When the announcement was made that the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award Luncheon was being moved from SMU’s grand ballroom to Moody Coliseum a couple of weeks before the presentation to Bobby Lyle on Thursday, March 29, a few eyebrows were raised. Perhaps it was long ago memories of proms being held in high school gyms that triggered images of metal folding chairs around bare round tables on the polished floor glistening with sweat. Oh, dear. Would they have head shots of Bobby looking down from the center-hung scoreboard?
That might have been at other schools, but this was SMU and President Gerald Turner and his team know nothing but excellence. This occasion would be used to express their appreciation for Bobby and to impress the 425 who’s who of North Texas. Moody would be transformed to a stellar ballroom to complement the man and the award even if they only had days to prepare.
Starting at 11 a.m., the VIP reception in Miller Champions Club was heady stuff with the likes of Gail Thomas, Jan and Fred Hegi, the Strauss sisters (Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr), Lynn McBee, Terry Flowers, Connie O’Neill, Caren Prothro, Bess and Ted Enloe, Nancy Marcus, Stan Levenson, Mike Boone, Sara and David Martineau, Chris Durovich, Brent Christopher, Frank Risch, Nancy Dedman, Doug Hawthorne, Nancy Ann and Ray Hunt and, of course, Bobby’s wife Lottye Brodsky. Bobby admitted that after years of presenting the award to others, it was a lot easier to give than to receive.
In the meantime, the final preparations on the floor of the coliseum were being made. Instead of Cinderella the scullery maid, it was Cinderella all gussied up. Against a blue carpeted floor 44 white tablecothed tables with beautiful place settings and padded charivari chairs. On one side of the floor was a stage with two red chairs for a chat between SMU Distinguished Chair in Journalism Tony Pederson and Bobby. Across the way the production crew and SMU co-eds at keyboards were set up in the loge level. Sound checks were made to perfection. The video was checked. The presentation of the flags by the Boy Scouts was rehearsed.
Just before the guests strolled downstairs to the floor, Gerald arrived to review the setup. Like a general inspecting his troops, he asked questions and his staff had the answers. It is highly doubtful that such expressions as “slipshod,” “sloppy,” “haphazard,” “second rate” or “slapdash” have ever been associated with a Turner production.
At 11:55 a female voice warned the program would begin in five minutes and for guests to start heading to their seats. At 11:58 a last call was made for guests to take their places. Exactly at high noon the voice was heard one last time announcing the beginning of the program with the presentation of the flags. The boldface chatter was silenced and all stood including the production crew as the scouts placed the flags in their places and were dismissed to a round of applause.
At 12:30 Co-Chair Chris Kleinert was at the podium announcing that this was the largest gather for the Awards presentation with 179 on the event committee and resulting so far in a record breaking $327,000 for the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics And Public Responsibility. He explained that in the past the event had been held at Belo Mansion and the SMU grand ballroom, but due to the response a move was necessary and Gerald wanted to keep it on campus.
Following a video on the Maguire Center, SMU Development and External Affairs VP Brad Cheves thanked Co-Chairs Ashlee and Chris Kleinert and recognized the trustees, the Lyle family, the area officials, SMU first lady Gail Turner and the sponsors.
He was followed by St. Philip’s School’s Terry Flowers who asked all to stand for the invocation.
At 12:18 lunch was served seamlessly thanks to the accommodating space and set up.
Exactly 30 minutes later Gerald and MaguireCenter’s William F. May Endowed Director Rita Kirk are at the base of the stage. Rita was accompanied by a cane, so Gerald requests an additional chair be placed on the stage. As if someone had been reading Gerald’s mind, the chair immediately is placed near the stairs on the stage.
Gerald introduces Rita who says just as there are banners hanging around the coliseum for basketball games, she thought it appropriate to have banners made for the past awards. On the two screens, a collection of banners boasting the names of past recipients is shown.
Rita emphasizes the fact that, “We need heroes. We need role model.” She concludes with, “When you have knowledge ….. When you have enlightenment…”
At 12:55, Gerald introduces another short video about Bobby and he started a mentoring program for MCA students in 1970. Rita recalled how when she met with Bobby, he asked “What’s the best out there? And how can you beat them?”
Four minutes later Bobby is on stage to accept the award and admits, “I should have gone home after Terry prayed.” He told the audience that he wasn’t going to give a speech, but he and Tony were going to have a brief conversation. He also took the opportunity for all those who had made the day possible.
From 1:03 to 1:29 Bobby and Tony talked about
Bobby’s childhood — Bobby’s father dying when Bobby was three months old and his 28-year-old mother raise him and his older brother. When he was five, he was separated from his mother until he was 11. He warned the audience not to feel sorry for him. One of the good things was he had a large number of relatives, who were blue collar types coming out of the Depression and provide role models for the youngster. “They knew the difference between right and wrong.
Erik Jonsson — Bobby had arrived in Dallas and saw the President as he was driven to Market Hall for the luncheon chaired by Jonsson. The following year Jonsson was elected mayor and launched the Goals for Dallas using the same model that he had used in establishing TI — OST (Objectives, Strategies and Tactics). The next year Bobby and Jack Grayson used OST for the planning model for the school.
Ethics and public virtues — “We’re in a crisis of decay of ethical behavior.” He suggested that the educational system is necessary to correct the situation. Ethics is the center of the place for the business school. As part of the program, its outreach activities reach out beyond the campus to the rest of the community.
Situation that changed his life regarding ethics — He had an Uncle Eddie who was the manager of the Chrysler distributionship in Henderson when Bobby was living in Shreveport. One day Eddie called his nephew to tell him that he was traveling to Shreveport, to catch a plane for a meting. While he was gone, the 15-year-old Bobby had the opportunity to sell the car Eddie was driving — a used Ford coupe. Bobby drove it a friend’s house where he cinched the sale for $450.When he picked up his uncle and told him about the deal, his uncle crushed the boy’s wheeling and dealing by telling him that he had bought the car for $600. Bobby said he would go to his friend and tell him the $450 wouldn’t work. But Eddie told him not to because the deal had been done and “Your word is your bond.”
SMU — Late in the 60s and early 70s business schools looked pretty much alike except for Harvard, NYU and a handful of others. Bobby and Jack asked 250 CEOs to tell them what they wanted for an MBA. They responded with wanting people who could take risks, can take on leadership roles, etc. Not one of them put the traditional business school courses of accounting, marketing, finance and management. After explaining their plan to create a program that provided what CEOs were looking for in MBA-ers, then SMU President Willis Tate and the leadership gave them the go-ahead that resulted in the game-changing program. Thanks to Gerald, the thinking-outside-of-the box program has been expanded to the entire university.
Strategic planning — There are few schools that do strategic planning. Rather’s it’s follow-the-leader. At SMU all seven schools are working together and collaborating.
Diversity — When Bobby was an undergraduate, he was working one Christmas holiday at Sears in Shreveport. For lunch he invited an elevator operator to join him. The operator said he couldn’t. Later Bobby discovered the man eating the stockroom seated on boxes with his lunch on his lap. “It made me sad and it made me mad.” That night when he told his mother, Lucy, about what happened, she looked at her food and told her son, “It’s not right, but that’s the way it is.” Lucy cried. Bobby told her, “That may be the way it is, but that’s not the way it has to be.”
For his final words, Bobby asked, “How many of you brought tissues?” And he gave one more thanks for all as the audience reciprocated with a standing ovation.
Gerald returned to the podium to send the guests on their way and telling them that as part of Bobby’s involvement with Texas Trees, each would be receiving a seedling to plant in their yards as a reminder of the day.