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.
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!”
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 …”
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