegar, Brent Christopher, Ruben Esquivel, Ed Fjordbak, Sarah Losinger, Michael Meadows, Jay McAuley, Lynn McBee, Helen and Frank Risch, Bob Thornton, Lynn Vogt and Jeanie Wyatt.

Scott Murray concluded the luncheon, thanking all for coming to celebrate the impact philanthropy has in our communities and encouraging everyone to note the date for next year – Friday, November 10, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman

Greater Dallas Chapter Of Association Of Fundraising Professionals Reveals 31st Annual National Philanthropy Day Awardees

Someone should name this week “Honor Week!” Local nonprofits are just popping their tops announcing all types of folks and organizations to honor. Yesterday it was the Dallas Historical Society’s Awards For Excellence and today it’s the Greater Dallas Chapter of Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Holly Mayer (File photo)

Holly Mayer (File photo)

For their 31st Annual National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on Friday, November 18, at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, Chair Tara Judd Longley revealed that the following honorees will be recognized:

  • Outstanding Philanthropist — Mike Myers
  • Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser — Holly Mayer
  • Outstanding Fundraising Executive — James C. Lewis, CFRE
  • Outstanding Foundation — The Theodore and Beulah Beasley Foundation
  • Outstanding Corporation — Bank of America
  • Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy — Garage Sale Girls

Tickets are $85 each until Tuesday, November 1. Then they will go for $95. So, save 10 bucks and get your tickets now.

TACA Lovers Honored Silver Cup Awardees Holly Mayer And Lucilo Peña As Lights Flashed And Emcee Lee Cullum Tiptoed Her Remarks

Tradition is a wonderful thing. And the TACA Silver Cup Award Luncheon exemplifies just that. Founder Annette Strauss envisioned it as an occasion to salute a man and a woman for “their outstanding contributions to the arts in Dallas.”

So, despite school closings and black ice popping up in the most unlikely spots, the TACA crowd braved the wintry-weather encore and gathered at the Hilton Anatole on Monday, March 3, to attend the 36th TACA Silver Cup Award Luncheon presented by J.P. Morgan and Neiman Marcus.

With valet parkers wearing sock caps bracing against below-freezing temperatures and gusty winds, the performing arts crowd hustled on in to celebrate Holly Mayer’s and Lucilio Peña’s receiving the “silver cups.”

As guests attended the reception in the lobby outside the Grand Ballroom, past TACA Silver Cup recipients and VIP’s came together in the Plum Room across the way.

Just as the clock was ticking down, TACA President/Executive Director Becky Young asked, “Where is Lucilio?” Yes, the male recipient was nowhere to be seen. He’d been there just moments before with his mother Maria Elena Peña, sister Maria Eugenia Peña, niece Gabriela Peña and partner Lee Cobb. But now he had vanished. And they couldn’t hold the private unboxing of the silver cups without him.

Maria Eugenia Peña, Lucilo Peña, Gabriela Peña, Maria Elena Peña and Lee Cobb

Maria Eugenia Peña, Lucilo Peña, Gabriela Peña, Maria Elena Peña and Lee Cobb

On the other hand, female Silver Cup recipient Holly was following orders, staying put and talking with friends.

It began looking like a back-up plan might be necessary. But, wait! Through the door Lucilio appeared.

As the past recipients gathered around knowing the drill, the newbies tore through the silver Neiman Marcus boxes wrapped with ribbons like kids on Christmas morning.

Actually, Lucilio did have some help opening the box, thanks to niece Gabriela.

Holly Mayer and Lucilo Peña

Holly Mayer and Lucilo Peña

No sooner had the recipients and cups been photographed than the cups were whisked away for official display at the lunch, and Holly and Lucilio took their seats of honor on the couch surrounded by the past recipients for the annual group photo.

TACA Silver Cup Award recipients

TACA Silver Cup Award recipients

Determined not to be late for the photo was a radiant J.P. Morgan Chase Chair Elaine Agather, who arrived just minutes too late two years ago for the photo. . .  Diane Brierley was receiving birthday congratulations. . .  Tincy Miller and Caroline Rose Hunt were seated together comparing notes. . . Lynn McBee and Kern Wildenthal were talking about the History-Making Texans event in Austin the previous Saturday honoring Ruth Altshuler and Ross Perot.

Elaine Agather

Elaine Agather

Keeping to the schedule, the Plum Room entourage made their way to the Grand Ballroom, where two mini-stages with musical instruments were set up among the sea of tables and one large stage with piano was in place in front of the head table.

Just a little after noon, when guests had taken their seats and were settling down to a luncheon of Moroccan spiced beef tenderloin salad, overhead emergency lights starts flashing. No one seemed bothered by the blinking lights as they continued eating and chatting. A few minutes later, the lights stopped. Outside the ballroom, Anatole staffers dressed for outside conditions got together and assured all that it was just a false alarm.

