To dedicate the Al G. Hill Jr. Ellipse at the Center for BrainHealth, three generations of the late Al G. Hill Jr. family including sister Lyda Hill, daughters Elisa Hill Summers and Heather Hill Washburne and their children gathered for the occasion. In addition to showcasing the splendor of the Ellipse and a musical composition created for the event, stories were told highlighting his fortitude, his mischief as a boy and his philanthropic inspiration. Here’s a report from the field:
On the evening of Wednesday, October 18, Center for BrainHealth christened one of the most sought-after spaces on its campus, the Al G. Hill Jr. Ellipse, thanks to a $4 million pledge from the Trinity Family Foundation to advance the science of brain health.
About 100 friends of the Center for BrainHealth and Trinity Family Foundation, including family members of the late Al G. Hill Jr., gathered at the center for the dedication event. Upon arrival, guests were greeted with champagne and a refreshing “brain water” mocktail, which turned out to be the more popular choice!
Building on the honoree’s lifelong passion for constant improvement, the theme of the evening was “elite performance.” The giant screen in the atrium featured an action shot of Al Jr. playing tennis, and throughout the reception, video clips played of elite performers – including a veteran, a musician, a painter and an athlete – asking their most burning brain health questions, with answers from BrainHealth’s bench of experts.
Guests were ushered into the unveiled Al G. Hill, Jr. Ellipse, a premier gathering space featuring a magnificent chandelier created by glassblowing artist David Gappa called “Introspection.” The custom piece of art with handblown glass depicts active neural synapses, and lights up and changes colors.
Dr. Joseph Pancrazio, UT Dallas vice president for research, briefly welcomed the assembled audience by informing them that the Center for BrainHealth will celebrate its 25th anniversary in the coming year, and that the Trinity Family Foundation’s gift will spur research and collaboration with global impact.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert noted that Al Jr. understood the importance of making philanthropic investments with societal impact. “It is often said that leaders plant seeds, knowing they’ll never sit under those trees,” Tom said. “What Al Jr. did in the past and what his family is doing today – they are planting those seeds that will benefit generations to come.”
Lyda Hill, Al Jr.’s sister, shared that her brother’s business career started at a young age, as he and a childhood friend would pull flowers from a yard and sell them to another neighbor – until they were caught! She explained that he later channeled that business acumen into a better model by establishing the World Championship of Tennis, creating the first competition for top players in the sport.
Sisters Heather Hill Washburne and Elisa Hill Summers next took the stage with their combined six children. Elisa described her dad’s adventurous and generous spirit and the educational and exotic world travels he planned for his children. After Al Jr.’s spinal cord injury in 2003, Heather said he applied his same mindset in tennis to his recovery, employing self-disciple and routine in his rehabilitation like a true athlete.
“Dad enjoyed keeping up to date on all the projects at Center for BrainHealth, which is why we felt this would be the perfect first major gift from our Trinity Family Foundation,” Heather said, adding that she knew her dad would be thrilled.
Center for BrainHealth Founder/Chief Director Dr. Sandi Chapman reflected on three phrases to describe Al Jr. – his relentless curiosity, robust heart and rallying resilience. “He was curious about everything. He wanted us to do for brain health what had been done for heart health,” Sandi said. “He always figured out ways to overcome a setback or challenge.”
Sandi concluded the program by inviting everyone to join her in the lobby for a surprise musical composition. It turned out that BrainHealth’s Philanthropy Co-Leader Danny Girton has talents beyond fundraising – he’s also a composer and piano player and had written a special piece for the event. The piece was named “Rally”, referencing both tennis and also the honoree’s mindset – all agreed this was a very fitting title to describe how he handled whatever life served up.
* Photo provided by Center for BrainHealth