Todd Platt, who’s been with Hillwood, A Perot Company, for 25 years — he currently serves as CEO of Hillwood Investment Properties — is a long-time advisory board member at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth. He’s also a leader of the Center’s Limitless BrainHealth campaign, and has been a tireless advocate in bringing the Center’s applied science to worldwide attention.
So, Todd seemed like a “natural” to be honored with the Center’s 2023 Legacy Award during a dinner on Monday, March 20, at the Dallas Country Club. What turned out to be unusual about Todd’s honor, though, was the generosity of Todd and his wife Laurie in paying for nearly half the guests — their friends and family members — to attend the annual celebration. It’s the first time that’s ever been done by a Legacy awardee.
A total of 250 turned out for the event, which was co-chaired by Andy Walsh and Maria Vehslage, with Sarah and Ross Perot Jr. serving as honorary co-chairs. Among those spotted during the crowded reception: Laurie and Phil Evans, Lane Seliger, Debbie and Jim Francis, Dan Branch, Beverly and Don Freeman, David Jacobs, Barbara and Steve Durham, Neil Goldberg, Tom Mason, Mary and Dan Tindall, Steve Lieberman and Alan Shor.
Once seated a little later, attendees were welcomed to the dinner and program by Andy and Maria and then Ross, who is chairman of The Perot Group.
“This is like the Platt family reunion,” Ross said, looking around and smiling. “I’ve worked with Todd for 25 years. He was one of my father’s favorites. He’d go by Todd’s office to make sure he was working.”
Todd is a man of courage, integrity, and character, Ross went on, before addressing Sandra Chapman, the Center’s chief director. “Sandi, you’re lucky to have Todd Platt on your team,” Ross said. “But, we really admire Laurie Platt, because she puts up with Todd!”
Following an invocation by Tal Hicks, the guests began enjoying their meal of spinach salad and filet mignon/pan-roasted salmon, with a dessert trio of cappuccino cake, strawberry profiterole and white chocolate blueberry lime verrine.
Soon enough Ian Robertson stepped to the lectern to sub in for Tom Leppert, who couldn’t attend the dinner (which had been rescheduled from February 2) due to unavoidable travel. Ian, co-leader with Tom of the Center’s Jean Ann Brock BrainHealth Project — a groundbreaking scientific study aimed at measuring and improving brain health — introduced a video tribute to Todd featuring BrainHealth Center advocate Admiral (Ret.) William McRaven and others.
Then Sandi and Dr. Geoff Ling, BrainHealth Project co-leader, explained to the guests that, as they ate their meals, they were to follow a “Jeffersonian dinner” format, discussing a single serious topic amongst themselves.
Our table’s assigned topic, for example, was, “How do you imagine better brain health and performance could help to address societal ills?” It was examined with relish by Andy and Pat Walsh, Maria and Mark Vehslage, Laurie and Phil and David Jacobs, all of whom agreed on the importance of empathy and working earnestly with young people.
Kicking off the program’s finale, Sandi returned to talk about Todd’s initial reluctance to receive the Legacy Award at a dinner in his honor. “He said, ‘If it’s about me and not the cause, I am out of here!,'” she recalled. “He was the most challenging guy ever to honor!” Then she repeated a phrase taken from a Neil Diamond song, “Heartlight,” that goes in part:
“Turn on your heartlightLet it shine wherever you go Let it make a happy glow For all the world to see Turn on your heartlight …”
Sandi turned the “heartlight” phrase into a straight-up ode to Todd by urging the guests to: “Turn on your Todd light.” In other words, she encouraged them to be as light-filled and as positive as the evening’s honoree.
Next Ross returned to the lectern to help Sandi present Todd with the Legacy Award — since 2006 it’s honored Center supporters who have “unwavering passion and dedication” — but not before reading a message praising Todd from former President George W. Bush.
Wrote Bush: “Not only does he have a big brain, but he has a big heart.”
In his brief acceptance remarks, Todd began tongue-in-cheek: “Some people do not know how to keep a deal — Sandi and Ross among them! Tonight is not about me and the award. Rather, tonight is about brain health.”
He recalled that it was Ross who’d introduced him to the Center, whose brain health study will include 120,000 patients over time. “Unless you fight me tonight, you could change your long-term health” by participating, Todd told the guests.
Before the night was over, Ross shared with the attendees an early conversation he’d had with Sandi regarding the award dinner.
“I told her, ‘We’ll match Todd’s underwriting to make the dinner really special.’ She said, ‘That’s a nice idea, but … why not top off the dinner by buying us a new MRI scanner?!'”
That’s just what Ross and Sarah did —”topping off” the fundraising to a gross total of $1 million (and a net just shy of $900,000) by naming the Laurie and Todd Platt BrainHealth Project MRI Scanner at the Center for BrainHealth.
And with that, Todd’s evening became the most successful Legacy Award Dinner ever.
* Photo provided by Center for BrainHealth