Best Texas Books: Wrestling with writer J. Frank Dobie

At some point, every Texas writer — or serious reader — must come to terms with “Mr. Texas.”

Author J. Frank Dobie. American-Statesman file photo.

To the extent that Austinites today recognize the name of folklorist, teacher and widely published columnist, J. Frank Dobie, they might associate it with a middle school, or a freshly renovated mall at the base of a dormitory tower (despite the fact that Dobie hated high-rises), or perhaps with “Philosophers’ Rock,” a sculptural tribute at Barton Springs devoted to Dobie and his gabbing buddies Roy Bedichek and Walter Prescott Webb.

The literary-minded might also think of the Dobie Paisano Ranch, which serves as a writer’s retreat on Barton Creek for Dobie Fellows, or the modest Dobie residence across from the University of Texas Law School, where writing students sometimes meet.

Born in 1888, Dobie came out of South Texas brush country with an abiding interest in cowboy yarns, legends of lost treasure, and tales of conquistadors, cattle drives and desert rats. Dobie struggled at first to find his voice, but struck gold in the mass-market magazine trade that was hungry for adventure stories.

He then expanded those articles, sometimes scantily, into two dozen books. He took up residence at UT and mentored subsequent generations of folkorists and writers. A the same time, he penned a weekly column that was published in dozens of newspapers. He died in 1964.

As Steven L. Davis describes in his superb biography, “J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind,” the folklorist’s intellectual journey took him from unreconstructed attitudes toward Mexicans, Native-Americans and African-Americans — as well as a belief in the self-reliance of rough-and-ready Texans — to become one of the most progressive and open-minded columnists in the state, the bane of the postwar Establishment. He also mentored Hispanic and African-American folklorists, although he broke with the social scientists in the field who insisted on undiluted field notes rather than lovingly burnished stories. His motto: “Any tale belongs to whoever best tells it.”

RELATE: Start with this J. Frank Dobie bio.

One can certainly ignore Dobie and still understand Texas. Or one can choose other, better writers such as Katherine Anne Porter, Larry McMurtry, Horton Foote, Stephen Harrigan, Americo Paredes, Sarah Bird, Don GrahamAttica Locke or Lawrence Wright to gain your initial insights about the state.

I, for one, avoided Dobie for as long as I could. First, I’m allergic to thickly applied dialect, whether from otherwise great authors such as George Eliot (the unreadable “The Mill on the Floss”) or local heroes like John Henry Faulk (whenever told an extended story in someone else’s down-home voice). Also, Dobie’s tales seemed directed at a youthful audience, let’s face it, mostly boys, and rarely have I been able to reread even beloved adventure stories from childhood with much pleasure in my later years.

So what drew me to Dobie in my sixties? One writer, other than Davis, who got me over the conceptual hump was Bill Wittliff, whose masterful recreation of various Texas dialects in his “Devil’s Backbone” series of picaresque novels is an absolute delight. (A third volume comes out this fall from UT Press.)

So maybe Dobie’s liberally applied Texas dialects might not set my teeth on edge.

Also, I’d recently read the collected works of Porter, who sparred with Dobie over their respective places among Texas writers, and came away with the impression that she is among America’s greats, at her best on par with her near contemporaries William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Dobie next?

Davis warned me personally that the seven volumes kept in print by the University of Texas Press were uneven. In response, he recently finished a volume of “The Essential J. Frank Dobie,” a “best of” edition to be valued because Dobie could rise to sustained excellence, as I later discovered. It comes out in Fall 2019 from Texas A&M University Press.

The proximate cause for my deep dive into Dobie, however, was a trip to the still-new offices of UT Press, where all their volumes in print are displayed in the reception area. As a diehard bibliophile, I was dazzled. Then I slipped my fingers across the seven beautifully designed Dobie paperbacks with their vintage-looking covers.

This paperback series, by the way, is kept in print because of a bequest from Dobie’ estate in the 1970s. Someone was thinking ahead to the day when Dobie was no longer a celebrity! Now they are mostly available via “print on demand.”

