At a private, pre-luncheon reception Wednesday, April 8, for Sheila and Jody Grant, winners of the 86th annual Linz Award, the beaming couple was accepting early congratulations for the award from guests including Margot Perot, Jonathan Martin, Laura Wilson, Jonathan Martin, Walt Humann, Lee Cullum, Kern Wildenthal, Ron Kirk, Caroline Rose Hunt, Patrick Sands and Gerald Turner. Near the door, Jody was joking that he had cut his “acceptance speech” down—from 45 minutes to just three or four. It was because of Sheila, someone across the room was confiding, that there’s a “No High Heels Allowed” sign in Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park.
In fact, many of the guests at the Hilton Anatole were talking about the award-winning park built over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The Grants, after all, had orchestrated and led the years-long effort to build the landmark space—Jody as chairman of the park foundation, Sheila as chair of the capital campaign—and it was for those efforts that they were being honored with the prestigious Linz Award.
Presented by Zale Jewelers and The Dallas Morning News, the award is presented yearly to the individual whose “community and humanitarian efforts created the greatest benefit to the city during the last decade without having received monetary compensation.” Since 1991. the awards luncheon has benefited the community service fund of the Junior League of Dallas.
Welcoming the crowd of 450 to the award luncheon itself—it was held upstairs in a larger room at the Anatole—Forrest Hoglund said dryly that, during voting by the award selection committee, “There was an anonymous attempt to give the award to last year’s winner, but we easily beat them.” (Insiders chuckled, knowing that Hoglund himself had received the Linz in 2014.)
Following a lunch of tomato basil soup en croute, grilled petit filet of beef, risotto and rainbow carrots, and a chocolate walnut or berry mascaropone tart, Morning News publisher and CEO Jim Moroney told the crowd that, “It takes individual leadership to make real transformation possible … which takes me to our honorees. They had the conviction that you could build a park over the top of a highway,” Moroney said. “That took real conviction.”
Next William Solomon, who received the Linz Award a decade ago, called the Grants “the heart and soul of Klyde Warren Park,” having helped raise $50 million in private contributions and many tens of millions more in city, state, and federal funds for the park. The purpose of their effort, Solomon said, was to make “Dallas a more vital and inclusive place. The Grants literally willed the park into being.”
With that Sheila and Jody stepped up to accept the Linz, to a thunderous ovation. Sheila called the park a “place to celebrate traditions”—and a space that had been built “out of thin air. … The words ‘impossible’ and ‘can’t’ are not in [Jody’s] vocabulary,” Sheila asserted. “If I had $1 for every time we heard those words, we’d be living in splendor on the Riviera.”
When his turn to talk came, Jody credited Sheila with doing the heavy lifting on fundraising. “Try to pick projects that you can bring your wives in on,” he advised the men in the audience, because “women raise money better than men.” When he would phone to speak to “Mr. Do-Good” to ask for a contribution for the park, Jody recalled, he would wait seemingly forever for a callback. “But when Sheila called to ask to talk to Mr. Do-Good, they said, ‘When can we send the limo for you?’ ”
Grant also acknowledged former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who was in the audience, for ushering $20 million for the park through the Texas Legislature. While Klyde Warren Park has been an amazing success, Jody concluded, there’s more to be done. Among the remaining tasks: expanding the children’s park, “connecting east to west,” and adding an ice skating rink.