First came the videos, then the speeches. Last week, the Texas Exes conferred Distinguished Alumnus Awards on six graduates from the areas of law, medicine, business and technology. In several cases, the speeches crested in firm calls of support for University of Texas President William Powers Jr., also onstage at the LBJ Auditorium.
Lawyer Linda Addison said, “Our lives are richer, fuller and more interesting because of the educations we gained here.” Pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Charles Fraser remarked on medical advances in the state, including the planned UT medical school. Through stirring oratory, former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson measured how far society had come on racial matters.
Lawyer and Port of Houston chairwoman Janiece Longoria came to the defense of the university’s research that complements its teaching. Investor and philanthropist Robert Rowling spoke out against “personal attacks and vendettas” from those who would undermine UT’s greatness. On a lighter note, National Instruments co-founder James Truchard proved the funniest, most modest of the honorees.
Perhaps it’s time to review all the award winners since 1958. The first inductees? Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Sam Rayburn, historian Walter Prescott Webb, newspaper director-general Ramon Beteta and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Robert Anderson.
Songs at the end of life
Last week, Craig Calvert explained Swan Songs to me. The tiny charity — current budget: $25,000 — fulfills the musical wishes of those at the end of life with small, private concerts. “We’ve had a record amount of requests,” Calvert says of the Austin group founded by Christine Albert. “We’ve had Lithuanian music, Scottish bagpipes, almost anything you can imagine.”
Swan Songs raised a bit more money during a party at Gibson Guitar Showroom in the lovely Penn Field development. Some stalwarts of the Austin music scene attended; others played on the small stage. The feeling went from warm to glowing.
Wikipedia tells us that the “tea dance” derives the practice of giving an afternoon dance in the summer or fall — the analog to a tea party — and started during the French colonization of Morocco.
The gay community translated that tradition into a sort of all-purpose happy hour, perfected by the seaside colony in Provincetown, Mass. That bacchanalia could get crazy back in the day.
OctoTea is a younger Austin tea dance that benefits the Octopus Club, which raises cash for clients of AIDS Services of Austin. The event has generated some memorable parties on the Long Center for the Performing Arts terrace and Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center plaza. Its new home, Brazos Hall, is just as magical.
Mostly male partiers split up between the open ground floor of this former warehouse for eating, drinking, bidding and mingling and the rooftop terrace for dancing. Well, that was the plan. Lots of people gathered on the dance floor. Not many took the next step.
An OctoTea official asked afterwards for tips. Back in college, at house parties or clubs, dance-happy friends split to different sides of the room, then signaled with crisscrossed fists that it was time to dance. If it appeared that people were dancing all around, spontaneously, others were more likely to join.
The grand, somewhat austere MACC warmed up for the informally formal UT Community Awards last week. University of Texas Vice President Gregory Vincent spoke thoughtfully and forcefully. The message: What the community around campus does matters.
Major players — including superstar cookbooker Diana Kennedy — showed up to honor Travis County District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, as well as FuturoFund Austin and the Workers Defense Project.
I never get enough of these ceremonies. Not only because the honorees are worthy, but so many storylines open up.
Last week, we bid temporary farewell to investor, mountain hiker and former state Sen. Joe Christie and his gorgeous, accomplished wife, Tana Christie, at an intimate Aldridge Place party given by hyper-networked Eugene Sepulveda and Steven Tomlinson.
Joe and Tana are natural adventurers. They’ve sold their Charles Moore house high above Lady Bird Lake. While they plan their next chapter, the pair is moving to the beach in Santa Barbara, Calif.
They told us about their recent trip to Bhutan, where they witnessed the first Western-style opera performed in that small Asian constitutional monarchy. What a life.