I asked for all seven. Then slowly read them, sometimes giving up altogether, then winding my way back to the stack.

“Uneven” does not begin to describe the books. Some are barely strung-together anecdotes, the kind you might find in an old-fashioned “general interest” column in a newspaper, stitched together by ellipses. “Rattlesnakes” and “The Longhorns” tend to follow this pattern. Interesting in spurts, but repetitive in an unappealing way.

Other Dobie’s collections present thicker stories, such as the nuggets in “Tales of Old-Time Texas” or “I’ll Tell You a Tale.” Still, the familiar patterns are burned into the narrative leather and you must be patient with them.

Lost mines and buried treasures tickled Dobie’s readers and he really does make the search for them compelling in “Apache Gold and Yacqui Silver” and, especially, “Coronado’s Children,” the book that probably holds up best.

In a special category is “The Ben Lilly Legend,” which benefits from a focused subject — a great American hunter. Dobie pursued this story with relish and persistence. I’d be tempted to recommend it as your first Dobie, that or “Coronado’s Children.”

Actually, do what I did and start with Davis’ “J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind.” You need it to understand the context for any additional Dobie reading.

Some great old Hollywood movies were inspired by these books. And one can find threads of these stories in McMurtry and Wittliff, who spun them into fictional gold.

Dobie might have been a promoter of a Texas that appears in the rearview mirror of an overwhelming urban and suburban state. And he’s not entirely reliable as a historian, but, darn it, he can tell a tale, especially when he sticks to the subject. And his stories birthed a lot of Texas mythology that still shapes the way we think of ourselves today.

 

Austin360 looks back: Longhorns football as supreme spectacle

Over the years, the American-Statesman has covered much more than the players on the field during UT Longhorns football games. For this feature story on the spectacle of the sport, published Sept. 13, 2003, I was embedded with the Longhorn band.

Original caption: Tricia Kruger (Texas Cowboys Sweetheart) — Hailing from Katy, Tricia is an architectural engineering major. She served as a Texas Angel for two years and is a member of the Tri Delta sorority. She’s been the Texas Cowboys Sweetheart for a mere three weeks! Message: ‘Give the best you have to Texas and the best will come back to you.’ Brian K. Diggs/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The marquee players soaked up the lights center stage — um, midfield — while a cast of supporting players turned Royal-Memorial Stadium into a multi-ring circus.

Competing for our attention were thundering, rhythmically driven musicians, cannon-blasting Texas Cowboys, Bevo-braving Silver Spurs, complementary Orange and White cheerleading squads, aerobically charged Poms dancers, war-painted Hellraisers, goodies-hawking vendors, silent but omnipresent event staffers and security guards, run-like-a-bunny equipment kids, harassed game officials, dozens of sub-coaches and more than 80,000 chanting, stomping, finger-pumping Orange Bloods.

Original caption: Summer Nance (Cheerleader) — Before coming to the University of Texas to major in African American studies, Summer won several awards cheering for Judson High School near San Antonio and the Jets All-Stars, including Jump-Off Queen for the Universal Cheerleading Association. Message: ‘Go, Horns!’ Brian K. Diggs/AMERICAN-STATESMAN –

Austin’s longest-running, most spectacular theatrical event? The University of Texas Longhorns’ home football games, of course.

Theater, you say? Both forms of entertainment feature players working from a script — intermittently improvised — in a specialized building that separates the primary actors from the spectators. Both depend — to one extent or the other — on music, dance and visual overload to enhance the enthusiasm of the audience. And, by any standards, UT has turned the spectacle of sports into an art form.

This super-saturated color and pageantry, separate from the drama of running and passing plays, downs and scores, is carefully sketched, choreographed and executed six times each fall in Austin. Opening night this year was Aug. 31 and the run continues today.

The theatrical event starts more than two hours before kickoff, if you don’t count the all-day tailgate fiestas that trail down San Jacinto Boulevard and Trinity Street, or the even hardier partiers who arrive days early to park their recreational vehicles in the lot near the LBJ Library and Museum.

