Standing in a glass-walled room during a cocktail party in the crowded, Preston Hollow home of his parents Micki and former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Thursday, October 19, it looked like Gunnar Rawlings had come full circle after taking a long journey and now was exactly where he needed to be.
After helping launch Cristo Rey in Pleasant Grove in southeast Dallas, and then overseeing its unique Corporate Work Study Program, Gunnar had left the Catholic college-prep school in 2017 for a business-development job in the corporate world. Earlier this year, though, he exited the private sector to rejoin the school — this time as vice president of the corporate work study program and strategic initiatives.
Turned out that chasing business deals wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as helping educate economically disadvantaged young people, Gunnar said he’d decided.
That decision was a good one, it seemed, because he was being greeted like a rock star by the party attendees, including Cristo Rey Dallas Prep Advancement VP Regina Fonts Morris. Those guests were dedicated sorts, by the way, since the party was being held on the same evening as the Texas Rangers’ fourth American League Championship Series playoff game against the Houston Astros.
One of the 100 or so attending was commercial real estate legend Jack Fraker, who would be receiving the Ignite Award at the Grow the Grove fundraiser on Friday, April 5, at Dallas’ Thompson Hotel. Others enjoying the get-together were Candace Winslow, Cheryl Joyner — she and her husband Richard Joyner would be getting the Luminous Award in April — as well as Emmanuel Moreno, America Rodriguez and Alejandro Leyva, all members of Cristo Rey’s first graduating class.
The Luminous Award honors those who demonstrate passion and commitment to the school’s mission. The Ignite Award honors a business leader for their commitment to the school and its Corporate Work Study Program. Under that innovative program, which operates something like a staffing agency, Cristo Rey students work in 130 businesses and organizations across North Texas, learning valuable skills while earning money toward their tuition.
Following a welcome by Micki on a raised step in the Rawlings’ gorgeous backyard — “We want you to stay [after the talking], even though I’m competing against the Rangers,” Micki smiled — Dallas’ former First Lady soon gave way to Mike.
He recalled how, in some places in the world, mayors are referred to as “Your Worship,” before adding with a smile, “I test-marketed it out at home, and it didn’t work well.”
Then it was time to hear from Hilda and Mike Galvan, the 2024 Grow the Grove chairs. Hilda, partner-in-charge at Dallas law firm Jones Day, told how Jones Day had been part of Cristo Rey’s Corporate Work Study Program from the beginning.
She also explained that because both her parents and Mike’s parents “never got beyond being sophomores in high school,” she and Mike share a special appreciation for Cristo Rey. The Galvans wrapped up their remarks by inviting the guests to join the event’s Host Committee.
Cristo Rey Dallas President Patrick Walsh came next, thanking Mike and Micki “for the tag team that you were, and for all you did for our city.” Cristo Rey now boasts 465 students, Patrick said, adding that this past year it celebrated its first college graduation class.
With that, Patrick introduced 2019 CR graduate Max Hernandez, who recently earned a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Marquette University in Wisconsin.
Max told a little about his journey so far — and how he works now as an engineer at Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam in Dallas. Proving, it went without saying, the potency of the Cristo Rey connection.
* Photo provided by Cristo Rey Dallas