About 300 black -tied types gathered at the Adolphus Saturday night for Big Thought‘s 25th anniversary gala. Perhaps you didn’t know that it wasn’t always Big Thought. Nope, back in 1987 Mitch Jericho and Edith O’Donnell wanted to nurture the imaginations of area youths. To do this, they created Young Audiences of North Texas. The girls were thinking bigger than Dallas, but not as big as it eventually became. Over the years, the name was changed to Big Thought and grew such programs as Thriving Minds, Creative Solutions, Library Live!, SLANT: Service Learning Adventures in North Texas and Young Audiences.
For their pioneering the birthing of Big Thought, Mitch and Edith were honored along with IBM and the Corrigan family, who receive the 2012 Founders Award.
As Rhonda Sargent Chambers was going over the evening program inside the ballroom that was as colorful as a Big Thought project, the reception area was getting jammed to the max and had touches of Big Thought even on the high-tables like the
papier-mâché mermaid from the Bushman Elementary School students.
In the crowd were Doug and Leigh Anne Haugh, who was chairing the event. When Leigh Anne was asked if she was wearing a new black cocktail dress, she said no, it was from her maternity days. In matter of fact she was expecting again and due in July. . . . Communities Foundation of Texas’s Brent Christopher was all smiles. Perhaps it was due to his newest board member, soon-to-be-former State Senator Florence Shapiro. . . Ruth and Ken Altshuler arrived and said, “We’re her guests,” pointing to blonde-in-beige Caren Prothro, who was honorary co-chair of the event along with her daughter Nita Prothro Clark.
Unfortunately MySweetCharity can’t be in two places all at the same time. Because duty called for MSC to hover over the 51 Dallas Symphony Orchestra League’s débutantes, a kindly, note-taking correspondent provided details of the night following the jump:
- Mitch and Edith were thanked again and again for their courage, vision, drive, intelligence, “but most of all your Texas-sized hearts.” They were presented a custom-designed gift by Matthew Trent. He was asked to capture the spirit of Young Audiences and Big Thought and created a silver brooch that shows three children standing on a rainbow, under a shining sun. They reflect Big Thought’s beginnings with the Young Audiences sun logo, but they also symbolize the bridge of diversity and optimism built as a result of Edith and Mitch’s work.
- Former Big Thought board chair Melissa McNeil said:
“I was fortunate to be a member of the first Board in 1987, and was Board Chair from 1991 to 1992, and I’ve stayed connected to Big Thought ever since. I clearly remember those early years, when Mitch Jericho and Edith O’Donnell pioneered an initiative to return the arts to public schools in the greater Dallas area. It was 1987, and the arts in schools were in jeopardy. School districts throughout Texas and across the country were faced with major budget cuts. They were eliminating what was then viewed as “nonessential” curricula.
“Mitch and Edith weren’t having any of that. They established the 32nd chapter of Young Audiences here in Dallas. Mitch used her executive skills to set up the Board structure, the office staffing, the policies and procedures necessary for a stable and growing organization. Edith, along with her sidekick Caren Prothro, hit the road, meeting with countless principals, superintendents, and school boards as they offered free programs in order to get into those initial schools. Might I say they had some skeptical responses. Yet Edith, with Caren, and Mitch persevered in their tasks. Their deep commitment, their tenacity, and their personal resolve laid a strong foundation for what would become the largest, most successful Young Audiences chapter in the nation.
“Unlike many founders, Mitch and Edith have maintained a strong connection to Big Thought and have supported our growth and evolution over the past two and a half decades.
“But their work hasn’t been limited to Big Thought, or even to arts and culture. Mitch and Edith have touched so many lives with their generosity and talent. They have served on local, regional and national boards of educational institutions and service organizations, inspiring countless others with their civic leadership and volunteerism.
“They have each been recognized as outstanding alumni of their respective universities and for their service in improving the well-being of Dallas children and adults. Mitch was the first recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer award by the Texas Association of Symphony Orchestras and has received the Arts Basic Award from the Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Volunteer Leadership Award by Young Audiences, Inc., and recognition as 100 Women, 100 Years by the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
“Edith has been the co-recipient, with her husband Peter, of TACA’s prestigious Silver Cup award and the Linz Award for their exemplary leadership, volunteerism and efforts that made the greatest benefit to the Dallas community. She has also received the Texas Medal of Arts as an outstanding individual arts patron.
“These are truly remarkable women and I’m honored to call them both friends.
“In appreciation for all you’ve done for our schools, our community and the children of North Texas, we have two small tokens of appreciation.”
- The Founders Award was presented to two groups – IBM and the Corrigan Family. IBM was the very first organization to support Big Thought (and their support has continued through the years … and it changed the face of the organization when IBM provided high-tech computer and information technology contributions). The Corrigan Family has been the bedrock of the organization since its inception. Marilyn and Leo Corrigan Jr. were among the first contributors to Young Audiences. From financial and in-kind support to committee membership and serving as board president, every member of the Corrigan family has supported Big Thought in some way.
- Fox 4’s Clarice Tinsley was the emcee and spoke from the heart of her experiences working with Big Thought as part of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Communications Committee. She mentioned her involvement with SLANT 45, the youth education program created and managed by Big Thought, and how impressed she was that more than 44,000 North Texas kids contributed almost a half-million hours of community service.
- The Booker T. Washington Jazz Ensemble provided sensational background music during the reception and dinner, then the Michael Meadows band Nothing Strikes Back played dance music.
- Big Thought president and CEO Gigi Antoni was also widely praised for her vibrant, smart leadership through the years.
- Much credit was given to Leigh Anne Haugh, who not only became a first-year board member but jumped at the chance to chair the 25th anniversary gala … and did a fabulous job! Big Thought connected with Leigh Anne during its SLANT 45 partnership with the Junior League of Dallas.
- Singer/actor Max Hartman, whose mother and sister were actively involved with Big Thought, sang the following tribute to Edith and Mitch a la Frank Sinatra-style to the song The Lady is a Tramp:
It’s quarter to three, the kids are in the place, sketching a tree
Or dancing a jig
Or acting out a drama, wearing a wig
How’d this get so far
For the artist to share what they know?
Thanks to Edith O’Donnell, yes, and Mitch Jericho
Mitch dove in head-first, no questions asked
She had to-do lists from here to Damask
So you’d better look busy or she’ll give you a new task
That’s why the lady is a champ
Edith fought battles, but landed on her feet
When her friends would see her, they’d hide or cross the street
She went to exotic locations like Garland and Mesquite
That’s why the lady is a champ