Original caption: “Kevin Kushner (Texas Cowboy) — Editor of The Daily Texan newspaper, Kevin started his career in New Orleans and is a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. Message: ‘Give the best you have to Texas and the best will come back to you.'” Brian K. Diggs/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

At the Alumni Center and other controlled-access venues nearby, private receptions with live music — and important for many adults: legal alcohol — rim the stadium to the north, south, east and west in anticipation of the game. And that does not count the mini-bacchanals in the private stadium skyboxes.

Streams of orange surge through the streets near the arena, joining into mighty rivers before they empty into the boiling cauldron of rust, pumpkin and tangerine inside Royal-Memorial Stadium. More than an hour before the show — sorry, game — the cheerleaders bound onto the field, barely noticed by the conversing fans.

Six enormous versions of the historical Texas flags ripple in the wind, only a few of the many banners to be unfurled. In addition to multiple Lone Stars, there are flags for all the teams in the Big 12, orange and white streamers that spell out T-E-X-A-S or bear the likeness of Bevo and, of course, the largest Texas flag in the world, unfurled just before kickoff by the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.

Original caption: Brian Stover (Longhorn Hellraiser) — A double major in finance and mechanical engineering, Brian came to Austin from Houston and is in his second year as a Hellraiser (he serves as vice president). He’s also a member of the Spirit and Traditions Council. Message: ‘Loud. Proud. 100 Percent Orange-Blooded.’ Brian K. Diggs/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The stadium is only half-full when the Jumbotron scoreboard “fires up,” as they say in the sports biz, more than an hour before the first opportunity for any player to score. Over the course of the next few hours, we’ll see distracting weather reports, advertisements, player introductions, replays and an animated Longhorn that resembles a quicksilver version of the mythical Minotaur with a horned head and the exaggeratedly muscular body of a male human.

The players warm up by turns on-field, a practice not unlike the theatrical trend in the 1960s and ’70s when actors and technicians made their pre-show preparations in full view of the audience.

Charismatic hawkers in black-and-white striped uniforms infiltrate the stands, barking their water, peanuts, cotton candy and such. The Silver Spurs service group leads the tranquil Bevo to his patch of turf near the south end zone, where curious children are allowed to approach . . . but not too close. Size-wise, Bevo is a monster of a bovine.

Original caption: Buzz Huber (Events Manager) — From Victoria, Buzz has worked at UT for 14 years, four of them at Royal-Memorial Stadium. He’s responsible for 563 ushers, for which he has received a pat on the back from Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds. Message: ‘No pass. No ticket. No get in.’ Brian K. Diggs/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Security guards and other staff make their presence known with crossed arms and quizzical frowns that turn into polite graciousness the minute anyone needs help. The elite Texas Cowboys, the counterparts to the Spurs, but dressed in leather chaps and black hats, roll Smokey the Cannon onto the north end zone. By now, the painted hellions known as the Longhorn Hellraisers spirit group have parked themselves behind the Cowboys, starting their own cheers (if you can call their banshee yells cheers).

A uniformed honor guard advances stiffly with the Texas and U.S. flags. The New Mexico State players stream onto the field to scattered huzzahs and boos. They partake in ceremonial chest-beating, as if to ward off the orange-clad demons that surround them.

It’s 30 minutes before kickoff and the sold-out stadium is still far from full. Sable, titanium and purple-gray clouds roll in from a tropical depression that has advanced on the stadium. Mist turns into sprinkles that eventually become a light but steady downpour.

Original caption: Brad Edmondson (Hawker). An LBJ High School senior, Brad is in his third year as a stadium hawker. He received an award for the most water sold: a $10 Blockbuster gift certificate. Message: ‘If you’re lazy, you fall behind.’ Brian K. Diggs/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Already one aspect of sporting events is appreciated: the ability to move around, to visit the facilities or purchase refreshments at any time. To a critic trained to sit through five-hour operas and suppress the urges of nature, this comes as a relief.

Exactly 19 minutes before kickoff, the rigorously disciplined Longhorn Band marches into the stadium, making a robust sound echoed by the crowd, which is finally on its feet. Lights glint off the brass. Big Bertha, the oversized drum, is wheeled into the arena like a captured elephant in a Roman victory parade.

