Billionaire Robert Rowling admitted that he was transformed when he and his wife Terry moved to Dallas 17 years ago. But more about that later.
The Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award Dinner is not known as a “stem-winder,” but that’s how Southwestern Medical Foundation Chairman of the Board Bill Solomon described the Monday, November 18th event at the Hilton Anatole. The reason? Twice during the on-stage talks, the sign fastened to the podium literally fell off, causing laughter from the audience and the Anatole staffers to rush from the back of the Khmer Ballroom to replace it. After the second fall from place, Bill told the staff just to leave it be.
The importance of the night was to celebrate the outstanding people “who have provided significant support in areas related to the improvement of health care, medical education and research.”
First presentation of the evening was the not-often-given Cyndi Bassel Guardian Angel Award established by Margot and Ross Perot. Its purpose was “to recognize non-physicians in health fields who devote themselves, above and beyond the call of duty, to serving patients in exceptional ways.” It was presented to Children’s Medical Center Dallas VP/Executive Director of the Health and Wellness Alliance for Children Holly Hassmann. To say she was thrilled was an understatement as she thanked her family, friends, co-workers and the patients of Children’s.
According to Holly, “A place is only as good as the people who are inside it. That has meant working closely with the wonderful staff at Children’s and doctors from UT Southwestern, and making sure that we have the highest quality services for the families.”
Following dinner, Bill officially welcomed the guests including Elaine Sprague, Dr. Cindy Hardesty, Carla Bass, Louise Eiseman with Betsy and Richard Eiseman, Jess Hay, Dee Simmons, Sara and David Martineau, James Huffines, Mary McDermott Cook, Gay Solomon, Sammye and Mike Myers and Kern and Marnie Wildenthal. He then introduced UT Southwestern Medical Center President Dr. Daniel Podolsky, who described UT Southwestern’s present accomplishments and its plans for the future.
It’s truly amazing to think of the extraordinary work that UT Southwestern has achieved since its creation as Southwestern Medical College by the Foundation in 1943.
Then Bill asked Foundation President Kathleen Gibson to announce the 2013 Charles Cameron Sprague Awardees — Linda and Mitch Hart and Terry and Robert Rowling.
Linda had all her children and brother and sister-in-law, who had traveled to Dallas for the event, stand. She told how the late Sadie and Charlie Seay had taught them to a lesson they never forgot — “to give while we can appreciate what our giving is doing and not wait until after we’re gone.” Linda eloquently thanked people like Margaret McDermott, Lyda Hill, Dr. Perry Gross, Dr. Kern Wildenthal, Dr. Dan Podolsky, Dr. Hugh McClung, Dr. Angela Shoup and Gerald Turner.
Terry started off by thanking the nominating committee and their family and friends, who were present. Then she took the opportunity to compliment her husband, “who is truly the community servant. The rest I was going to say is probably pretty obvious, but I believe my husband is very talented and he has worked very hard and has been faithful to use his gifts in both business and serving others. God has blessed us beyond measure in many ways for which we are very grateful. And I must say that Bob has been obedient to the scripture that says ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded’ and I am very proud of him. Thank you so much for this award. We are truly honored to receive it.”
Bob followed saying that they had been told they had five minutes and Terry said she was going to use four of it. In his one minute, he humbly said they were relative newcomers to Dallas having only lived here 17 years and don’t feel like they’re in the same category as the past recipients of the Sprague Award. The former Corpus Christi resident admitted, “it wasn’t the thing to do [there] to really get involved and serve the community. And one of the things when we got here . . . uh, I don’t know if it surprised me or it was just educational. . .was how people valued public service and volunteering and building things and getting involved in the community. It was just transformational. All the time as I observed what’s going on in Dallas, I began to meet community leaders. They were people who loved this community. They were willing to give their time and their money. They were interested in seeing in this particular instance, UT Southwestern Medical Center grow and prosper. And as I observed them, I became friends with many of them. They were people like Edith and Peter O’Donnell, the McDermott family, Annette and Harold Simmons, the Perots, Boone Pickens. . . who I knew before I moved here but when I saw what he was doing here, he educated me. . . Nancy and Ray Hunt, Lyda Hill, Bill and Gay and I could go on with the list of people. Numerous people who poured their hearts into growing not just the medical center but Dallas. I could go on and on . . . but I want to mention one more that Dr. Podolsky mentioned before. You know Gov. (Bill) Clements. When I was on the board of regents, he came to the board of regents and said, ‘I want to make a transformative gift to UT Southwestern Medical Center.” Bob recalled that in those days a lot of people were making gifts.
“The thing was unusual about Gov. Clements’ gift was he said he wanted it to be transformative, but it is also unrestricted. Whereas most people who were giving 30-, 40-, 50-million-dollar gifts, they wanted it to go to a specific area. And he gave that gift to this institution completely unrestricted which was so unusual. . . For me to watch these people pour their hearts and lives into this community was transformational. It was a real learning lesson and I’m still learning.”
He then told how one of the first people he met was (the late) Paul Bass, who was the Foundation’s board chairman. They ended up going on a golf trip in Tucson. Bob recalled that Paul ordered “a stack of bacon that high and he looked at me and said, ‘Bob, I just had heart surgery and I’m watching my cholesterol.” He eventually got Bob involved in the UT Southwestern.
As a final gesture of graciousness, Bob read excerpts from the obituary of Charlie Sprague, a man he never met but he respected and was humbled to receive an award named after him.