It's simply incredible that in the middle of the oil industry slump and the day after Chevron announced 655 Houston job cuts, oilman/philanthropist Lester Smith and wife Sue announced a $10 million gift at the Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine gala.
Friday night's surprise announcement stunned all but a few (in-the-know) of the 450 guests that filled Renvention Music Center.
The founder and president of Smith Energy Company has a simple explanation for his ability to buck the downfall that most wildcatters are suffering. "I don't borrow money and I don't have any investors," he told CultureMap. "And my daddy taught me that when you've got the upper hand, you give it away, and that's what I like to do."
The $10 million gift, earmarked for Baylor College of Medicine's new Baylor Lung Institute, pushes the total that the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation has provided throughout the Texas Medical Center to more than $100 million.
"I've never borrowed in my life. No competition and I'm drilling," Smith said adding, "We like to take care of people. We like to give a hand up instead of a hand out."
The $10 million windfall swept gala proceeds to an astonishing $10,716, 758. When the monumental gift was announced from the stage, gala chairs Carol Sawyer and Robin Young-Ellis were all but in tears. Joining them and the Smiths on stage were Baylor College of Medicine president Paul Klotman, Dr. David Sugarbaker, renowned lung disease expert and surgeon who heads the new Lung Institute, and Partnership president Ora Gibson.
"The Magic of Motown" evening, featuring the Motown & More Revue, saw the dance floor filled with partygoers grooving to the sounds of the Supremes, the Temptations and more. The sultry supper club atmosphere and the evening were produced by Richard Flowers and The Events Co.
The outstanding "southern soulful" buffet dinner by Culinaire had guests swooning particularly over the grits and shrimp, fried okra and sweet potatoes.
Major underwriters and VIP guests started the evening early at "Joseph's Gin Joint," named for presenting VIP party sponsors Elise and Russell Joseph. Jazz singer Desiree Washington performed in the dimly-lit basement-level bar where signature cocktails such as Motown Mules and Temptations were served in commemorative glasses with multi-colored blinking lights.
Joining the party were Martha Ann and Byron Snyder, Melanie Gray and Mark Wawro, Doe and Henry Florsheim, Rachel and Dr. Bud Frazier, Joe Ellis, Dr. Tom Sawyer, Franelle Rogers, Trini Mendenhall, Lara Bell and Brent Milam, Bubba McNeely, Tama Lundquist and Gary Becker, Rob Rutherford, and Lee Gibson.