When one thinks of the history types, lots of ho-hums and yawns come to mind like that 9th grade teacher who had never heard of Bono or Lady Gaga.
But the Dallas Historical Society proved that they were replacing any thoughts of cobweb images with cool mover and shakers of today. And managed to do it without losing respect of the area’s past heroes-heroines and accomplishments.
The occasion was the DHS’s 34th Annual Awards for Excellence Luncheon on Thursday, November 19, at the Fairmont. The DHS had Kit Sawers chair the event, who had former Awards For Excellence Awardees Liza and Will Lee come on board as honorary co-chairs.
The VIP’s that had attended the pre-luncheon gathering in the Pyramid Room soon took the escalator up to the Regency Ballroom, where photographs of Dallas’ past were on display.
One person remarked, “This is a pretty heady group.” Yup, it was with the likes of Perots (Margot and Ross), Fords (Jerry and Kelli and daughter Kelli Ford), Thomases (Gail and Bob with daughter Torie Mannes and son Stewart Thomas), Clendenens (Cindy and Andy), Margaret Keliher with her pop Jim Coleman, Lottye Brodsky, Bobby Lyle, Louise Caldwell, Nancy Cain Marcus, Neiman Marcus execs (Kevin Hurst and Mimi Sterling) and former city officials like Adlene Harrison and Mary Suhm.
It got even headier when the awards were being handed out.
After Kit welcomed the group, DHS Board of Trustees Co-Chair Lynn McBee thanked “those who worked hard including Kit Sawers, Shannon Callewart, Louise Caldwell, Pat Mattingly and Caro Stalcup for all the dedication in making this event a perennial success.”
She then said, “The Dallas Historical Society holds nearly three million Texas artifacts, making our collection among the largest and best in Texas. At the Hall of State at Fair Park, be sure to see some of the collection including Tim Brown’s Heisman trophy.”
Following lunch, the 2015 awardees took their places on stage and emcee Stewart Thomas introduced each with Kit handing out the awards.
Giselle “Gigi” Antoni gets first award, for Arts Leadership. Says, “I’m just the public face of an army of Dallasites helping you people imagine, create and shape the future…“We all have imagination, the source of all creativity. … the power of imagination.”
Presented the Business Award, Retailer Richard Eiseman Jr. said, “Business, philanthropy and community service go hand in hand. Investing in Dallas has a great impact.”
- Architect Bill Booziotis received the award for Creative Arts saying, “Art is the substitute for the natural resources that we don’t have” in Dallas. “Art really is the substance that we have” [instead of mountains, ocean, etc.].
Accepting the award for Education, Marnie Wildenthal squeezed a 2-minute speech into 90 seconds saying that despite how many of DISD 160K students living in poverty, the graduation rate has been going up, from 60% in 2008 to 87% in 2014. While saying this progress was a remarkable achievement, she added that less than 15% of grads are college-ready. The education advocate and Vickery Meadows Learning Center volunteer told the audience, “throwing money at the problem” is needed, because system is under-funded. Good education doesn’t come cheap. In closing, she encouraged people to volunteer even one hour a week with DSID, “and you can help one student succeed.”
- Coming from a family of healthcare professionals, Dr. Robert Haley was presented with the award for Health Sciences/Medicine. Having helped research Gulf War Syndrome and also West Nile outbreak in Park Cities and North Dallas, Robert shared his success with Ross Perot and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who helped provide “support and funding for his efforts to apply cutting-edge science to Gulf War mystery illness.”
- Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Jones, who received Humanities Award, recalled his mother’s advice — “Work hard, work smart, and look at life in general as servants.”
- The Humanities/History Award went to filmmakers Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell, who have done 40 films since 1978. They recalled coming here from Vermont in October when Allen went to work at KERA, “There was no fall foliage and no mountains, but a welcoming and supportive community.”
- Described as “the original classic Ford,” Gerald “Jerry” Ford receive the award for Philanthropy. He said he has been “focused on giving to institutions that were impactful to me,” and to the underprivileged. He added, “The real unintended benefit is that I have the pleasure of giving, so for all of you, think charitably.”
Receiving the first award for Sports Leadership, Tim Brown was also the first DISD player to be inducted into NFL Hall of Fame. Tim admitted that this has been an incredible year for him — “I’ve had many firsts in the NFL including the first to receive this award, and I’ll live up to it.”
- Vikki J. Martin of the Ferguson Road Initiative in Far East Dallas accepted the Volunteer Community Leadership Award, quote an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The Jubilee History Makers Award went to Matrice Ellis-Kirk and Ron Kirk. Ron says, “I’ll say what I said when I ran for mayor: ‘Don’t ask me to make history, ask me to make a difference.’ … I hope that Matrice and I have made a difference.”
Following the tradition established by the late historian A.C. Greene, the champagne toast resulted with all those born in Texas saluting “the rest of you who were smart enough to get here as fast as you could!”