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

Center for BrainHealth’s Legacy Award Dinner Honored Rep. Dan Branch With Brainiacs, Politicians And Four Generations Of Branches

Traditionally, area country clubs are closed on Mondays. But for those rare, special occasions, they open, and such an event was the Center for BrainHealth‘s Legacy Award Dinner on Monday, November 14, Dallas Country Club. It was a gathering of the area’s top-tier bold-facing brainiacs to honor Rep. Dan Branch. Here is a report from the field:

Four generations of Texas’ illustrious Branch family, including gracious matriarch Sylvia Branch and her precious two-month old great granddaughter, Waverly Branch, along with more than 250 guests convened at the Dallas Country Club on Monday, November 14.

Sylvia Branch and Waverly Branch*

Kevin McBride, Margaret McDermott and Patricia McBride*

Under the auspices of witnessing Rep. Dan Branch receive the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas’ highest honor, the Legacy Award, the virtual family reunion attracted a philanthropic and political who’s who including Margaret McDermott, Toni Pickens, Rep. Morgan Meyer and Keana, former Lieutenant Governor of Texas David Dewhurst, former Rep. Bill Ceverha and his wife Mary, UT System top brass Melissa Jackson and UT Dallas executive vice president and provost Dr. Hobson Wildenthal. Other guests included Emy Lou and Jerry Baldridge, Marla and Mike Boone, Jennifer and Coley Clark, Kathy and Harlan Crow, Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, Heather and Ray Washburne, Gail and Gerald TurnerSally Hoglund with daughter Kelly Compton, Pat and Charles McEvoy, Janie and Cappy McGarr, Shelle and Michael Sills and Lee Ann and Alan White.

Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones*

Debbie Francis and Toni Pickens*

Gerald and Gail Turner*

Heather and Ray Washburne*

The vibrant Shelly Slater of WFAA Channel 8 emceed the annual event that honors an individual whose vision and dedication enables the Center for BrainHealth and its Brain Performance Institute to empower people of all ages to unlock their brain potential.

As a state representative from Dallas and chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, Rep. Branch authored House Bill 51, the “Tier One universities” law. This landmark legislation encouraged private giving to public emerging research universities, including UT Dallas, by matching private gifts with state funds. Since 2009, gifts, appropriations and National Research University Fund distributions represent a total investment in Texas emerging research universities of $770 million.

It is worth noting that a love for brains runs in the Branch family. Dan Branch’s late father, renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Charles L. Branch, was a pioneer in the field of neuroscience and donated a cache of artifacts to the Center chronicling the history of neurosurgery. BrainHealth honors Dr. Branch each year, presenting the Charles L. Branch BrainHealth Award for “unparalleled breakthroughs in brain research” to a deserving brain research scientist or physician.

After honorary co-chair James Huffines recognized distinguished audience members, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who was detained by official business in Austin, kicked off the evening with a warm video welcome. He conveyed congratulations to his friend that he has known since they were kids. “And if you wonder how long that has been,” said Hon. Straus. “I will simply point out that Dan is now a grandfather.”

During an energetic tribute video, long-time friend of Dan Branch, Harlan Crow, expressed how easy it is to like Dan and incredibly difficult to dislike him.

The University of Texas System Deputy Chancellor Dr. David Daniel, who was President of The University of Texas at Dallas when the Tier One legislation took effect, said, “The Tier One legislation may well be the most important, transformative and wildly successful legislation in Texas relative to public higher education in our lifetime.”

Dan Branch and Sandi Chapman*

Center for BrainHealth Founder/Chief Director and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair at The University of Texas at Dallas Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman presented Rep. Branch with the crystal Legacy plaque. “Dan Branch’s efforts have helped elevate the cause of brain health to the forefront of discussions not only in Texas but nationwide,” she said. “Because of his legislative work, we have been able to attract top talent from around the world to grow our research team and continue to make meaningful scientific discoveries that improve lives today.”

 

In regards to the outpouring of high praise during the evening, Rep. Branch playfully bantered, “Typically when people say nice things about me, I like to say that I wish that my mother could hear that. Well, tonight she did!”

Dan and Stacey Branch and Hobson Wildenthal*

Dan Branch’s magnanimous acceptance speech epitomized his priorities, expressing his passion for understanding and delivering on his constituents’ needs and above all honoring his family. He identified each family member individually, lingering especially on his dedicated wife, Stacey, of 32 years whom he gave much credit for being his inspiration and the foundation of their family.

James and Patty Huffines and Eric and Robin Bennett*

Sue Blackwell and Carolyn Rathjen*

Patty and James Huffines were the honorary chairs of the event and Robin and Eric Bennett were the dinner chairs. The host committee included: Lana and Barry Andrews, Sue and Pryor Blackwell, Marla and Mike Boone, Debbie and Jim Francis, Lynn and Allan McBee, Carolyn and Karl Rathjen, Jane and Bud Smith and Gayle and Paul Stoffel.

Past BrainHealth Legacy Award recipients include Dianne Cash, Debbie Francis, T. Boone Pickens, James Huffines, Dee Wyly, Daryl Johnston and Lee Roy Jordan, Jane and Bud Smith and Clint Bruce.

Major donors at the Center for BrainHealth Legacy Award Dinner included:

Gold ($25,000):

  • Al G. Hill, Jr.
  • Carolyn and David Miller and The David B. Miller Family Foundation
  • Toni and T. Boone Pickens

Silver ($15,000):

  • Emy Lou and Jerry Baldridge/Nancy Dedman /Jane and Bud Smith
  • Sylvia L. Branch Family
  • Lisa and Clay Cooley

Bronze ($10,000):

  • Suzanne and Moshe Azoulay
  • Colleen Barrett
  • Sue and Pryor Blackwell/Carolyn and Karl Rathjen, MD
  • Marla and Mike Boone
  • Teresa and David Disiere
  • Cindy and Pat Fox
  • Debbie and Jim Francis
  • Highland Capital Management
  • PlainsCapital Bank
  • Gail and Bill Plummer
  • Sapphire Foundation
  • Lisa and Kenny Troutt
  • Winstead PC
  • Julie and John Young

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR BRAINHEALTH®

The Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, is a research institute committed to enhancing, protecting and restoring brain health across the lifespan. Scientific exploration at the Center for BrainHealth is leading edge, improving lives today and translating groundbreaking discoveries into practical clinical application. By delivering science-based innovations that enhance how people think, work, and live, the Center and its Brain Performance Institute™ are empowering people of all ages to unlock their brain potential. Major research areas include the use of functional and structural neuroimaging techniques to better understand the neurobiology supporting cognition and emotion in health and disease. 

* Photo credit: Melissa Macatee