“All these games are scripted,” says Chris Plonsky, UT women’s athletic director and an attentive student of sports-as-theater. “We borrowed from everybody to create a five-hour show. The result is a festival atmosphere like nothing else.”

Original caption: Chris LaGrone (Tuba Player) — A native of Carthage, Chris has been playing tuba since the sixth grade. This is his second year as a tuba player with the UT band. The accounting major earned all-region and all-area honors as a high school band member. Message: ‘Be Early. Play Loud. Stay Late.’ Brian K. Diggs/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Curtain time: A restless crowd gathers outside the igloo-shaped exit from the field house. Clapping turns rhythmic. The Hook ‘Em hand sign wags through the stands. The band bangs out the fight song. A lone baton twirler seems lost in the pandemonium. The faces of the rich and powerful glint in the blue light of identical televisions in their private boxes.

On-field, Lance Armstrong, guest star, is introduced with his football-helmeted son. The stadium hushes for the national anthem, then “Texas, Our Texas,” the lyrics helpfully provided by the Jumbotron. Then the big, big Lone Star flag comes out.

The patriotic display warms the heart of this native Texan, but what must the New Mexicans think of the imperial pomp?

The Texas players finally burst onto the scene in full force, emerging from a cloud of stage fog. All the actors converge at midfield, with a space carved out for the coin toss.

The game? The main plot is already well-known.

For home-team fans, the first hour was cursed with opening-night jitters that seemed to presage tragedy: The highly ranked Longhorns failed to score a single point while the New Mexico State Aggies protected a 7-point lead. Then, well into the second quarter, Texas’ Selvin Young returned a 97-yard kickoff for a score, and the crowd went bananas. They found little to complain about for the rest of the game. Offensive, defensive and special-teams squads scored, bringing the final tally to 66-7.

After almost every score, the cannon blasted, the band pounded and waggled, and the cheerleaders back-flipped as many times as there were Longhorn points scored on the board. The halftime entertainment, led by three band conductors on ladders, seemed fairly tame after all their previous activity and the formations were not clear from all points in the stadium. The last 10 minutes of halftime proved the only quiet period of the game, because New Mexico State did not send a band and there was no replacement entertainment.

No matter: time for 10 minutes of reflection on this sensation called Longhorn football. The monumental show has lasted almost as many seasons (110) as the 10 longest-running Broadway musicals put together (124). It has everything a theater-goer could want, plus something rare for the arts — a clear winner at the end of the evening. Luckily, for the vast majority of fans, that winner was Texas.

 

UT’s Latin American Collection is a wonder of the library world

The Nettie Benson Latin American Collection is a University of Texas treasure you should get to know better.

Leslie Montoya, Maria Farahani and Ernesto Rios at a UT dinner for The Benson Latin American Collection.

Founded almost 100 years ago in 1921 with the acquisition of Mexican historian and bibliophile Genaro García‘s library, it grew vastly under the direction of UT professor Carlos Castañeda — partial namesake for the Perry-Castañeda Library — then under historian Nettie Lee Benson. For decades, the Collection has been the finest and most complete library of its kind in the Americas.

When I did research there in the 1980s for my doctoral dissertation, it was referred to by scholars as the “Library of Congress for Latin America.” Sort of like the Ransom Center across campus, its leaders had collected so many books, manuscripts and other objects in its chosen fields, people travel from around the world to visit it.

Crucially, it houses materials that back up some of what was lost in the recent fire that gutted the Brazil Museum.

The Collection, as well as its intimate partner, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, are now receiving more attention locally.

At “An Evening for Discovery,” a recent benefit dinner at the AT&T Center, I ran into many old and new friends, including Maria Cisne Farahani, the woman behind Fara Coffee, which benefits workers in her native Nicaragua (we talked about the brisk change in political will in that country); Monica Peraza, who updated me on the latest at the Long Center, where she now captains the board of directors; attorney and event host Becky Beaver, who is becoming one of the Benson’s most eloquent promoters; Leslie Montoya, a local Univision reporter; Ernesto Rois, who is in the medical parts business (I don’t think that’s the right term, but you understand); and Adriana Pacheco Roldán, a scholar who, with Fernando Macias-Garza, gave $50,000 for an endowment to kick off the Benson’s centennial celebration.

