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Executive Holidays: Brad Alberts, Ossa Fisher, Erin Nealy Cox, and more.

Area CEOs share their favorite memories, wish-list items, and New Year’s resolutions.
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Ossa Fisher celebrating her first Christmas.

After the success of last year’s Executive Holiday series, D CEO editors decided to check in with more DFW leaders for what is becoming one of our team’s favorite holiday traditions—a look into how our business community celebrates the holidays. C-Suiters share their most memorable moments from 2021, what holiday traditions they’re carrying on, and what resolutions they’re setting for 2022. (Update: Don’t miss our Dec. 23 post featuring Calvin Carter, Gerardo Galván, Thear Suzuki and more, and our Dec. 24 report featuring Tiffany Derry, Hilda Galvan, Artie Starrs, and more.)

Brad Alberts 

CEO and President, Dallas Stars  

Holiday traditions: “Hockey games, good food, and chocolate torte–we have a great family recipe!” 

Favorite gift: “I would have to go back to my childhood and probably say a big train set. I loved trains growing up.” 

On this year’s wish list: “A new pool.” 

Down time tips: “Enjoy the time away, enjoy friends and family, and eat great food.” 

My New Year’s resolution: “Continue to lead the Stars in the best possible fashion, and continuing to improve my wellness.” 

Dennis Cail

Founder and CEO, Zirtue

Holiday traditions: “One of my favorite traditions that I look forward to each year is eating my wife’s amazing turkey gumbo the day after Thanksgiving, after picking out a Christmas tree with our young boys. We spend the evening decorating the house and tree with Motown Christmas music playing in the background and a glass of Bordeaux somewhere close by. It’s just a great way to get us out of work mode and in the holiday spirit, while creating some great family memories.”

Favorite gift: “I always love and appreciate the handmade gifts, cards, and letters from my children. Just super thoughtful, simple and from the heart.”

On this year’s wish list: “Two years ago, my answer would have been different. This year, I just want charitable donations as a gift to any charity that helps close the health and wealth gaps.”

Down time tips: “Unplug and recharge with your family. Don’t trade in one job for another job: Spending time with your family should not feel like work. Just be present, and the relaxation, coupled with the priceless family bonding, will follow.”

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Dennis Cail with his wife and their two sons.

Memorable moment from 2021: “Winning EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwest. The announcement was virtual, and I watched it at home with my family in our living room. When they announced me as the winner, we all lost it and started jumping up and down as we yelled with excitement.”

My New Year’s resolution: “There are so many, so I will list my top two in of priority: To put more boundaries around work, so I can spend more time with my family, instead of putting boundaries around my family, so I can spend more time working; to take care of my physical and mental health, because if I can’t properly take care of myself, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to take care of my loved ones. ” 

Erin Nealy Cox 

Partner, Kirkland & Ellis  

Holiday traditions: “We have a lot of family-favorite holiday traditions, starting with decorating the house for Christmas right after Thanksgiving—but not before! We always have fun in December, driving around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, decorating gingerbread houses, hosting an annual holiday party, and making sure all of our family is together for a Christmas Eve church service and dinner. Anything we can do to gather with family and friends is how we want to be spending our time.”  

Favorite gift: “Christmas morning is always the best gift—seeing how happy my girls are, and then playing board games all morning after enjoying a big Christmas breakfast.” 

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Erin Nealy Cox and husband, Trey.

On this year’s wish list: “Having all of my family together, including my oldest daughter, who is traveling home for the holidays from college.” 

Down time tips: “We always plan a trip after Christmas—somewhere we can get away as a family. It doesn’t matter where it is, as long as we are all together.” 

My New Year’s resolution: “For 2022, I plan to focus on strengthening personal and professional relationships, finding ways to continue to serve my community, and being grateful for each and every opportunity I have.” 

Derrick Evers 

Managing Partner and CEO, Kaizen Development Partners 

Holiday traditions: “Watching Christmas movies until midnight on Christmas Eve, playing board games, and making cookies as a family that evening.” 

Favorite gift: “A photo album full of memories with my wife and kids.” 

On this year’s wish list: “I would love to have more time. Our oldest son is about to graduate early and go to college in January, and our other two kids growing up so fast. It is hitting us hard!” 

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Family time is big in the Evers household.

Down time tips: “Instead of trying to partition things, be inclusive. I’ve found that it’s too hard to separate business from personal, so involving those important to you at minimum allows them to understand the grind and maybe even appreciate the journey, even if they aren’t directly involved.” 

Memorable moment from 2021: “The opening of our newest building, The Link at Uptown, and my son signing to play quarterback at The University of Oklahoma. Huge milestones at work and at home!” 

My New Year’s resolution: “Work out more and eat better. It’s so easy to make excuses as to why you can’t do either, but taking care of your temple can only help you enjoy every moment in life a little more.” 