Lone Star Wind Orchestra  Horn Quartet

Lone Star Wind Orchestra Horn Quartet

As if on cue, the musicians of the Lone Star Wind Orchestra Horn Quartet performed on one of the mini-stages. No sooner had they completed their performance than the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra String Quartet took over on the other mini-stage.

Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra String Quartet

Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra String Quartet

Then Mistress of Ceremonies Lee Cullum took over, providing her typical humor and insight in her annual “state of the Dallas arts” commentary:

Lee Cullum

Lee Cullum

  • One Arts Plaza — “It lives in love and harmony with its neighbors.”
  • “You may have seen the lights that were flashing earlier. I thought Tod Machover was back in town.”
  • The rumored Broadway production of “King Kong” coming to Dallas — “Wouldn’t it be exciting if King Kong wound up on top of Museum Tower? (Applause) Of course, by then it may have an additional life as a solar power generating station. But you know there’s a way out of this. The Nasher could save a lot on their electricity bills. . . We’re hoping for good things on that front!”
  • The Glendennings are everywhere. If you don’t know that, you must be a hopeless recluse.”

Lee was then followed by remarks by

Nancy Carlson and Don Glendenning

Nancy Carlson and Don Glendenning

  • Elaine, who said that TACA is necessary to create a vital community to attract jobs.
  • Silver Cup Award Luncheon Co-Chairs Carol and Don Glendenning, who reported that this year’s event had become “one of the two most economically successful luncheons in the past 35 years.”
  • TACA Chairman of the Board Nancy Carlson told of the $1.3M in grants that had been distributed in January to 46 performing arts groups.
  • Neiman Marcus’ VP Ginger Reeder, who introduced the NM Performing Arts Scholarship recipients soprano Audra Methvin, tenor Jeawook Lee and pianist Jason Smith performing “O soave fanciulla” from “La Boheme.” The performance was just perfect — beautifully executed, not too long, not too short.

    Jeawood Lee and Audra Methvin

    Jeawood Lee and Audra Methvin

Once again following tradition the 2013 Silver Cup Award male recipient (in this case, Roger Nanney) introduced Holly.

Holly Mayer

Holly Mayer

In her acceptance speech, Holly recalled how she grew up in the arts. One of her first experiences was being in the grade-school production of “Hansel and Gretel,” but she was caught nibbling on the candy house. The death of her 10-year-old daughter caused Holly to seek escape and seek solace that she found in the arts — “I know the transformative power of art.” Over the years, she told of seeing the growth of the Dallas art especially the Dallas Opera’s outreach programs including the simulcast at AT&T Stadium, where Bugs Bunny served as a warm-up. Finishing up, she said, “I’m excited about the collaborative spirit.”

Peggy Sewell

Peggy Sewell

Lee then introduced last year’s Silver Cup Award female recipient Peggy Sewell, who is well known for her fundraising efforts. Doing so, Lee recalled coming across an observation that Peggy might want to consider — “If you are working for an arts organization, as she is, and you need to bend the curve because the competition is getting on your nerves, you can maybe disparage one of the other groups. For example, you might say the reason ballet dancers dance on en pointe on their toes is to avoid waking the audience. (Laughter) Peggy, you might want to consider it, because she’s got to raise a lot of money for that Islamic art [at the Dallas Museum of Art].” Some in the audience were scratching their heads over Lee’s comment, but insiders got it and some of them looked a little uncomfortable.

Mary McDermott Cook

Mary McDermott Cook

But without missing a beat, Peggy seamlessly followed introducing Lucilo, who also emphasized the “vital transformative power of art.” He recalled his parents growing up and fleeing Cuba and his growing up in Venezuela. The big artistic impact in his life was his trip to Europe as a youth and seeing the Prado in Madrid. Lucilo, who “lives, works and plays in the Arts District,” promoted the New Cities summit coming to Dallas, as well as his involvement in the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Dallas Architectural Forum and the Human Rights Campaign. As he was talking, the ballroom’s lights once again started acting up. This time they just shut down, leaving the room in darkness. From the podium, Lucilo said, “Whoa!” because he couldn’t see his notes. Guess someone heard him, because the lights immediately came back on and he was able to thank Deedie Rose, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, Mary McDermott Cook, Marguerite Hoffman and others.

Lee returned to the podium tying her earlier remark about tiptoe dancing with the complimentary tickets at the tables: “Be sure to look at the tickets. I feel honor bound to add that the Texas Ballet Theater is doing very well. They do dance en pointe,” she said. “They got $65K from TACA . They’re doing well. Titas is going to bring a great program for the Fete du Ballet May 2nd. Would you look at the tickets on your table? There is a ticket for two.  You can go to the Black Dance Ballet where they do not dance en pointe, I hope. Or maybe they do, but they’re very great. You can go to ‘Mariachi Girl‘ at the Children’s Theater. Or, you can go to piano concerto at the Dallas Symphony.”

She then dismissed the group, “So happy spring to all of you. Surely, it’s arriving soon. Thank you for being here. Same time next year.”

So tradition continues.