Children Medical Center Foundation’s Kern Wildenthal Farewell Tribute Dinner Was Filled With Friends, Fans And Family

It was billed as a farewell tribute dinner to Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Kern Wildenthal hosted by Children’s Health System of Texas CEO Chris Durovich and his wife Christina Durovich. But the dinner in the Pecan Room at Harlan Crow‘s Old Parkland on Tuesday, June 7, was more of a love fest for more than 80 members of the Kern fan club. They ranged from philanthropists (Mary McDermott Cook, Margot and Ross Perot and Gay and Bill Solomon), brainiacs (Sean Morrison  and wife Theo Ross), business types (Mark Zacheis and Anne Motsenbocker), fundraising champs (Randi Halsell, Barbara Stuart, Connie O’Neill and Ann Corrigan), community leaders (Dan Branch and Joel Williams) to friends (Shirley and Bob Miller and Cyndi and Mark Bassel) and family, like big brother Hobson Wildenthal.

Christina Durovich and Dan and Stacey Branch

Christina Durovich and Dan and Stacey Branch

Mark and Cyndi Bassel

Mark and Cyndi Bassel

Ed and Randi Halsell

Ed and Randi Halsell

Mark Zacheis

Mark Zacheis

Mary McDermott Cook

Mary McDermott Cook

Sean Morrison

Sean Morrison

The waves of guests kept coming, and Christina and Chris greeted each like an old friend. Upon arriving, Brent Christopher, who will be following Kern as head of the Foundation, immediately sought out the man of the hour.

Kern Wildenthal and Hobson Wildenthal

Kern Wildenthal and Hobson Wildenthal

Marnie Wildenthal and Shirley Miller

Marnie Wildenthal and Shirley Miller

But it was the beginning of summer, so talk during the pre-dinner reception was travel-oriented. Kern and wife Marnie Wildenthal were leaving the next day for a 16-day trip to London, Tuscany and New York. Brent was taking his brood of kids to Japan. He admitted that his son envisions Japan as an entire world of Nintendo. Little did father or son know about the upcoming Pokémon Go craze.

Others like Stacey Branch and Susan Williams were chatting up the marital status of the kids.

But Chris eventually called the guests to their tables for an excellent dinner that was followed by brief but poignant remarks about Kern’s accomplishments by Chris and Children’s Medical Center Foundation Chairman of the Board John Eagle.

John Eagle and Marnie Wildenthal

John Eagle and Marnie Wildenthal

Chris Durovich and Kern Wildenthal

Chris Durovich and Kern Wildenthal

John told how, under Kern’s tutelage, the Foundation had enjoyed a record number of new gifts in 2015, including 15 donations of $1 million or more. Kern also slashed Foundation fundraising costs by 25 percent, John pointed out. Then he added: “Kern raises as much money in his sleep as most fundraisers do in a lifetime.”

In his remarks, meantime, Chris recalled how Kern had raised $160 million over three years, boosting the Foundation’s annual fundraising average to $50 million to $70 million from $15 million to $20 million previously. “Kern, you have been such a huge friend to the kids and families in this community,” Chris said. “And Marnie, thank you for the example that you’ve been.”

Kern Wildenthal and his gift

Kern Wildenthal and his gift

Following the bestowing of gifts upon the Wildenthals—he got a black leather briefcase, she got a black leather valise—Kern and Marnie graciously thanked all for the support, and told how Children’s had been an important part of their lives. Admiring his new briefcase, Kern said, “This is a very good sign. I thought [the gift] was going to be a wheelchair!” With that he turned serious and, as usual, self-effacing: The money raised for the Children’s Foundation “was not the result of me. It was the result of years of service and excellence. No one person could do anything like that.” Then he concluded the evening, perhaps with a tip for his successor: “You don’t persuade people to be generous. People are generous, and you match them up with their passions.”

For more photos of the evening’s festivities, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

Wildenthal Gift, Cheryl Pollman’s Award And Sons Of Serendip Highlighted VMLC’s “Wings Of Spring” At The Perot

A lot of fellas probably would have made plans for Monday, April 4, to head home, get in some comfy clothes, and settle down in their fav chair with a brewski in one hand and a snack a reach away to watch the NBA finals.

But then they realized they had been scheduled to head to the Perot Museum for VMLC fundraiser Wings of Spring, A Celebration of Literacy. So, the coat and tie stayed put. The brewski and snack were replaced by white and red wines with a buffet supper among the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall. Instead of the well-worn chair and the basketball players on the tube, they were destined for the Hoglund Foundation Theater and the Sons of Serendip on the ground level.

