Unfortunately, there were just way too many top-caliber activities taking place on Wednesday, October 14, around noontime. It was a Sophie’s Choice of what to cover. Luckily the Center for BrainHealth crew were front and center and offered to provide an accurate recap of its much worked-for ground breaking of the Brain Performance Institute. Please note that the BrainHealth crew admitted that the AC was challenged while providing comments about the event and covering peeps. No wonder these folks are brainiacs! Here goes:
More than 200 brain health enthusiasts from across the state of Texas filled an air-conditioned tent marking the exact location of where the Center for BrainHealth’s state-of-the-art Brain Performance Institute will stand come spring 2017. The invitation-only groundbreaking ceremony was beautifully orchestrated by none other than Shelle Sills and Patty Huffines.
Center for BrainHealth Founder/Chief Director Sandra Bond Chapman smiled from ear-to-ear as she hugged friends and greeted steadfast supporters of the Center including T. Boone Pickens, Mary McDermott Cook, Emy Lou and Jerry Baldridge, Jane and Bud Smith, former Navy SEAL and Carry the Load Co-Founder Stephen Holley, Southwest Airlines’ Chuck Magill, John Tolleson and Carter Tolleson.
Lyda Hill, a leader of the cause whose $2 million contribution launched the very first Brain Performance Institute program for military services members in 2013, grabbed the attention of groundbreaking go-ers, making a spiritedly entrance and donning a hard-hat outfitted with a Brain Performance Institute logo. Event photographers turned into paparazzi, having a hay day her mindful accessory.
By 11:15 a.m. the AC units were struggling to cool the packed tent and it was time for US Air Force Veteran and former NFL player Chad Hennings, former Dallas Cowboys player turned NFL commentator Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Jennifer Clifford, Brent Christopher and John McStay (who was sporting a black boot cast on his injured foot) to take their seats.
Capital campaign and Center for BrainHealth Advisory Board chair Debbie Francis welcomed the crowd and thanked friend and UT System regent Brenda Pejovich, State Representative Morgan Meyer and former State Representative Dan Branch among dozens of other dedicated individuals including Center for BrainHealth researchers, scientists, clinicians and staff for their tremendous contributions to the organization.
Following her opening remarks, The University of Texas at Dallas President Ad Interim Hobson Wildenthal took the podium, singing Chapman’s praises.
“Sandi is a true visionary. Her story is vital to the story of the University of Texas at Dallas,” Dr. Wildenthal said. “We know Sandi is an incredible leader and one of the dimensions of Sandi’s brilliance is her ability to build teams. She is the envy of all of us on the UTD campus.”
James Huffines confessed that his only regret during his service as chairman of the board for the UT System Board of Regents was that his tenure did not overlap with that of Chancellor William H. McRaven.
“There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that he will play an invaluable part in higher education, much like he did in the military,” Huffines said of McRaven. “Our state and our world will continue to be beneficiaries of his guidance and his full vision. I am proud to call him friend.”
Chancellor McRaven began his remarks saying, “None of us, I mean none of us, would be here if it weren’t for the vision, the energy and the hard work of Sandi Chapman and her team.” He spoke of the importance of the Brain Performance Institute’s mission where everyone will be able to come to make their brains better, whether sick, injured or healthy.
“It was in Dallas more than 40 years ago that Ken Cooper set in motion the physical fitness revolution,” said McRaven, the retired four-star Navy admiral, referring to the publication of ‘Aerobics’ by the physician/Cooper Clinic founder. “And right here in Dallas, we are on the cusp of the next great revolution: the revolution in brain health.”
He continued, “To make the most of the years we have, we need to make sure that brain fitness catches up with physical fitness. And I’m convinced it’s going to happen. The University of Texas System intends to lead this new revolution.”
With the tent filled with many BrainHealth and UT System donors, McRaven addressed their generosity directly.
“One of the things that has surprised me about coming to the UT System hasn’t been the job.” McRaven said. “What has surprised me and what has inspired me has been the great philanthropy and the great donors that I see every day. They not only give of their money, and the money is important, but they give of their time, their energy and probably more importantly, they give of their dreams.”
With his commanding presence, McRaven turned over the microphone to Sandi, who spoke of why Dallas has thrived as a city “because of visionary leadership” and how the Center for BrainHealth team is made up of “impatient explorers determined to close the gap from scientific discovery to improving human lives – today.”
Chapman, in the spirit of our ‘smart’ city, reminisced on the history of Dallas commerce, reflecting on trains and planes as economic drivers and proclaiming one more with the addition of the Brain Performance Institute: brains.
Brain Performance Institute Executive Director Eric Bennett rounded out the row of speakers by starting with a story.
“My niece can tell me with confidence where her head, shoulders, knees and toes are,” he said, “but she looked stumped when I asked her where her brain was.”
Guests giggled at the statement, but Bennett wanted to capitalize on his stance that too much research stays in research.
“We are not the solution for all the problems, but we have the research to benefit tens of thousands of people every year,” Bennett said.
He applauded Page, the architect and engineering firm behind the “iconic on a budget” building design that pays homage to the brain’s CEO or cognitive executive officer, the frontal lobe, and explained that the goal of the Institute’s aesthetic is to instill clients with a sense of empowerment as soon as they walked through the doors.
Before relinquishing the mic, Bennett challenged every person in the room with a call to action.
“The brain likes options,” he said, checking with the closest brain scientist in the room to make sure he had not misspoken. He then challenged everyone in the room to one of three options to help the Institute raise money and awareness that start with the letter “D”: donate, do and discuss.
The ceremonial dirt followed, symbolizing the beginning of a new era. All six speakers plus groundbreaking Co-Chairs Sills and Huffines, stood at the foot of the stage behind a 20’ x 3’ white box filled with dirt. Holding gleaming silver shovels, each scooped, lifted and turned the dirt before confidently shoving the shovels back into the metaphoric earth. The groundbreaking moment was met with a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd.
After the program, guests filed to the back of the tent for a reception complete with freshly made mini-donuts and table décor replete with mini construction cones, dump trucks and loaders. Many stayed to visit with old and new friends while sipping tea or water and enjoying chicken fried quail bites and other brain food, of course.
* Photos provided by the Center for BrainHealth