There was a full house at Sixty Five Hundred on Saturday, November 17, when guests turned out to celebrate the Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep school and one of its biggest champions, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. The fundraiser, called “Grow The Grove: The Cocktail Party,” was an homage not only to the Catholic school in the Pleasant Grove area of southeast Dallas, but to Rawlings for his innovative Grow South economic-development program.
With the help of the presenting sponsor, Tolleson Wealth Management, the evening included a live auction as well as brief talks by Co-chairs Nancy Cain Marcus and Nelda Cain Pickens and Ryan Olson, a Cristo Rey senior and a member of the school’s first graduating class of 2019. Others with prominent roles at the event were Cristo Rey President Kelby Woodard and Tolleson Wealth Management philanthropy Susan Jenevein. Patty and Mark Langdale served as honorary co-chairs.
The real star of the evening, though, was Rawlings. And championing Cristo Rey, we learned, sort of runs in the mayor’s family. Mike’s wife Micki sits on the Cristo Rey board, and their son, Gunnar Rawlings, previously headed the school’s Corporate Work Study Program. Gunnar’s wife Gabby Rawlings showed up to show support, too.
To kick off the tribute to Mike, guests including Gail and Bob Thomas, Pam Perella, Leslie and Bryan Diers, Joyce and Larry Lacerte, Nancy Halbreich, Patty Leyendecker and Pat and Pete Schenkel watched a video tribute to the outgoing mayor. In it, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk recalled once loaning Mike enough money to retrieve his car from a valet line—and he wouldn’t let Mike pay him back. The real reason for his generosity, Ron explained with a laugh: “I always wanted to say, ‘That SOB owes me money!'” Jere Thompson Jr. said he thinks that “Mike ought to be a ‘Cheers’-style bartender,” and Pete Schenkel added that Rawlings “ought to be president of the United States!”
Following the video, Mike was interviewed onstage by Cristo Rey senior Jasmin Chavez who, like Ryan, is scheduled to graduate this year. Jasmin asked the mayor a series of rapid-fire questions and elicited a number of interesting answers.
What book would you take with you on vacation? Jasmin asked. “I’ve never read ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce,” Mike replied.
How do you define leadership? “Leadership to me is about change management. Leaders figure out how to get from here to there.”
What leaders inspired you? “I’m a huge Harry Truman fan. My grandfathers were very great people, too.”
What’s the craziest thing Gunnar did during his high-school years? “I think if I go there, it will reflect on me as a parent! But, Gunnar once decided to be an anarchist. The greatest anarchist was Mikhail Bikunin, I knew, so I said, ‘Read this!’ [about the Russian founder of collectivist anarchism]. Gunnar stopped being an anarchist.”
What headline would you like to read 20 years from now in The Dallas Morning News? “Dallas Has The Best Urban Educational System In Texas.”
Who was your celebrity crush? “Ginger, the middle daughter on ‘Petticoat Junction.’ Does anybody here even know what ‘Petticoat Junction’ was?!”
Cake or pie? “Cherry pie!”
If you could ask God one question, what would it be? “I’d ask about fatal childhood diseases.”
What’s your biggest wish for my generation? “I hope … you will grasp the opportunities and challenges with vigor, and not be timid and complain and say, ‘The deck’s stacked against us.’ [You should say to my generation,] ‘Get away, you’re too old, we’re gonna take over, and here’s what we’re gonna do.’ Go for it! You can do it!”
Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep is part of a network of 35 Catholic college and career-preparatory schools serving more than 12,000 students in 22 states. The Dallas campus boasts nearly 500 students, 95 percent of whom will be the first in their families to attend college.