Not exactly the Monday night they envisioned. But it actually turned out a heck of a lot better than even the most negative guy had expected.

Mike and Kathy Crow, DeeDee Lee, Piper Wyantt, Claire Emanuelson and Lee Papert

Mike and Kathy Crow, DeeDee Lee, Piper Wyatt, Claire Emanuelson and Lee Papert

From the moment guests like Underwriting Chair Kathy Crow and husband Mike Crow, DeeDee Lee, Claire Emanuelson and Piper Wyatt arrived on the third level for the buffet, the place was filled with smiling guests of all ages. After filling their plates at one of the really amazing buffet lines, they found tables throughout the area. One group lucked out and got a table next to the Land Dynamics in the Rees-Jones Foundation Dynamic Earth Hall, where guests tried out the feeling of an earthquake. Pity the gals in heels who shook, rattled and giggled.

Just seconds before 8 p.m., guests were advised to adjourn to the theater for the evening’s presentation. But, alas, once at the theater door, they were told things weren’t quite ready, and that they should check back in at 8:10.

As guests settled in the lobby and the Museum Café, some noticed an individual walking by with a guitar case. Then another fellow strolled through the Café wearing a hat; he was followed by a third and a fourth. Someone asked, “Were those the Sons?”

No answer came, but really, who cared. At 8:10 the doors opened and the guests took their assigned seats.

Muna

Muna

Event Co-Chairs Diane Brown welcomed the SRO crowd and introduced Rabbi Nancy Kasten, who in turn introduced VMLC grad Muna. Eloquently, the Iraqi native told how Cheryl Pollman had helped her learn English and helped her prepare for her U.S. citizenship test. Cheryl even came to Muna’s home to help her husband study for his test. Both passed on their first try.

Cheryl Pollman

Cheryl Pollman

VMLC Executive Director Sarah Papert then told the group that Marnie and Kern Wildenthal had made a substantial donation for VMLC programs. For this reason the annual literacy award was being renamed the Marnie Wildenthal Literacy Legacy Award in Marnie’s honor. Sarah then officially presented the first Marnie Wildenthal Literacy Legacy Award to Cheryl, who graciously accepted it.

Cheryl told of the number of students who had fled their native countries to start new lives in Dallas. But their transition had also meant their learning an entirely new language. And that’s where VMLC volunteers like Cheryl had come in.

Cordaro Rodriguez

Cordaro Rodriguez

Micah Christian

Micah Christian

Kendall Ramseur

Kendall Ramseur

Mason Morton

Mason Morton

Following Cheryl’s acceptance, cellist Kendall Ramseur wearing a hat entered the room taking his place on the stage. He was joined by pianist Cordaro Rodriguez, who sat behind a keyboard with a guitar nearby. Then towering Mason Morton slid in alongside a harp. The last to arrive on stage was singer Micah Christian. These were the Sons of Serendip, who had come in fourth place on TV’s “America’s Got Talent” show competition in 2014. The foursome had gotten together following their graduate studies at Boston University.

Micah Christian, Kendall Ramseur and Mason Morton

Micah Christian, Kendall Ramseur and Mason Morton

Micah warned the audience that a couple of the songs would require their involvement. Such a threat usually has people heading for the door or ducking pretty far down in their chairs. Not in this case. Whether it was singing along or clapping, the guests really got into it. The quartet’s singing and music impressed even the most diehard basketball fan.

In between the tunes, the audience learned:

  • Coming from Boston that was being hit with a late snowstorm, Micah told how impressed the group had been with Dallas. Not just the weather, but everyone being so friendly. In Boston he said motorists tend to drive over pedestrians, but here they actually stop to let the people walk by. And Dallasites actually smile back at you.
  • How the foursome had gotten together. Cordaro was actually a lawyer and Kendall, Mason  and Micah were teachers.
  • Kendall and Cordaro initially had needed to make money to pay off their education loans. So they tried playing traditional tunes in the Boston subway. At first it didn’t seem to be a good fit. But then they tried playing their own music, and it changed their lives.
  • When the foursome went to Madison Square Garden to try out for “America’s Got Talent,” it was also the scene of a basketball game. Despite Mason toting along his harp, security kept telling them to head to the location of the basketball event.

Marnie And Kern Wildenthal Establish $100,000 Endowment Fund For VMLC

In each of the last four or five years, current and previous board members of the VMLC (Vickery Meadow Learning Center) have gotten together to catch up and trade ideas about the nonprofit’s work teaching English literacy skills to non-English-speaking adults and young children in diverse, low-income neighborhoods. And, this year was no exception.

