Some of the region’s biggest companies and most iconic business leaders were honored Monday at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas‘ sixth annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon and Awards Ceremony at the Hilton Anatole hotel in Dallas.
During a glitzy, fast-paced presentation before 550 guests in the hotel’s Stemmons Ballroom, the top volunteer honor—called the J. Erik Jonsson Award, after the former Dallas mayor and first local United Way president—was given to Charles “Chuck” Gummer. He’s the retired president of Comerica bank’s Texas Market and a longtime United Way supporter.
Liz Minyard, who received the Jonsson award in 2004, introduced Gummer as the person most responsible for securing funding years ago for the United Way’s then-new West End office building. Gummer accepted the Jonsson award with gracious good humor, saying that when he was told of the honor, “My first inclination was to say no. But when you’re retired, you don’t turn down much.”
In a tag-team act that was sometimes reminiscent of George Burns and Gracie Allen—or Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper—United Way mainstays (and past Jonsson winners) Ruth Altshuler and Roger Staubach presented one of two Decades of Distinction awards to real estate doyenne Ebby Halliday Acers, who wasn’t able to attend. The Distinction award, a special recognition given in honor of the local United Way’s 90th anniversary year, went to Halliday because she has always been “positive, confident, a visionary, and kind to everyone,” Altshuler said.
Mary Frances Burleson, president and CEO of the Ebby Halliday Cos., accepted the award for “Ebby,” whose company conducts an annual United Way campaign and has given more than $1.4 million to the organization over time. Ebby also is a founding member of the group’s Tocqueville Society for big donors, chairing the society in 2000.
A second Decades of Distinction Award went to retired TXU chairman and CEO Erle Nye, a longtime United Way supporter. Nye was introduced by John Young, president and CEO of the Energy Future Holdings Portfolio of Cos. Displaying his trademark dry wit, Nye thanked Young for his introduction, but added, “I must note that you left out the part about me being a notary public in the state of Texas.”
Later, the retired energy exec turned his attention to Jennifer Sampson, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas president and CEO, who was watching from the wings. “I learned in Sunday School that Sampson was a mighty man,” Nye told the crowd. “Today, I want to say that Jennifer Sampson is a mighty lady.” Then he joked about the award: “At first I thought [Sampson] said, ‘Decades of Extinction’ award.”
Additional speakers during the luncheon included United Way Board Chair John Stephens, who’s senior executive vice president and CFO at AT&T Inc., and WFAA Channel 8 anchor Shelly Slater, who served as emcee. Other volunteer awards—the United Way claims 10,000 local volunteers in all—were given to recipients including Gerry Mecca of Dr Pepper Snapple Group (Advocate); JCPenney’s Brandi Simpson (Ambassador); State Sen. Royce West (Public Servant); JD Miles of KTVT CBS 11 (Traditional Media); and Jason Downing of Deloitte (Unite Dallas).