The J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award Luncheon presented by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Publicon Wednesday, March 23, at Belo Mansion was a bit of a surprising event. Filled to the max with friends, family and fans of honoree Terry Flowers, many just thought they knew the man, who as headmaster has led the development of one of South Dallas’ shining stars — St. Philips School and Community Center. They were in for a surprise.
But before that revelation took place, the crowd settled into the Pavilion catching up on the day’s news. Debra Fugit reported that she had been going through her things in preparation for a talk — “My Quest for the Best” — about her years working as the late Stanley Marcus’ assistant… While husband/SMU President Gerald Turner was talking with Cary Maguire, Gail Turner reported that come December the Turners would be celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary. Speaking of anniversaries, Lee Ann White was receiving congrats from Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr about her 14th anniversary with husband Alan White. She also revealed that they would be celebrating Alan’s April 3rd birthday in Cabos.
Just seconds after noon SMU VP Brad Cheves called the group to order and, like St. Philip’s students, they followed orders. On the stage behind Brad sat Luncheon Chair Bobby Lyle, who welcomed the group, and St. Paul United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Richie Butler, who provided the invocation.
While lunch was served, honoree Terry made the rounds of the tables that included Mike Boone, Ralph Babb, Caren Kline, Walter Humann, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Jack Lowe, Kern Wildenthal, Lyda Hill, Linda Custard, Gail Thomas and Carol Reed.
At 12:41 Gerald started the program by having some of the St. Philip’s students on stage. With Dallas skyscrapers seen through the windows in the background, the youngsters recited the school creed. The results? A deserved standing ovation. It was apparent from some of the guests’ expressions that this presentation was the first time they had heard the creed.
Following remarks by Gerald and Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility Director Rita Kirk about SMU and the mission of the Center, Dr. Michael S. Rawlings was introduced. No, not the Dallas mayor. Rather a St. Philip’s alumnus, who started at the school in the 1990s as a kindergartener and went on to graduate from Morehouse College and earn his Ph. D. from Northwestern. He told the guests that he wondered back then, referring to Terry, “Does he ever smile?” Michael went on to describe the steel grip of Terry’s handshake and how he attended the school during the same time period as Terry’s three daughters. He recalled that having had two working parents, Michael was usually the first one at school in the morning and the last one there at close of day. He added that Terry was always there when he arrived and when he left. Asking himself “What is Terry Flowers to me?”, he answered, hard work, sacrifice and a strong handshake. Michael didn’t speak as a student about a mentor. Rather, it was as if he was a son describing his much beloved father. And it received a standing ovation.
At 12:57 Bobby returned to the podium admitting that it was a challenge to follow the St. Philip’s students and Michael. But he managed to do it by describing how for 33 years, Terry has made it his life’s work to provide the children from South Dallas with the tools to succeed.
It was then time for the man of the hour to accept his award. But the man who was known for his firm handshake and serious attitude shared a side that many had never witnessed. He opened by joking that from this day forward he would always follow Lyda Hill, who had been the 2015 Jonsson Awardee. He then asked for a moment of silence to remember a former St. Philip’s student and teacher Crystal Rose and St. Philip’s supporter Robert Eagle, who had recently passed away.
He then launched into describing the four G’s that have put “this turtle on top of the fence post.”
- His wife “G”ernise Flowers — “She would say April 12 is her birthday.” To her it was 31 years ago that they married, but to him it will be “11,555 minutes or one billion seconds.”
- His “g”irls — There was silence. Then with his voice just slightly breaking, he directed his comments to his daughters, “You are the part of my heart walking outside my body.”
- “G”roup — The Episcopalians who started the church 75 years ago. When a child was hit by a car, the church group started a daycare center that evolved into St. Philip’s.
- “G”od — “It’s okay to pray and make an A.”
The rest of his talk addressed the importance of choices and morals. Concluding his acceptance speech, he said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education.”
BTW, if you see Gernise or Terry Tuesday, wish them a happy anniversary.