On Friday, February 12, about 50 of them—including VMLC advisory board members like Ruben Esquivel— gathered for breakfast in The Library Bar at the Warwick Melrose Hotel. On the menu, besides the excellent bacon and eggs: an announcement that longtime volunteer Marnie Wildenthal and her husband, Dr. Kern Wildenthal, have established a $100,000 endowment fund for the VMLC.

To manage the new fund—to be called The Marnie Wildenthal Literacy Fund—the couple has selected the Dallas Foundation. It also was announced that, to further honor Marnie, the group’s Literacy Legacy Award will be presented biannually and will be renamed the Marnie Wildenthal Literacy Legacy Award.

Marnie, who’s been a VMLC teacher and volunteer since 2002, a board member, a president of the organization, and a 2014 recipient of the Literacy Legacy Award, was introduced to the group by Kern. He noted that, “next to our kids and grandkids,” VLMC is Marnie’s “passion.”

After thanking Kern (“When it comes to business and money matters, he’s the consultant”), Marnie said the VLMC plays a vital role in the community. “Fourteen years ago, [the clientele was] mostly Hispanic,” she said. “Now, the population reflects the terrible things that are going on in the world.” VLMC offers its clients “not just literacy instruction,” she went on, “but an opportunity to think about something other than what they’ve been through.” It’s important that the nonprofit’s board members and volunteers “be advocates for the immigrant community,” Marnie concluded.

Kern had been introduced by current VMLC board president Camille Owens, whose remarks followed a report to the group by Sarah Papert, VMLC’s executive director. Sarah noted that the group is now serving 1,200 adults and 330 children with 300 weekly volunteers. It operates at sites in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, in West Dallas, and in East Dallas.

Dallas Historical Society’s Awards For Excellence Luncheon Recognizes Some Of The Best Of Dallas

When one thinks of the history types, lots of ho-hums and yawns come to mind like that 9th grade teacher who had never heard of Bono or Lady Gaga.

But the Dallas Historical Society proved that they were replacing any thoughts of cobweb images with cool mover and shakers of today. And managed to do it without losing respect of the area’s past heroes-heroines and accomplishments.

The occasion was the DHS’s 34th Annual Awards for Excellence Luncheon on Thursday, November 19, at the Fairmont. The DHS had Kit Sawers chair the event, who had former Awards For Excellence Awardees Liza and Will Lee come on board as honorary co-chairs.

The VIP’s that had attended the pre-luncheon gathering in the Pyramid Room soon took the escalator up to the Regency Ballroom, where photographs of Dallas’ past were on display.

Bobby Lyle and Lottye Brodsky

Bobby Lyle and Lottye Brodsky

Tom Roush and Nancy Cain Marcus

Tom Roush and Nancy Cain Marcus

Sheila Grant and Caren Prothro

Sheila Grant and Caren Prothro

Margaret Keliher and Jim Coleman

Margaret Keliher and Jim Coleman

Jerry and Kelli Ford and Kelli Ford

Jerry and Kelli Ford and Kelli Ford

One person remarked, “This is a pretty heady group.” Yup, it was with the likes of Perots (Margot and Ross), Fords (Jerry and Kelli and daughter Kelli Ford), Thomases (Gail and Bob with daughter Torie Mannes and son Stewart Thomas), Clendenens (Cindy and Andy), Margaret Keliher with her pop Jim Coleman, Lottye Brodsky, Bobby Lyle, Louise Caldwell, Nancy Cain Marcus, Neiman Marcus execs (Kevin Hurst and Mimi Sterling) and former city officials like Adlene Harrison and Mary Suhm.

Torie Mannes, Bob and Gail Thomas and Stewart Thomas

Torie Mannes, Bob and Gail Thomas and Stewart Thomas

It got even headier when the awards were being handed out.

After Kit welcomed the group, DHS Board of Trustees Co-Chair Lynn McBee thanked “those who worked hard including Kit Sawers, Shannon Callewart, Louise Caldwell, Pat Mattingly and Caro Stalcup for all the dedication in making this event a perennial success.”

She then said, “The Dallas Historical Society holds nearly three million Texas artifacts, making our collection among the largest and best in Texas. At the Hall of State at Fair Park, be sure to see some of the collection including Tim Brown’s Heisman trophy.”

Following lunch, the 2015 awardees took their places on stage and emcee Stewart Thomas introduced each with Kit handing out the awards.