RELATED: We bow before these honorees, including Maria Cisne Farahani.

East Austin mural, pool dance among Preservation Austin award winners

Plagued by congested traffic? High cost of living? Persistent inequity? Those pesky scooters?

Whenever the New Austin Blues get you down, turn to Preservation Austin and especially its annual Merit Awards. The Old Austin triumphs of stewardship, invention and rehabilitation are sometimes small, but every year, they add up.

This year’s winners include three major 19th-century structures, several homes large and small, some updated commercial buildings, an East Austin mural, a dance about community, two singular park structures and a distinguished architectural historian.

These fine people, places, culture and history will be honored at the Preservation Merit Awards Celebration at the Driskill Hotel on Friday, Oct. 19 from 11:30am to 1:30pm. It’s a treat.

2018 PRESERVATION MERIT AWARD RECIPIENTS

220 South Congress Avenue. Contributed by Gensler.

220 SOUTH CONGRESS – Bouldin

Recipient: Cielo Property Group

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Gensler

308 W. 35th St. Contributed by Preservation Austin

308 E. 35th – North University

Recipient: Steven Baker and Jeff Simecek

Preservation Award for Addition

409 Colorado St. Contributed by Clayton Holmes, Forge Craft Architect + Design

409 COLORADO – Downtown

Recipient: David Zedeck

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Forge Craft Architecture + Design

Austin State Hospital. Contributed by Nathan Barry, Braun & Butler Construction

AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL

Recipient: Health & Human Services Commission

Preservation Award for Restoration

Contractor: Braun & Butler Construction

Collier House. Contributed by Andrew Calo

COLLIER HOUSE – Bouldin

Recipient: Georgia Keith

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Elizabeth Baird Architecture & Design

For La Raza. Contributed by Philip Rogers

“FOR LA RAZA” – Holly

Recipient: Arte Texas, Art in Public Places, Parks and Recreation Department & Austin Energy

Preservation Award for Preservation of a Cultural Landscape

Robert Herrera and Oscar Cortez

O. Henry Hall. Contributed by O’Connell Architecture

O.HENRY HALL – Downtown

Recipient: Texas State University System

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Lawrence Group, O’Connell Architecture

Oakwood Chapel. Contributed by Preservation Austin

OAKWOOD CEMETERY CHAPEL

Recipient: City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department

Preservation Award for Restoration

Architect: Hatch + Ulland Owen Architects

RELATED: Austin dedicates sublime Oakwood Chapel.

Solarium. Contributed by Casey Woods Photography

SOLARIUM – Old West Austin

Recipient: Don Kerth

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Jobe Corral Architects

Sparks House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

SPARKS HOUSE – Judges Hill

Recipient: Suzanne and Terry Burgess

Preservation Award for Restoration

St. Edward’s University Main Building. Contributed by ArchiTexas

EDWARDS UNIVERSITY MAIN BUILDING + HOLY CROSS HALL

Recipient: St. Edwards University

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation and Restoration

Architect: Baldridge Architects, Architexas

RELATED: Sister Donna Jurick leaves St. Ed’s a better place.

Tucker-Winfield Apartments. Contributed by Preservation Austin

TUCKER-WINFIELD APARTMENTS – Downtown

Recipient: Elayne Winfield Lansford

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: O’Connell Architecture

RELATED: New life for a 1939 gem.

Twin Houses. Contributed by Casey Woods Photography

TWIN HOUSES – Delwood 2

Recipient: Ada Corral and Camille Jobe

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Jobe Corral Architects

E.P. Wilmot House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

P. WILMOT HOUSE – Downtown

Recipient: John C. Horton III

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Clayton & Little

Zilker Caretaker Cottage. Contributed City of Austin Parks & Recreation

ZILKER CARETAKER COTTAGE

Recipient: Austin Parks & Recreation Department

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

RELATED: Life in the middle of Zilker Park.

