There’s an expression associated with the venerable Town & Country magazine that sums up its qualities of civility, sophistication and informality: “very Town & Country.”
The editor-in-chief of the 173-year-old publication seemed to have that in mind on Tuesday, October 29, when she welcomed guests to the magazine’s Philanthropy Series event at Dallas’ Hotel Crescent Court. “I can’t think of a more Town & Country city than Dallas,” said Stellene Volandes, a renowned jewelry expert who’s been the T&C editor since 2016. “The diamonds are big here, which makes me happy. But the hearts are bigger.”
Stellene was introducing a half-day of multiple discussions titled “The Female Force in Philanthropy,” the third installment in the magazine’s annual Philanthropy Series. Two years ago, T&C extended its celebrated Philanthropy Summit in New York into regional events across the country. The first, held in San Francisco in 2017, focused on education. The 2018 event in Chicago looked at education, civil justice and prison reform.
Dallas’ stop included discussions about maternal healthcare, STEM education for girls, and “why educated women will save the world.” Town & Country, which has long promoted the idea of living well and giving well in its pages, works closely with each community to “find out what they believe is the cause central to the community now,” Volandes said. Dallas’ most relevant current topic, it turns out, is the critical role women play here in giving back.
With more than 120 attending —including the likes of Gene Jones, Jan Rees-Jones, Capera Ryan, Michelle Nussbaumer, Kim Schlegel Whitman, and Mimi Sterling — the morning program moved along crisply, right on schedule. It opened with a discussion between Nancy Brown, CEO of the Dallas-based American Heart Association, and Christy Turlington Burns, the international fashion model and charity advocate.
During their 25-minute talk, Christy explained how she became involved in maternal health issues after developing complications giving birth herself in the early 2000s. With hundreds of thousands of women dying needlessly each year during childbirth, she said, she was inspired to bring attention to the problem by making a documentary film (2010’s “No Woman, No Cry”) and launching a global nonprofit called Every Mother Counts.
She’s also partnered with CNN for a series of films called “Giving Birth in America,” which focuses on the surprising prevalence of maternal healthcare problems in the U.S. Her next film in that series, she said, will be made in Texas, which has more people without health insurance than any other state. “What can women do to help” raise awareness of these problems? Nancy asked. “Just share,” Christy replied. “It’s really important to share our stories.”
The morning’s second panel was titled “Inequality at Home: How STEM Propels Girls.” (STEM is short for science, technology, engineering and math.) Moderated by Kristi Nelson of NBC 5 in Dallas, it included Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girls Scouts of Northeast Texas; Lyda Hill, chairman of LH Capital and founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies; and Roslyn Dawson Thompson, president and CEO of the Texas Women’s Foundation.
Roslyn set the pace for this discussion, declaring that “we’ve never encouraged women in the STEM fields” and that, growing up, she herself was told in science class that “you wouldn’t get it, anyway.” Jennifer said the Girl Scouts organization’s “all-girl environment” helps young women build their confidence. And Lyda described a new CBS-TV program called “Mission Unstoppable,” about women who are on the cutting edge of science. Lyda’s Lyda Hill Philanthropies is executive-producing the show, whose aim is to inspire a culture shift among young girls, opening their eyes to STEM careers.
The third panel, which focused on the power of educated women, was moderated by Meredith Land of NBC 5. Its members were Charlotte Jones, EVP and chief brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys; investor and civic leader Marguerite Steed Hoffman; and Janiece Evans-Page, VP for global philanthropy and sustainability at Fossil Group.
The three spent some of their time talking about the qualities of effective leadership. “Self-discovery is at the heart of the most effective leaders and philanthropists,” said Marguerite. Charlotte, the daughter of Gene and (Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones, said, “I had a father who taught me everything about passion. I thought I could be president of the United States. My mother taught me about compassion.” Charlotte also described her key role in launching and producing the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day halftime show on NBC, which has helped raise $2.4 billion for the Salvation Army so far.
Asked what’s ahead for each of them, Marguerite pointed to her work on Dallas’ Trinity Park Conservancy project, while Janiece offered, “It’s understanding the potential of under-served young people … especially through a gender lens.”
According to its printed program, the Town & Country event was sponsored by the American Heart Association, Forty Five Ten — the global luxury brand was the title sponsor — Gulfstream, and Lugano Diamonds. Among the items in a favor bag each guest received were a tasteful “Go Red” lapel pin from AHA, a Gulfstream jet notebook, and a gift card for Forty Five Ten. The latter provided $200 toward a purchase of $500 or more, with 10 percent of the sales benefiting Christy’s Every Mother Counts nonprofit.
All very Town & Country, you might say.
*Photo credit: Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images for Town & Country