  • Gigi Antoni and Ginger Sager

    Gigi Antoni and Ginger Sager

    Giselle “Gigi” Antoni gets first award, for Arts Leadership. Says, “I’m just the public face of an army of Dallasites helping you people imagine, create and shape the future…“We all have imagination, the source of all creativity. … the power of imagination.”

  • Kevin Hurst and Richard Eiseman

    Kevin Hurst and Richard Eiseman

    Presented the Business Award, Retailer Richard Eiseman Jr. said, “Business, philanthropy and community service go hand in hand. Investing in Dallas has a great impact.”

  • Architect Bill Booziotis received the award for Creative Arts saying, “Art is the substitute for the natural resources that we don’t have” in Dallas. “Art really is the substance that we have” [instead of mountains, ocean, etc.].
  • Marnie Wildenthal and Kit Sawers

    Marnie Wildenthal and Kit Sawers

    Accepting the award for Education, Marnie Wildenthal squeezed a 2-minute speech into 90 seconds saying that despite how many of DISD 160K students living in poverty, the graduation rate has been going up, from 60% in 2008 to 87% in 2014. While saying this progress was a remarkable achievement, she added that less than 15% of grads are college-ready. The education advocate and Vickery Meadows Learning Center volunteer told the audience, “throwing money at the problem” is needed, because system is under-funded. Good education doesn’t come cheap. In closing, she encouraged people to volunteer even one hour a week with DSID, “and you can help one student succeed.”

  • Coming from a family of healthcare professionals, Dr. Robert Haley was presented with the award for Health Sciences/Medicine. Having helped research Gulf War Syndrome and also West Nile outbreak in Park Cities and North Dallas, Robert shared his success with Ross Perot and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who helped provide “support and funding for his efforts to apply cutting-edge science to Gulf War mystery illness.”
  • Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Jones, who received Humanities Award, recalled his mother’s advice — “Work hard, work smart, and look at life in general as servants.”
  • The Humanities/History Award went to filmmakers Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell, who have done 40 films since 1978. They recalled coming here from Vermont in October when Allen went to work at KERA, “There was no fall foliage and no mountains, but a welcoming and supportive community.”
  • Described as “the original classic Ford,” Gerald “Jerry” Ford receive the award for Philanthropy. He said he has been “focused on giving to institutions that were impactful to me,” and to the underprivileged. He added, “The real unintended benefit is that I have the pleasure of giving, so for all of you, think charitably.”
  • Kit Sawers and Tim Brown

    Kit Sawers and Tim Brown

    Receiving the first award for Sports Leadership, Tim Brown was also the first DISD player to be inducted into NFL Hall of Fame. Tim admitted that this has been an incredible year for him — “I’ve had many firsts in the NFL including the first to receive this award, and I’ll live up to it.”

  • Vikki J. Martin of the Ferguson Road Initiative in Far East Dallas accepted the Volunteer Community Leadership Award, quote an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
  • Ron Kirk and Matrice Ellis Kirk

    Ron Kirk and Matrice Ellis Kirk

    The Jubilee History Makers Award went to Matrice Ellis-Kirk and Ron Kirk. Ron says, “I’ll say what I said when I ran for mayor: ‘Don’t ask me to make history, ask me to make a difference.’ … I hope that Matrice and I have made a difference.”

Following the tradition established by the late historian A.C. Greene, the champagne toast resulted with all those born in Texas saluting “the rest of you who were smart enough to get here as fast as you could!”

Vickery Meadow Learning Center’s “Wings Of Spring” Celebrated Marnie Wildenthal With Friends, Food And Time For Three

Marnie Wildenthal and Sarah Papert*

Marnie Wildenthal and Sarah Papert*

More often than not, Marnie Wildenthal is seen at various events around town playing a supporting role for her husband, Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president emeritus at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. But last Thursday Marnie stepped into the spotlight herself, accepting the Literacy Legacy Award at the Vickery Meadow Learning Center’s annual “Wings of Spring: A Celebration of Literacy” fundraiser.

Marnie has been a supporter and volunteer teacher for 13 years at VLMC, which is dedicated to improving English literacy levels among non-English speaking adults and their young children. Under Executive Director Sarah Papert, the nonprofit serves more than 1,000 adults and 200 youngsters annually at locations in Vickery Meadow, West Dallas and Bachman Lake.