Beta Xi House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

BETA XI HOUSE ASSOCIATION – University of Texas

for Stewardship of the Beta Xi Kappa Kappa Gamma House

“My Park, My Pool, My City.” Contributed by Rae Fredericks, Forklift Dancworks

FORKLIFT DANCEWORKS

Special Recognition for “My Park, My Pool, My City”

Contributed

PHOEBE ALLEN

Lifetime Achievement

RELATED: Where did the Chisholm Trail cross the Colorado?

Need inspiration? Try UT-student cyclists going the distance for cancer research

If you can resist the exaltation of the annual Texas 4000 Tribute Dinner, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

Texas 4000 for Cancer was founded in 2004 by Chris Condit, a Hodgin’s lymphoma survivor who appeared at the charity dinner at the Hyatt Regency Austin on Friday looking as if he just graduated from the University of Texas.

Hannah Knaup and Graham Bryan at Texas 4000 Tribute Gala. Knaup rode this year and encountered a bear with cubs on the trail in Alaska. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Each year, more than 60 UT students make the 70-day, 4,687 mile trek via one of three routes — Sierras, Rockies and Ozarks. Crucial to each trip, the young men and women focus on the people for whom they ride. They work as teams — virtually everyone makes it — and they stay as guests, often of UT alums along the way.

I came in around the time of the first Tribute Dinner and could not resist the electric vibe shared by riders past, present and future, as well as their volunteers, backers, staff, directors and fans — some of whom were honored during the dinner with the Chairman’s Pin Awards, handed out by Wes Carberry.

So far the group has netted $8.4 million for cancer research, with an aim to reach $10 million by 2020. They also make incredible videos that would be envy of any nonprofit in the country. The variety of backgrounds and experiences among the students — some haven’t ridden road bikes before — is astounding.

Just one more thing that makes UT singular.

Best parties as Austin social season kicks into gear

Austin’s social season picks up again next week after the icy blast of the Ice Ball and Texas 4000 Tribute Dinner and a few other late summer enticements.

RELATED: Catch the best parties of the new Austin social season.

Sept. 5: Red Shoe Luncheon for Ronald McDonald House. Brazos Hall. rmhc-ctx.org.

Sept. 6: An Evening of Discovery for UT LLILAS/Benson Latin American Collection. AT&T Center. Benson Collection.

Sept. 7: The Big Give for I Live Here, I Give Here. Hotel Van Zandt. ilivehereigivehere.org/the-big-give.

Sept. 9: Long Center Birthday Bash with Grupo Fantasma. Long Center. thelongcenter.org.

 

 

Catch the best parties of the new Austin social season

Welcome back to the Austin social season. Some of you never went away.

But all of us can agree that catching up with old friends and making new ones — just as the summer fades a bit — is part of the Austin way of life.

These are eight late August parties I hope to attend.

Aug. 22: Burning Down the House for Millett Opera House Foundation. Austin Club. millettoperahouse.com.

Aug. 24: Chapel Restoration Celebration. Oakwood Cemetery, 1601 Navasota St. austintexas.gov/oakwoodchapel

Aug. 24: Texas 4000 for Cancer Tribute Gala. Hyatt Regency Hotel. bit.ly/tributegala.

SS Committee .jpg

Aug. 24:  Study Social for Literacy First. 800 Congress Ave. literacyfirst.org.

Aug. 25: Ice Ball for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Fairmont Hotel. austiniceball.org.

Aug. 25: Studio 54klift for Forklift Danceworks. forkliftdanceworks.org.

Aug. 29: The Man. The Legend. The Chick Magnet. Happy 90th Shelly Kantor, longtime regular customer and champion dancer. Donn’s Depot. donnsdebot.com

Aug. 31-Sept. 3: Splash Days for Octopus Club, Kind Clinic and OutYouth. Various locations. splashdays.com.

Austin won’t ignore Ann Richards School or People’s Community Clinic

It’s impossible to ignore how composed and accomplished they are.