Ossa Fisher 

President and COO, Istation 

Holiday traditions:“The Swedish tradition is to celebrate festively on Christmas Eve, and to leave Christmas Day as a holy and quiet day of reflection. As per this Swedish tradition, gifts are opened on Christmas Eve and not on Christmas Day. To me, this creates a wonderful balance between all the song, dance, and cheer that Christmas embodies, and yet saves an equally full day for grace, gratitude, and peace.”  

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Ossa Fisher and her husband, Anders, married on NYE in 2005.

Favorite gift:“The gift of marriage! My husband proposed over New Year’s Eve weekend in 2004, and we were married on New Year’s Eve night in 2005. This makes the changing of the calendar year a very symbolic and meaningful event every year that we live it. We’ve had the good fortune to sneak in a romantic getaway during the New Year’s Eve holiday every year since our wedding. We try to use the holiday each year to count our many blessings and plan for the year ahead. For auld lang syne!” 

On this year’s wish list:“My wish is that students and teachers can return to the simple feeling of joy and light-heartedness in the classroom. Given our company’s role in education, and the fact that I have two middle-school daughters at home, I can see firsthand how hard the past few years have been in education. At Istation, we are doing everything we can to spark joy in the class day. My wish is that 2022 brings increasingly desirable environments and outcomes in K-12 education.”  

Down time tips:“I try to definitely shut down work for a few days each December, and we ask our colleagues to do the same by closing the office from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. Our hope is that, by ensuring that we all have a few days when we are truly unplugged, we are all able to come back more refreshed and energized for the new year.” 

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A young Ossa Fisher (far right) with her family in her home country of Sweden.

Memorable moment from 2021:“After being largely homebound during 2020 due to the pandemic, I saw my parents, sister, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews again in 2021. It felt magical to enjoy the freedom and adventure of travel again.” 

My New Year’s resolution:“I just finished the book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. In the book he states, ‘You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.’ That quote has stuck with me, and so my 2022 New Year’s resolution is to build strong, reinforceable habits for working out, meditating, and achieving some ambitious work goals. (Psst…I started on these habits as soon as I finished the book this December, and so far, so good. Thanks, James Clear!) 

Merrilee Kick 

Founder and CEO, Buzz Ballz/Southern Champion  

Holiday Traditions: “I love Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with my family. Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about family and being together. Treats are just food and drink. Everybody helps out. It’s just so fun.”  

Favorite Gift: “The gift that made me cry was in 7th grade when my family was dirt poor, and I always had to wear a hand-me-down coat. I lived in Montana, and it was cold. All the other kids had cool ski jackets, but mine was five sizes too big and hunter’s orange—so ugly. So, in 30 degrees below, I would go out for recess break without a coat, because I was too embarrassed to wear it, and the kids made fun of me. One Christmas, my mom and dad got me an enormous blue down coat as a replacement for my hideous huge orange coat … but this coat was even bigger! I thanked them and tried to not show my disappointment, while my mom made me try it on. It was huge on me. Then, my dad said that coat was for my mom, and my gift was something else, and he handed me a different gift. I opened a beautiful, just my size, ski jacket. I was so proud, I cried.”   

On this year’s wish list: “I hope my daughters-in-law both have happy, healthy babies in January. I also hope for one of my employees, Dr. Liu, to go into remission after his treatment in January.”  

Down time tips: “There’s never a time you’ll get all your work done if you’re growing. You just have to make a choice to stop working. So, either delegate more, or work faster or smarter, and know when enough is enough.”  

My New Year’s resolution: “I don’t do resolutions. I just have goals for the company that I try to hit. If I was more in tune to my personal needs, I would make personal goals but I’m weak in that department.”  

Jennifer Sampson 

President and CEO, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas  

Holiday Traditions: “One of my favorite traditions is attending the Christmas Eve service at Park Cities Baptist Church with my family, followed by a Tex-Mex feast at home.” 

Holiday Treats: “I’m bingeing on Dallas baker Catherine McEachern’s Ted Lasso-inspired Tea Cakes from Lemma’s Bakeshop. These little pink boxes tied with ribbons and Lasso-isms like ‘Believe’ or ‘Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing’ were the perfect gifts for friends, teachers and teammates.” 

Favorite Gift: “The most special was December 25, 2007: My son, Hilton Edward Sampson, had his first Christmas. The holidays are always magical but there is nothing better than the gift of a baby’s laughter at home during Christmastime.” 

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The Sampson family pose for a holiday pic in front of their stockings.

On this year’s wish list: “A Baylor Bear Sugar Bowl victory in New Orleans, after brunch with family at Brennan’s, on New Year’s Day.” 

Down time tips: “Plan ahead. Prioritize family events and activities; don’t set expectations that may be impossible to meet. Take time to rest, recharge, and read.” 

