The Trinity Trust’s Gail Thomas was honored by her alma mater SMU with the 2014 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award at Belo Mansion on Wednesday, March 19.
Among the 300 friends and family members present were SMU VP of development and external affairs Brad Cheves, Cary Maguire and his daughter Blainey Maguire Hess, Caren Prothro, Mike Boone, Gene Cox, Ray Hunt, Dr. Terry Flowers, Leslie Melson, Connie O’Neill, Juliette Coulter, Sheron Patterson, Linda Custard, Jeanne Phillips, Gene Phillips, Lyda Hill, Groundwork Dallas’ Peter Payton, Trinity River Audubon Center’s Ben Jones, Jim Bass, Mary McDermott Cook, Dan Patterson, Carol and Don Glendenning, Linda Gibbons, Lynn McBee, Mary Suhm, Jill Jordan, Willis Johnson and Carl Sewell.
Orchestrating the event was Event Chair/Trinity Trust Vice Chair/Maguire Ethics Center Vice Chair Bobby Lyle, with Gail’s close friend, former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison serving as the honorary chair.
According to Bobby, “The enthusiasm for this group is only exceeded by the love and respect for Gail Thomas. Join me by your applause for all those on the committee.”
Dr. Gerald Turner, president of SMU, told about the award. “This award is the highest and most prestigious award.” He also told about how in honor of SMU’s Centennial, they renamed Hilltop Lane to Robert S. Hyer, Bob Thomas’ father and first president of SMU.
Director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility Rita Kirk told about the school ― “We’re very fortunate to have this as a driving force in our community to engage in conversations. This (luncheon) is our signature and marquee event.
“This award has been given spanning two decades. We have a number of recipients today: Patricia Meadows standing in for husband Curtis Meadows, Bill Solomon, Dr. Ron Anderson, Caren Prothro, Mike Boone, Ron Steinhart, Ruth Altshuler, Walt Humann and part of the duo, Ray Hunt (Nancy couldn’t make it).
“For those who know Gail, no event is complete without her family.”
Adding to the accolades was Maguire Ethics Center Board Member Nancy Cain Marcus, who said, “Gail’s humility and accomplishments are downright staggering. She has blazed trails for our city, questioned complacency and also take risks with boundless imagination and inspired perspective. Gail is a prophet of good, who operates with legendary diplomacy, deep compassion and vision.”
Then the diminutive blonde added,
“There are so many threads that lead back to Gail and Bob Thomas, but who is Gail?”
- Youngest child who grew up in Princeton, TX and Rocky Ford, CO
- At 14 years old with her brothers, she co-piloted her mom, Electra Griffin.
- At 16 years old, she started college at SMU.
- At SMU, she was a Kappa Kappa Gamma, Mustang cheerleader and on the student council.
- After college, she married Bob, who was in the law school, and they have been married more than 50 years.
- Her accomplishments are legendary, from being an author of many books and writings to a soon-to-be published play called Electra.
- She’s one of the founders of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. She helped revitalize Pegasus Plaza and founded The Trinity Trust.
- She started the “What Makes a City” conferences with nearly 40 held.
On a more serious note, Nancy added, “The last title she wants is goddess, but the highest is Athena, who is goddess of the city. She’s disciplined, dedicated to the good, and Gail is most deserving of this award.”
It was now Gail’s turn. She thanked SMU’s Maguire Center for this prestigious award, and she talked about knowing Erik Jonsson. “This award means a lot to me. It represents the highest of any aspiration to the city. The fact that it was named after Erik Jonsson is special because I was so fortunate to know him. The very first civic responsibility was to be on his Goals for Dallas committee, thanks to my mentors Louise and Don Cowan.”
Her love for Dallas grew, and she talked about her life’s work with making Dallas the city we envision. She showed a short video documenting the “What Makes a City” conferences discussing the dreams for Dallas: “We can be the 21st century city. But we need to be generous. What can we offer? We can offer access to nature, and that’s what the Trinity River Corridor Project is about…it’s a 20-mile swath of nature running through out city. This is generosity. It’s ethical and free.”
She added, “Santiago Calatrava designed the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge as a centerpiece (thanks, Lyda), and he’s designing the Margaret McDermott Bridge under construction. “This beauty is access to nature, walking trails, the silence of a 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest and water. This is generosity at its best.”
* Photo credit: SMU/Kim Ritzenthaler Leeson