The students from the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders are the real celebrities during the annual Reach for the Stars benefit for the Ann Richards School Foundation, now held at Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

Teacher Anah Wiersema with students Haley Loan and Julie Apagya Bonney at the fabulous Reach for the Stars gala for the Ann Richards School Foundation. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

They speak with such assurance and wisdom. They are headed to top colleges all over the country. Many are the first in their families to do so.

Julie Apagya Bonney and Ebheni Henderson led the charge before we saw a video interview with Girl Scouts national leader — and former Austinite — Sylvia Acevedo conducted by Maddy Schell and Maggie Saucedo. As if to trump that, young journalist Haley Lone interviewed Oprah pal Gayle King on the set of her TV show.

We throughly enjoyed our conversations at a table front-and-center sponsored by Ellen Richards, the late governor’s daughter who doesn’t have a new book out. (We talked mostly birds and nature.) Then we heard from more Class of ’18 — Eleanor Bailey and Maria Cruz, before Becky Alonso and Gus Flores introduced the winner of the Ann Richards Legacy Award, who happened to be super-sharp former principal Jeanne Goka.

Sorry guys, but I’d trade her for any principal from my past.

I barely glimpsed Ann Richards writer/actor Holland Taylor before slipping out during the “pompoms up” funding round.

My only private concern: Is anyone doing this sort of things for the Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy across town? We’ll ask around.

People’s Community Clinic

Anyone who thinks that repasts such as There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch are merely light social duties has not been to this fundraiser for People’s Community Clinic now held at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

Regina Willis, Mitali Kapadia and Haley Aldrich at Tjere’s No Such Thing As Free Lunch for People’s Community Clinic. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Surrounded by folks at our Becky Beaver-led set of tables such as Nancy ScanlanMelissa Miller and Nancy Inman would have been intellectually exhilarating enough. But then we heard from clinic CEO Regina Rogoff, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Louis Appel and longtime board member Dr. Nona Niland, all of whom could easily hold my studious attention.

Niland introduced Philip S. Dial, reluctant winner of the W. Neal Kocurek Award, named for the strategist behind much of the city’s enlightened civic health. Despite his reluctance to take the limelight, financial expert Dial made a fine speaker and reminded us that the quiet money aces often make a nonprofit grow and thrive, as he has done for People’s.

The meat of the lunch, so to speak, was a public conversation between Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Dr. Karen DeSalvo, former acting assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and now at the University of Texas Dell School of Medicine.

DeSalvo was head of the health department in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina crisis and learned much about decentralizing health care and going “upstream” to encourage health before care is needed through community clinics. She believes we need to get past debates on coverage — everybody should be — to talk more about how to save money and lives through community solutions, including a “blue-cities-in-red-states” ones, like the grand experiment going on in Austin right now.

She’s a firecracker and I’d love to profile her for this publication.

 

 

What caused all the excitement at Austin nonprofit pitch fest

I would have given each group $100,000. No, make that $1 million.

At the LBJ Auditorium, reps from each of seven nonprofits made their cases for three minutes at Philanthropitch, then followed up with three minutes of answers to questions from six judges, all successful entrepreneurs.

Chelsea Elliott of the Half Helen Foundation and Kevin Iraheta of the Global Good Fund at Philanthropitch Austin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

That’s it. No stacks of paperwork. No hours of pleasing donors.

Just pure, compact rhetorical power. And oh yes, a good cause. And a plan that includes growth and internal sustainability. This is how the celebrity judges split up the money:

– Half Helen Foundation: $64,100
– Thinkery: $38,210
– Code2College: $35,553
– College Forward: $18,913
– Generation Citizen: $11,722
– VentureLab: $7,052

But wait, there’s more.

“There was this amazing moment in the judges’ deliberation room where Kendra Scott asked if she could announce two internship placements for Code2College (which coaches nontraditional students to code) and the answer was obviously, YES!” reports Dan Graham, CEO of BuildASign.com cofounder of Notley, the group behind Philanthropitch, which has spread across the country and to the U.K.. “Immediately Gay Gaddis from T3, Jag Bath from Favor and Mellie Price from the Dell Medical School also committed to two internships each!”

