Some welcome news was made at Dallas’ Brain Performance Institute on Tuesday, October 23, when Admiral and Mrs. William V. McRaven were honored by the Institute’s Center for BrainHealth with the 2018 Legacy Award. The news was that the award recipients, known less formally as Georgeann and Bill McRaven, will serve as national spokespeople for the Center’s soon-to-be-announced BrainHealth Project.
The Center is part of The University of Texas at Dallas’ school of Behavioral and Brain Science.
McRaven, who organized and oversaw the 2014 raid that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, “challenged me to do more” at a groundbreaking several years ago, Sandra B. Chapman, Ph.D, the Center’s savvy founder and chief director, told a crowd of 200-plus at the October 23 event. “He said, ‘You need worldwide publicity.'” So, Sandi being Sandi, the dynamic couple was persuaded to help provide exactly that.
The Legacy Award event began with a reception on the BPI patio. There, guests including Laura and Tom Leppert, Jan and Fred Hegi, Mary Suhm, Margot and Ross Perot, Jay Rosser, Marla and Mike Boone, Sally Geymuller, Lynne and Roy Sheldon, Patti and James Huffines, Cindy Feld, Stacey and Dan Branch, Laurie and Phil Evans and Debbie and Jim Francis enjoyed drinks and catching up. When Barbara and Don Daseke spotted Brill and Jason Garrett — she’s a member of the Center’s advisory board, and he was serving as the dinner’s Honorary Chair — Don congratulated Jason, the Dallas Cowboys head coach, on the team’s recent acquisition of wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Then it was time to head inside for the dinner itself. After concise greetings by event Chair Patty Huffines, UT-Dallas President Richard C. Benson, Ph.D, and Sandi, guests enjoyed a salad with fresh greens and Julienned pears, 44 Farms Sirloin with whipped potatoes and green beans, and Devil’s Food Cake. The dessert segued into a brief, slick video about The BrainHealth Project and the McRavens — Bill also served as chancellor of the UT System from 2015 to 2018 — and then finally to the Legacy Award presentation by Jason.
After recognizing previous recipients of the award who were in the audience — Clint Bruce, Debbie Francis, Dan Branch and James Huffines — the Cowboys coach recalled how he’d once invited McRaven to give his team a pep talk. “I’d been really impressed by getting Osama, and the guy behind it was … Admiral Bill McRaven. That was just fascinating to me,” Jason shared with the crowd. “A couple of years later, McRaven gave a commencement address at UT and said something like, ‘We’re all in this together.’ I thought, ‘I’m gonna call this guy to thank him,’ if nothing else. I left a message and got a message back and we got on the phone. I said, ‘Is there any chance you’d want to come talk to our team?’ And he said, ‘Sure!'”
McRaven agreed to address the Cowboys one day during their training camp in Oxnard, California. “We have 90 football players, some as young as 20 or 21, and I’ve never seen people so captivated by a guy like this,” Jason went on. “I have a rule: Don’t go over eight minutes with them for a talk, and throw in a video or two, because I know the challenge of keeping them engaged. But Admiral McRaven spoke for 45 minutes! He shared stories and had a Q&A and the questions went on and on and on and on. It was an amazing thing. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s a part of our team now …
“The highlight by a long shot, though, was Georgeann,” Jason added. “He’s a legend, but he doesn’t even come close to her. They are a team.”
With that, another video was shown — this one including a message from former President George W. Bush congratulating Bill and Georgeann on their Legacy Award. Then the Couple of the Hour took the stage. Dallas native Georgeann said she’s always been a “big Cowboys fan” and called Sandi’s staff “truly angels.” Soon she gave way to her husband, who said he now was going to give the “real backstory” of his talk to the Cowboys.
“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” Bill said. “Compared to the Bin Laden raid, talking to the Dallas Cowboys was more nerve-racking!” McRaven called Chapman a “one-woman tsunami of good deeds,” adding, “There’s no point in saying no to Sandi. When she asked me to talk for a moment about brain health, I told her, it must be a revolution,” like the fitness revolution started by Dallas Dr. Kenneth Cooper.
Bill explained that his nephew, who suffers from asperger’s syndrome, worked with the Center for BrainHealth and today is “remarkably improved and incredibly confident in his social engagements.” Because both he and Georgeann have gone through the BrainHealth program themselves, Bill continued, he’s a firm believer that “we must empower the people” to take control of their brains. And that, he concluded, is exactly what he and his wife will endeavor to do with The BrainHealth Project.
Leaving the event, one couldn’t thinking that if Bill can do for brain health what he did for Jason’s Cowboys, snagging the McRavens may prove to be Sandi’s savviest move yet.
For more pictures of the evening, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.