UTHealth took the opportunity to thank its lucky stars – donors and faculty members – at the inaugural Constellation Gala on November 14. A glittering celestial backdrop set the stage with deep hues of purple, blue and pink sprinkled with stars, creating a breathtaking atmosphere for one of the most memorable nights in UTHealth history. Stars shone brightly all night inside the Hilton Americas where over 600 guests came together to pay tribute to one of Houston’s legendary health care leaders, Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. in addition to honoring UTHealth’s star clinicians, scientists and researchers who are quietly revolutionizing the future of health care.
Even with a clear night sky, not every bright star at UTHealth can be readily seen by observers, but they are there, contributing daily to the intricate constellation that is UTHealth. Whether they are shining brightly on the front lines or just as brightly behind-the-scenes, each is doing their part to advance the future of health care in Houston and beyond. The Constellation Gala highlighted some of the outstanding work of these stars, as well as the legacy of one of our most dazzling superstars focusing on what is important – helping others. A man known for his love of service, love of medicine and his many contributions to the field of health care, Dr. Duke sets the example for the type of health care leaders we aspire to train at UTHealth.
Attendees got a glimpse of the man behind the scrubs. In a touching video tribute, Dr. Duke’s colleagues and friends shared their admiration for his contributions to medicine, his compassionate care of patients and his drive to impart his knowledge and experience to students, residents and colleagues alike. The video was a prelude to the announcement by Mistress of Ceremonies, Linda Lorelle, that in honor of Dr. Duke’s footprint on UTHealth, the institution is launching a year-long fundraising initiative to create the first full-ride endowed scholarship for medical students, the James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. M.D. Endowed Scholarship.
President Colasurdo paid tribute to Dr. Duke at the event, saying, “We all know his name. We have seen his news reports on TV. Many of us are fortunate to call him a friend and a mentor. And some people in this room tonight are alive tonight because of him. Whether you know him as Dr. Duke, or Jim, or Red, or “Yes Sir!”, you know him as a skilled but humble man who has dedicated his life to healing sick patients, to improving patient care and outcomes, and to training the next generation of life-savers.”
Dr. Duke was accompanied by his daughter, Sara, as he accepted the accolades with his trademark humility and humor. “I’m so thankful I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of this,” Dr. Duke said. “These students need all the help they can get, and we oughta try and find every way we can to help 'em because I don't know how they're going to pay for what they've been doing.” After regaling the audience with stories, Duke delivered his signature sign-off from the popular Texas Health Reports that helped put UTHealth on the map and made him one of the most recognized surgeons in the United States: “From The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, I’m Dr. Red Duke.” He put on his cowboy hat and exited the stage as the crowd rose to thunderous applause.
Ginni Mithoff, who chaired the UTHealth Constellation Gala with her husband, Richard, said, “The theme of this evening, Constellation, represents the character of this great institution; as a constellation in the night sky is made of many brightly shining stars, so do the unique people who are UTHealth shine together as one of the nation’s premiere health universities.”
After dinner, the Luminaries - a volunteer group of young leaders committed to fostering the continued growth and development of UTHealth - lit up the night at the Club No Ursa Minor After-Party. Hundreds of guests from the Gala joined in the fun dancing to the music of the band Skyrocket! The proceeds from the After-Party will benefit The Children’s Learning Institute at UTHealth and their Texas School Ready! Project.
Notables who attended the inspiring evening included: UTHealth Development Board Chair Bob Graham and his wife Annie, Memorial Hermann-TMC CEO Craig Cordola and his wife Allison, Suzan and Julius Glickman, Leslie and Jack Blanton, Jr., Margaret Alkek Williams, Maria and Christopher J. Pappas, Beth Robertson and Steve Pearce, Kay and Fred Zeidman, Melinda and Mike Perrin, Nancy Guinee, Evelyn Griffin, Shirley and Jim Dannenbaum, Antje and Harry Gee, Catherine and Gary Brock, and Carolyn Keenan and Charlie Gaines.
Thanks to the generosity of our wonderful donors, sponsors and friends of UTHealth, over $1.85 million dollars was raised to benefit UTHealth students and faculty today and for generations to come, helping to recruit top faculty, advance research and provide scholarships for the students who will be the stars of tomorrow. Additionally, Marcie Zlotnik, Kenneth Lewis and Mark and Laura Musemeche were among the first to enthusiastically support the James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. M.D. scholarship initiative as high bidders on the two live auction items featured at the event, spectacular vacation packages to stargaze in Big Bend, Texas and Big Sky, Montana. Within minutes, more than $43,000 was raised for the scholarship in Duke’s name. It is with support like this that UTHealth is able to explore what is possible in the field of medicine and to expand our ability to form partnerships to further research, treatments and care for patients. We thank all of our generous supporters this year and look forward to what we will be able to accomplish together in the years ahead.
For more information on supporting UTHealth or the Duke Scholarship, please contact:
Kevin J. Foyle