Hillary and Donald may have been slugging it out in Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 19, but the Anatole Grand Ballroom was in a political vacuum due to the Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award Dinner benefiting the Methodist Health System Foundation.
Okay, so former Folsom awardee/emcee Mike Boone advised 2016 Robert S. Folsom Leadership Awardee Gerald Turner that as uncomfortable as he was receiving the accolades and teases, he would have been more miserable sitting at home watching TV.
But before the on-stage fun began to benefit Methodist Health System Foundation, a mega gathering of high profilers was taking place in the ballroom’s reception area spilling all over the Anatole lobby. At times it also appeared to be a suited version of an SMU pep rally, complete with adorable coeds and everyone wanting to pose with Peruna.
Only things missing were cheerleaders and a marching band. However, such Mustang alumni as Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Jan and Fred Hegi, Ruth Altshuler, Caren Prothro and Bob White, were front and center.
Evening Co-Chairs Kelli and Jerry Ford, Nancy Ann and Ray Hunt and Lottye and Bobby Lyle along with Gerald’s wife of 48 years Gail Turner had a great laugh watching honoree Gerald pose with SMU students and Peruna…Sarah Perot with her folks Leah and Jerry Fullinwider, who was celebrating his 88th birthday…. Dr. Dan Meyer reported that he had just recently joined Methodist Health System… Lee Ann White reported that the Whites’ new Preston Hollow house was “great” and their new puppy was due to arrive any day. Her date for the evening was son Michael Fowler… Brent Christopher was on a two-night binge of event attending. The next night he was slated to honorary co-chair TexProtects with Mary Jalonick honoring Joe Straus at the Adolphus … Cary Maguire sat by the ballroom doors taking in the sights of the night.
Just in time the doors opened to the ballroom. And while the “get-yourself-in-your-chairs” chimes made the rounds herding guests into the ballroom, the SMU Belle Tones and SMU Southern Gentlemen drew them in singing some of Gerald’s favorite songs a capella.
As soon as guests took their seats, Mike Boone was at the podium welcoming the group and stressing the fact that they would be remiss by not including Gail Turner in the evening’s accolades. Mike went on to say that during Gerald’s 20 years at the helm of SMU, he had transformed the formerly regional university into an institution recognized internationally.
Following 2013 Folsom Award recipient Rev. Mark Craig’s invocation, Methodist Health System President/CEO Dr. Stephen Mansfield told that during his ten years with Methodist, it had tripled in size with a half-billion dollar payroll and is now the largest employer in the southern sector of Dallas. He reported that in following the tradition of the Folsom Awardees designating where the evening’s funds would go, Gerald had designated the proceeds ($1.4M) to “benefit the programs offered through the Methodist Dallas Medical Center Golden Cross Academic Clinic, which uses the services of medical residents and fellows to care for uninsured and under-insured patients who are in need of primary care and struggling with chronic diseases.”
Mike returned to the podium and reported that despite the Turners’ daughter Jessica Turner-Waugh and her husband Jeff Waugh not being able to attend the event due to being in Boston, their other daughter Angela Turner Wilson and her husband Michael Wilson were on hand. An accomplished singer and professor at TCU, Angela and SMU Professor/tenor Clifton Forbis beautifully performed one of Gerald’s favorite hymns, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
Following dinner, a video was show featuring CBS sports broadcaster Bill Macatee, who told of Gerald’s love of tennis and his Saturday morning games known as SMIT (“Saturday Morning Invitational Tournament”). Macatee reported that Gerald was known to be “great at the net, has a wicked volley, is also aggressive and super competitive.” Having covered numerous US Opens, Macatee went on to say that he felt “confident in saying that Dr. Turner has all the qualities that you see displayed at the US Open but executed at a slightly slower speed.”
He then introduced members of SMIT to the stage including Chris Kleinert, Frank Campbell, Dale Petroskey and Kit Carson. They told the history of the weekly tournaments and how founder Norm Green would show up around nine, while Gerald was already warming up. The highlight of the foursome’s tributes to their tennis buddy was the announcement that the name of the SMIT trophy had been changed to “Super Mustang Invitational Tournament.”