CODE2COLLEGE: How to make any student ready for tech career.

On stage, as the the winners received big checks, Lisa Graham announced “Oh and Mr. Stephenson, we have another announcement for you” and proceeded to announce all the internships, which give Code2College added credibility and sustainability.

“As Lisa was finishing, Matt Stephenson (founder of Code2College) began running around hugging the judges and that’s when a woman starting sprinting up the aisle,” Dan recalls. “It was Amy Averett with Alamo Drafthouse announcing that they, too, were committing to two internships! That’s a total of 10 internships.”

 I love Austin.

Last chance to hit the best of Austin spring party circuit

Soon it will be hot. Very hot. For many, too hot to party in Austin. That’s why we urge you to savor the last semblance of spring and hit this circuit of more than 40 parties hard.

April 26: Little Artist, Big Artist for Chula League. Mondo Gallery.

April 27-29: Austin Food + Wine Festival. Auditorium Shores and Fair Market.

April 27-28: Texas Burlesque Fest. Paramount Theatre.

April 28: Putting on the Ritz Gala for Sam Bass Theatre. Marriott North La Frontera.

April 28: Songs for Trees for TreeFolks. Lemon Lounge.

April 28: Town Lake Links 30th Anniversary Celebration. UT campus locations.

April 28: Council on At-Risk Youth Distinguished Speaker Event. AT&T Conference Center.

April 28: Viva EASB! for Elizabeth Ann Seton Board. Camp Mabry.

April 29: An Afternoon in Neverland from Ballet Austin Guild. Driskill Hotel.

April 29: A Marvelous Party: Delovely for Penfold Theatre. Kindred Oaks.

April 29: Bollywood Meets Borscht Belt from Hindu Charities and Shalom Austin. JCC Community Hall.

May 1: Great Futures Spring Luncheon for Boys & Girls Clubs. Fairmont Austin Hotel.

May 1: Hope Awards for iACT. Bullock Texas State History Museum.

May 2: Taste of Mexico for Mexic-Arte Museum. Brazos Hall.

May 3: I Heart HealthStart Gala. Gather Austin.

May 3: Opal Divine’s American Whiskey Festival. Austin City Hotel.

May 3: Evening of Honors for Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights. UT Alumni Center.

May 4: The Blue Bash for Austin Chamber Music Center. River Place Country Club.

May 4: Best Party Ever for Leadership Austin. Brazos Hall.

May 4: Austin Book Awards for Austin Library Foundation. Austin Central Library.

May 4: HeartGift Gala. JW Marriott Hotel.

May 4: Texas Monthly Live. Paramount Theatre.

May 5: Red, Hot and Soul. Zach Theatre.

May 5-6: Pecan Street Festival. East Sixth Street.

May 5: Down & Derby for the Shade Project. Mercury Hall.

May 6: Urban Roots Austin Tour de Farm. Fair Market.

May 8: Philanthropitch Austin. LBJ Auditorium.

May 8: Shoal Creek Awards. Cirrus Logic Conference Space.

May 9: Farm to Plate for Sustainable Food Center. Barr Mansion.

May 10: Due West: West Austin Studio Tour kick-off party. Central Austin Library Gallery.

May 10: Official Drink of Austin Party for Austin Food and Wine Alliance. Fairmont Austin Hotel.

May 11: Reach for the Stars Gala for Ann Richards School Foundation. Four Seasons Hotel.

May 11: Emancipet Luncheon. Hyatt Regency Austin.

May 12: Paramount Gala with the Gipsy Kings. Paramount Theatre.

May 12: Mother’s Day Jazz Brunch for the Frederick Douglass Club of Austin. Crowne Plaza Austin.

May 14: There’s No Such Thing As a Free Lunch for People’s Community Clinic. Four Seasons Hotel.

May 15: Spring For Water for Clean Water Action. Zilker Clubhouse.

May 17: Molly Awards Gala for the Texas Observer. Four Seasons Hotel.

May 19: Austin Under 40 Awards Gala. JW Marriott Hotel.

May 20: Cochon555 Culinary Competition. Four Seasons Hotel.