Nancy Kasten and David Stern*

Nancy Kasten and David Stern*

Bobby Lyle and Lottye Brodsky*

Bobby Lyle and Lottye Brodsky*

Donna Wilhelm, Marnie Wildenthal and Becky Young*

Donna Wilhelm, Marnie Wildenthal and Becky Young*

Organized by Committee Chair Beth Gold and Co-chair Ashley Coleman, the Thursday evening event at Lee Park’s Arlington Hall was attended by about 200 VMLC friends and supporters. Among those enjoying an outdoor cocktail reception before moving into Arlington Hall for a program and music recital were Bobby Lyle, Lottye Brodsky, Rabbis Nancy Kasten and David Stern, Joyce and Les Coleman, Donna Wilhelm and Becky Young. According to organizers the event was a sellout, raising a record-setting $270,000.

Papert, who’s been the group’s director since 2006, explained the thinking behind the selection of this year’s Legacy awardee: “Marnie has … impacted the lives of countless individuals, helping them improve their lives with the gift of English literacy,” Papert said. “Her volunteer service to VMLC has been unmatched.”

After a welcome by Gayle Johansen, president of the group’s board, Marnie was presented with the Legacy Award and enjoyed a special presentation by a group of adult students she’s taught at VMLC. Lined up in front of the raised stage, each of the women called out a letter in tribute to their teacher: “D is for discipline and darling,” “U is for understanding and unique,” and so on. At the end they revealed a banner spelling out the words, “Wonderful Marnie!”

Vickery Meadow Learning Center students with banner*

Vickery Meadow Learning Center students with banner*

In her brief remarks, the honoree said, “I had prepared a five-page, fact-filled [presentation], but Kern said it was okay to just say some thank-you’s.” She then thanked the students for their tribute, adding, “They never leave class without saying ‘thank you.’ ” Marnie contrasted that attitude with her many years teaching seventh and eighth graders at the Episcopal School of Dallas, “where you didn’t want to be anywhere near the door when the class was over …”

Frank and Helen Risch*

Frank and Helen Risch*

Closing out the event was a rousing performance by a three-man group called Time For Three, billed whimsically as the world’s first classically trained garage band. In reality, the three—Zach De Pue on violin, Nick Kendall (violin) and Ranaan Meyer (double bass)—are extraordinary musicians with a top-selling CD and appearances at locales as diverse as the Indy 500 and Carnegie Hall. Time for Three’s appearance was thanks in part to Wings of Spring Silver Sponsors Helen and Frank Risch, who saw the group perform in Park City, Utah.

* Photo credit: 
Holly Kuper
Time for Three Zach De Pue, Ranaan Meyer and Nick Kendall*

Time for Three Zach De Pue, Ranaan Meyer and Nick Kendall*

Marnie Wildenthal To Receive Vickery Meadows Learning Center’s Literacy Legacy Award

Kern and Marnie Wildenthal (File photo)

Kern and Marnie Wildenthal (File photo)

When the name “Wildenthal” is mentioned, most folks think of Kern. But there is another Wildenthal who has made major inroads in the area of education. That person is Kern’s wife, Marnie. A lifelong educator, she has turned her attention since 2002 to the Vickery Meadows Learning Center.

If the VMLC is new to you, it’s probably because you haven’t needed its resources. The center annually helps “to improve English literacy levels among non-English speaking adults and young children.” This service targets “three high-density, low-income neighborhoods — West Dallas, Vickery Meadows and Bachman Lake.”

But back to Marnie. Over the years, her VMLC involvement has been far more than a weekly drop-by and volunteer-for-an-hour. She’s “been a dedicated volunteer teacher” who “has also served three terms on the Board of Directors and served as Board President in 2011-2012. Marnie has impacted the lives of countless individuals, helping them improve their lives with the gifts of English literacy.”

On Monday, March 24, VMLC’s 2014 Wings of Spring: A Celebration of Literacy at Arlington Hall will honor Marnie as the recipient of VMLC’s Literacy Legacy Award. Committee Chair Beth Gold and Co-Chair Ashley Coleman have arranged an evening that will include “a cocktail reception followed by a performance featuring the charismatic musical ensemble ‘Time for Three,’ the world’s first classically-trained garage band.”

According to VMLC Executive Director Sarah Papert, “VMLC is thrilled to honor Marnie as the recipient of our Literacy Legacy Award. She has been a dedicated volunteer teacher at VMLC since 2002 and has impacted the lives of countless individuals, helping them improve their lives with the gift of English literacy. Her volunteer service to VMLC has been unmatched.”

VMLC Board President Gayle Johansen reports that during the past two years, Wings of Spring has raised more than $450,000 to “help families from 48 countries learn English.”

The translation: Annually 1,000 adults and 200 young children are better functioning members of the community because they can communicate, thanks to VMLC and people like Marnie.