Methodist Health System Foundation President/CEO April Box replaced the SMIT players on staged and told of Gerald’s love of music and how a friend had reported being surprised to see Gail and Gerald at a Dire Straights concert. To get the crowd in the mood for a concert, guests were told to put on the wristbands at their places that lit up blue throughout the room.
As for the concert, the performer was former Mustang Jack Ingram, who regaled the audience with song and tales of his days at SMU. He went there because his brother went there and he thought he would at least have one friend. “It turns out we weren’t such good friends.”
He told how he originally had planned to have a double major in psychology and business, “but then we had a thing in statistics,” so he downed it to a degree in psychology. “It turns out I used my degree in psychology because the music business is crazy.”
After 15 years of traveling around the country performing, he would listen to Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40 on Sundays. “For 14 years in a row, I heard 3,742 George Strait songs.” He finally made it after coming out with “Wherever You Are,” which made the list in the 40th spot and Kingsley’s introducing him as making his debut. Then, 38 weeks later, it made it to the #2 spot. He was arriving in Dallas and sitting in the back of the van (“I realized that the difference between being #41 and #2 was, I wasn’t driving the van anymore.”) listening to the Countdown, hoping that he’d made it to the #1 spot. Luckily, he had played the tune on his own radio show the night before 16 times.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, “It took me 18 years to win the Academy of Country Music’s Best Newcomer Award.”
Jack also recalled how the last time he performed at SMU was on Dallas Hall steps, where he told the crowd that as a student he had done everything that any 19- or 20-year-old person might do on the Dallas Hall steps, except study. Looking at Gerald, Jack smiled, “I hope this doesn’t reflect on my daughter’s admission. Remember you told her that day when she was seven that she could come to SMU.”
That was just a smattering of his talk, which was one of the funniest heard in these parts.
Okay, so Jack used a couple of words one wouldn’t hear in church (one started with an “h,” and the other with a “s”), but, shoot, he managed to use them in such a self-deprecating way that even the most stuffy types laughed. Heck, this was a concert, not choir practice.
April returned to the stage and addressed Gerald about his days at Ole Miss when he had a friend who was a lawyer, who took up writing. It was novelist John Grisham, who traditionally sends a personally autographed copy of his latest book. His latest book, “The Whistler,” was due out on Tuesday, October 25. However, since he was out of the country and couldn’t make it to the dinner, he had sent an early edition to be presented to Gerald.
A 14-minute video was shown. Perhaps the reason for it running a bit long is because so many (Ruth Altshuler, Bill Banowsky, Tom Barry, Robert Bonham, Mike Boone, Linda Custard, Marvin Ellison, Rob Evans, Bob Ferguson, Jerry Ford, Mitch Hart, Ray Hunt, Mark Langdale, Bobby Lyle, Bill Macatee, David Miller, Bob Prange, Caren Prothro, Pete Schenkel, Dennis Stripling and Leslie Wyatt) wanted to praise SMU’s longest serving president.
A couple of tales revealed how the late Texas Instrument’s Jerry Junkins, who was on the SMU board, somehow managed to intercept a private jet [with Gerald] coming from Ole Miss going to Oklahoma for an interview. It landed at the Texas Instruments hangar and SMU delegates were there and talked to Gerald and he promised them that he wouldn’t do anything until he came back. He then went on to his interview and “the rest is history.”
Another tale involved lawn mowing. It seems that Mitch Hart used to mow the family’s lawn. It had a pretty good sized hill and it was before they had power mowers. He figured it would be better if he got a job and paid someone else to mow the lawn. When he left town, his mother hired Gerald. “The way Gerald tells it, he raised his price and mother fired him.”
A relieved Gerald arrived on stage and in turn paid tribute to everyone involved in the evening. He especially noted his hometown cronies — New Boston Mafia — “Mitch Hart is the Don, Bob Ferguson is the consigliere and I’m the director of education. And I have the hardest job.”
For a man who would much rather give out awards, he proved to be more than gracious in accepting the Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award.