It was billed as a farewell tribute dinner to Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Kern Wildenthal hosted by Children’s Health System of Texas CEO Chris Durovich and his wife Christina Durovich. But the dinner in the Pecan Room at Harlan Crow‘s Old Parkland on Tuesday, June 7, was more of a love fest for more than 80 members of the Kern fan club. They ranged from philanthropists (Mary McDermott Cook, Margot and Ross Perot and Gay and Bill Solomon), brainiacs (Sean Morrison and wife Theo Ross), business types (Mark Zacheis and Anne Motsenbocker), fundraising champs (Randi Halsell, Barbara Stuart, Connie O’Neill and Ann Corrigan), community leaders (Dan Branch and Joel Williams) to friends (Shirley and Bob Miller and Cyndi and Mark Bassel) and family, like big brother Hobson Wildenthal.
The waves of guests kept coming, and Christina and Chris greeted each like an old friend. Upon arriving, Brent Christopher, who will be following Kern as head of the Foundation, immediately sought out the man of the hour.
But it was the beginning of summer, so talk during the pre-dinner reception was travel-oriented. Kern and wife Marnie Wildenthal were leaving the next day for a 16-day trip to London, Tuscany and New York. Brent was taking his brood of kids to Japan. He admitted that his son envisions Japan as an entire world of Nintendo. Little did father or son know about the upcoming Pokémon Go craze.
Others like Stacey Branch and Susan Williams were chatting up the marital status of the kids.
But Chris eventually called the guests to their tables for an excellent dinner that was followed by brief but poignant remarks about Kern’s accomplishments by Chris and Children’s Medical Center Foundation Chairman of the Board John Eagle.
John told how, under Kern’s tutelage, the Foundation had enjoyed a record number of new gifts in 2015, including 15 donations of $1 million or more. Kern also slashed Foundation fundraising costs by 25 percent, John pointed out. Then he added: “Kern raises as much money in his sleep as most fundraisers do in a lifetime.”
In his remarks, meantime, Chris recalled how Kern had raised $160 million over three years, boosting the Foundation’s annual fundraising average to $50 million to $70 million from $15 million to $20 million previously. “Kern, you have been such a huge friend to the kids and families in this community,” Chris said. “And Marnie, thank you for the example that you’ve been.”
Following the bestowing of gifts upon the Wildenthals—he got a black leather briefcase, she got a black leather valise—Kern and Marnie graciously thanked all for the support, and told how Children’s had been an important part of their lives. Admiring his new briefcase, Kern said, “This is a very good sign. I thought [the gift] was going to be a wheelchair!” With that he turned serious and, as usual, self-effacing: The money raised for the Children’s Foundation “was not the result of me. It was the result of years of service and excellence. No one person could do anything like that.” Then he concluded the evening, perhaps with a tip for his successor: “You don’t persuade people to be generous. People are generous, and you match them up with their passions.”
For more photos of the evening’s festivities, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.