My New Year’s resolution: “To invest in relationships—with family, friends, and my team at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas—because the quality of our relationships is the true currency of life.”  

Steve Miff 

CEO, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation 

Holiday traditions: “Growing up in Romania, we used to go to my grandparents’ village, and on Christmas Eve, families would go caroling from house to house. There were always sweets and treats for kids, and the adults had a great time. Now, we make cookies each Christmas—usually five or six different kinds. My favorites are sugar cookies and pecan butter balls.”

Favorite gift: “When I was a kid, I really wanted a 10-speed bike, and I kept asking for one all year long. I finally gave up, as they were not easy to find. But, on Christmas morning, I will never forget my elation at seeing a new bike under the tree!”

On this year’s wish list: “Health and time with family. We have a small family, but we’re so blessed to have all our parents with us and in Dallas. I’m also craving a beach trip and hope Covid will be under control enough to make it happen in 2022.”

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Steve Miff with his wife and their daughter.

Down time tips: “With most of us working remotely, and with the blessings of digital technology, we’re always ‘on.’ There is very little separation—physical and mental—between work and home. Studies show that it takes a good two to three days to fully disconnect, so I encourage everyone to truly take some time off this holiday season and put away the work devices. Value and prioritize time with family. Sometimes this by itself can be stressful, but at least it’s a different kind of stress. Try not to eat too many cookies, stay active, and read a good book. In addition to focusing on being the best you, pay close attention to your parents, kids, and good friends. Physical and mental isolation is our hidden pandemic. Our kids, in particular, are dealing with way more than we can observe and the last two years have been extremely difficult for them, whether we see it or not. Spend extra quality time with your kids this holiday season: Play games and watch It’s a Wonderful Life together.”

Memorable moment in 2021: “While it is a bit cliché to say COVID, it is true for me, as it feels that I spend way too many hours—awake and asleep—thinking about it. Early in 2021, our team at PCCI built a sophisticated herd immunity model for Dallas … In early July, we reached what, at the time, appeared to be herd immunity, which would have been a time to celebrate since we would have been on the downswing. The Delta variant, however, entered the scene, quickly became dominant, changed the immunity dynamics, and pushed us back. It was like getting a penalty flag when we were in the red zone, about to score. While a bit demoralizing at the time, our model was recognized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement leaders and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which reassured us that we were clearly on the right track, even if tracking progress was an emotional roller coaster.”

New Year’s resolution: “Stay positive, think big, and remain physically active—exceed my 2021 Peloton rides. My 2022 work resolution is to elevate PCCI to an even greater level: 2022 is PCCI’s ten-year anniversary and it’s an opportunity to celebrate our great achievements and impact and to chart the course for the next ten years. We’ll look to secure new funding and continue to expand our partnerships to innovate and drive the next generation in digital health technology and AI to optimize access and health equity for the most vulnerable.”

Lindsay Wilson 

President, Corgan 

Holiday traditions:“My favorite traditions include a competitive gingerbread house building contest with my family, candlelight service on Christmas Eve at HPUMC, our fridge plastered with holiday cards, and our killer brunch spread on Christmas Day. My husband Craig and I also firmly believe that Just Friends,a lesser-known Ryan Reynolds comedy, is a Christmas movie, and we watch it multiple times.   As for treats, my colleague, Dawn Chisholm makes the best holiday cookies ever!” 

Favorite gift:“Several years ago, my team gifted me with a Bird sculpture by Dallas artist Brad Oldham. That little bird sparks a lot of joy.” 

On this year’s wish list:“There is something under the tree that my 11-year-old son, Jack, felt that I would really like. I’m most excited to see what that is!” 

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Lindsay Wilson is eager to see the gift her 11-year-old son, Jack, has stashed under the tree.

Down time tips:“It’s a mixed bag of communicating early with clients about time away during the holidays, coupled with flexibility to deal with things that arise, and then just saying yes to all the fun things my family and friends cook up along the way.”  

Memorable moment from 2021:“It’s impossible to hone in on just one, but each time I was able to gather with a group of friends or colleagues that I hadn’t seen in some time was wonderful and memorable. I have always felt fortunate to be a part of the real estate community in DFW, but coming back together this year gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for how special it really is.” 

My New Year’s resolution:“Focusing on building systems of successful behaviors versus focusing on the end goal. (And yes, that is straight from James Clear’s Atomic Habits.) In his book, Clear talks about the power of small changes over time. I think the pandemic created some angst that sweeping changes were the only way forward; personally, I want to reframe that notion and focus on the importance of consistency over time when it comes to positive change.” 

Authors

Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the managing editor for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…
Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…
Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the assistant editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500
Kelsey Vanderschoot

Kelsey Vanderschoot

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Kelsey J. Vanderschoot came to Dallas by way of Napa, Los Angeles, and Madrid, Spain. A former teacher, she joined…

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