Every year since 1989, the Anti-Defamation League Texoma Region has honored a member of the local legal community for his or her “outstanding leadership, exemplary contributions to the community, and a commitment to the ideals of ADL.” A number of the former honorees were present at The Fairmont Hotel on Thursday, May 23, for the 2019 Larry Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award Luncheon honoring this year’s recipient of the award, Mike Gruber.
And, why not. A graduate of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, Mike’s one of the most respected civic leaders in North Texas, having played prominent roles with groups ranging from Dallas Habitat for Humanity and the Catholic Foundation to the Dallas Zoo and Big Brothers Big Sisters. At the reception and later during the luncheon, Mike and his better half Diane Gruber were joined by previous Schoenbrun honorees Steve Stodghill, Carol and Don Glendenning, Larry Schoenbrun himself, Jeff Chapman, Richard Massman, Gilbert Friedlander, Yvette Ostolaza and Rob Walters.
Also attending to support Mike and the ADL — the nonprofit says it’s dedicated to “standing up to hate” and thwarting “the dissemination of bigotry” — were the likes of Brad Cheves, Stubbs Davis, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, Justice Bill Whitehill, Douglas Lang and Gina Betts. Douglas and Gina are colleagues of Mike’s at the Dallas office of Dorsey & Whitney LLP.
Welcoming the packed house in the Fairmont ballroom was Neil Goldberg, ADL Executive Committee Chair, who quickly turned the lectern over to ADL Regional Director Cheryl R. Drazin, who thanked Luncheon Honorary Co-Chairs Kevin Dahlberg, Alan Dorantes and Royce West. With that it was time for a tribute to Mike by Jeff Levinger, former ADL Regional Board Chair.
Jeff said he’d first met Mike in 1985, when they both were “baby lawyers.” Since Mike was the youngest of nine children, Jeff said, he “had to be tenacious and optimistic,” and as a result everyone liked him. Mike’s outstanding traits include authenticity, humility and self-deprecation, Jeff continued, and he “cares deeply about equality, justice, and fairness for the less fortunate in our society.”
Several Dallas luminaries echoed Jeff’s sentiments in a video, with then-Mayor Mike Rawlings calling Mike a “special person” and Royce, a longtime state senator, adding, “Mike is a servant, OK?” Then, after Michael Katz, ADL Regional Board Chair, presented Mike with the Schoenbrun award, it was time to hear from the man of the hour himself. “It’s not every day that you get to hear your own eulogy,” Mike began with a smile.
The business-litigation attorney went on to say the “common denominator” among all the Schoenbrun honorees is that “they didn’t have to destroy their opponents” in order to prevail. He pleaded with the attendees to support the ADL, and lamented the current “horrific state of public discourse.” He also deplored the “near-historic levels of anti-semitism” in 2018, saying that “hate speech is borne of ignorance,” and that the ADL is the first line of defense against hate.
The ADL “defends free speech” and believes the answer to hate speech is more speech, Mike said. He concluded with a request that the attendees “come back to next year’s luncheon and contribute to the ADL on a regular basis, because its mission has never been more relevant.”
* Photo credit: Amanda Harris Photography