SCHOOL: The University of Texas takes a social concept and perfects it. For the past few years, it has honored Austinites with Community Leadership Awards. The good will these gestures generate cannot be overvalued. The awards ceremonies are opportunities to embrace good news, for instance: Former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia was the only Latino to attend the 50th reunion of his 1959 UT class. Now, 23 percent of the freshman class is Hispanic. During a party in a spacious tent outside the Emma Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, civic leader Vincent Torres received a special nod. Community Partnership Awards went to Community Advancement Network and its leader, Vanessa Sarria, and to the Hispanic Alliance, founded and led by Monica Peraza. Central Health board of managers member Rosie Mendoza won the individual Community Leadership Circle Award, while Seton Healthcare Family chief Jesús Garza took home the Joe R. Long and Teresa Lozano Long Legacy Award. Before, during and after the honors, UT VP Gregory Vincent lauded Bill Powers, now in his final lap as UT president, for his devotion to diversity and for shaping a university recently ranked 30th in the world.
FOOD: I don’t have a favorite Chinese restaurant in Austin. My colleague, Matthew Odam, knows of some good candidates, but they tend to be located a long way from my perch in South Austin. Otherwise, for 30 years, I’ve remained unimpressed. Until now. On the basis of a tasting menu alone — which can’t tell you how a restaurant will work out in practice — I perked up for what business partners C.K. Chin and Stuart Thomajan have planned for Wu Chow, a new spot slated for the IBC Bank Building. Their chefs, Ji Peng Chen and Ling Qi Wu, both from the province of Fuzhao, cooked up a series of hot, cold and dim sum specialties, many with strong Szechuan influences. Shared these nibbles with a frisky and discerning table of guests at Swift’s Attic, Chin and Thomajan’s thriving eatery on Congress Avenue. Maybe now I can learn to make good Chinese food, given their example.
HISTORY: Humbling day. Slipped in after the citizen who believes that Gov. Rick Perry and Gov-Elect Greg Abbott are terrorists, and another gentleman who thinks Longhorns coach Charlie Strong is Napoleon the Pig, Travis County Commissioners endorsed an Award of Merit for my historical reporting in the newspaper. Bob Ward, chairman of the Travis County Historical Commission, said some kind words. I couldn’t think how to respond with the microphone, so instead I requested interviews with Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe as well as Commissioners Margaret Gomez, Ron Davis and Gerald Dougherty as “living histories.” (The other, Bruce Todd, was absent today.) Later, 14 of the historical leaders assembled at the Driskill Hotel’s 1886 Cafe for coffee and pastries. Most of them shared anecdotes. On the street afterwards, Judge Bob Perkins said that I took Austin’s hidden stories and pinned them up on a sort of community fridge. Nice image.