When Dallas City Council person Jennifer Staubach Gates accepted the Virginia Chandler Dykes Award at the TWU Dallas Leadership Luncheon on Thursday, February 20, she almost choked up. But thanks to a secret handed down from her father/former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, she rallied on and “steelered” the day. Here’s a report from the field:
A sold-out crowd of 300 came together on Thursday, February 20, at the Belo Mansion for the TWU Dallas Leadership Luncheon, celebrating the 18th Annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Award. This year’s recipient was Jennifer Staubach Gates, a lifelong Dallas resident now in her fourth term representing District 13 on the Dallas City Council. The annual award is given to Dallas leaders dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community and furthering the importance of education. The luncheon, presented by Bank of Texas and sponsored by Luther King Capital Management, was founded by TWU Alumna and Visionary Virginia Chandler Dykes, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. Additionally, the annual event recognizes the achievements of five TWU scholarship award recipients.
Dr. Kimberly Russell, vice president of university advancement/executive director, TWU Foundation, took the stage to welcome distinguished guests Senator Nathan Johnson and Dallas City Councilmembers Lee Kleinman and Chad West.
Bank of Texas Executive Vice-President Bob White recounted their 13-year presenting sponsorship and deep history with the luncheon focusing on two key areas – leadership and service. He introduced past Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award recipients in attendance: Mary Brinegar (2014), Ralph Hawkins (2015), Kathleen Mason (2010), Dale Petroskey (2019) and Kern Wildenthal (2006).
Luther King Capital Management Vice-President and Portfolio Manager Scott Neuendorf thanked Dykes for her vision and leadership in planting the seeds for this inspiring event. He noted the luncheon celebrates Dallas’ best and brightest, from the honorees to the scholarship recipients who “put aside their self-interests and champion a better community.”
TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Carine Feyten began her remarks with “when you believe in something, the stars align,” stating she couldn’t imagine TWU without this annual event. Dr. Feyten highlighted that through the years the luncheon has raised almost $1 million for scholarships, and recognized the 2020 Virginia Chandler Dykes Scholarship recipients (Lou Ann Hintz of College of Health Sciences, Nisha Mathews of College of Nursing, Aubree Evans of College of Arts and Sciences, Alex Conner of College of Business and Lorna Durrant of College of Professional Education)
Luncheon Chair Ralph Hawkins, chairman emeritus with HKS, Inc., reflected on his longtime friendship with Dykes and then gave her the microphone. Dykes shared her joy, recounting the luncheon’s beginnings at Lakewood Country Club, and her gratitude for making it another year to the luncheon.
A video presentation on the life work of Jennifer Staubach Gates, with interviews by Councilmember Lee Kleinman, Mary Vache and daughter Jessica Whitsitt, was shown to the guests before Gates received the 2020 Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award.
Gates thanked the attendees and congratulated the scholars, stating, “I share this stage with you.” She addressed those in the video tribute, assuming it was not easy for any of them to be on camera – then pausing and adding jokingly – “Well, it was probably fine with Lee.” She expressed her gratitude to Dykes, “We are here today because you chose to give back to the community.” She shared that she attended the first luncheon at Lakewood Country Club with Susan Cooper, the first award honoree along with her husband, Charles. “I would have never imagined then that I would be standing here today.”
“My first blessing is being the firstborn of Marianne and Roger Staubach.” As Gates became choked up, she looked at her dad and said, “Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dad.” She explained that it was a trick her father had taught her. “Whenever you get emotional, just think of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” implying that thinking about your dislike of the Steelers, would help you control yourself.
She praised her family, who “let me be me, held me accountable and loved me unconditionally” and her siblings, as her “partners in crime and best friends.” She bestowed love for her children, in-laws and grandchildren. To her husband, John Gates, she credited him for knowing when to whisper in her ear, “Jen, you got this.”
Gates concluded that her education to become a nurse laid the groundwork for leadership and service. “TWU needs your support because we all know that education is the greatest equalizer. It can change lives.”
* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman