While much of the program at the Texas Heart Institute's 50th anniversary celebration went as expected Tuesday night, the surprise performance by Lyle Lovett with violinist Luke Bulla provided an artful balance to the medical focus of the evening.
More than 775 black-tie attired physicians, their healthy patients and philanthropists filled the Westin Galleria Hotel ballroom in a powerhouse gathering that some were calling "an all-star night."
Indeed, the cast was pure A-list, beginning with the evening's honoree, Texas Heart Institute founder Dr. Denton Cooley. "I'm grateful for many things, one of which is that I'm still alive 92 years after having been born in this great city of Houston," he said.
"Fifty years ago, despite skepticism from academic colleagues, including Dr. Michael DeBakey, I had high hopes for the Texas Heart Institute . . . 50 years later our Heart Institute has exceeded my honest expectations."
"In the U.S., someone dies of cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds . . . Our ultimate goal is to have a a world without heart disease."
Former Secretary of Commerce Don Evans served as emcee of the fast-paced evening that not only saluted Cooley but also focused on the accomplishments and importance of THI.
As Dr. Jim Willerson, THI president and medical director, noted in his remarks, "Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men, women and children throughout the world. In the U.S., someone dies of cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds and many of those deaths are sudden . . . Our ultimate goal is to have a a world without heart disease."
That's not to say that the evening was a downer. On the contrary, the serious message combined with quips from Cooley and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who presented Cooley his honors, enjoyed a vibrant energy. Dr. Charles Fraser, surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital and Cooley's son-in-law, covered the honoree's personal story and family details — four children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A steady stream of big guns of politics, philanthropy and even sports came forward to pay homage at the Cooley/Baker/Evans table throughout the dinner. Among them —baseball great Nolan Ryan, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, State Rep. Rodney Ellis, THI chairman Steve Miller, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, University of Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes and UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds (the latter two a nod to Cooley's basketball honors at UT).
Helping raise more than $700,000 for THI on this special evening were lead underwriter Margaret Alkek Williams plus Dr. Ed Singleton, Tony and Isaac Arnold, Mark Wallace, Dr. Bud Frazier, Shahla and Hushang Ansary, Jan Duncan, Cornelia and Meredith Long, Windi and David Grimes, Martha Long, Alfred Glassell III, Paige and Tilman Fertitta, Mary and Vincent Kickerillo, Kelli Kickerillo and Todd Forester, Donna and Tony Vallone and Wallace Wilson.
Gov. Rick Perry arrived for the cocktail hour, paying his respects to Cooley and THI. All in all it was a grand night for the institute and none could have been more pleased than THI CEO Marc Mattsson.