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Jenna C. Taylor

Karen K. Kaplan,
Assistant Vice President
of Public Affairs
Director of University
Publications and Design
Chief Communications Officer


Cynthia J. Johnson, PhD
Director of Development Communications

Kevin J. Foyle, MBA, CFRE
Vice President
for Development

Gratias Dono 2010 honors volunteers and contributors

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) honored volunteers and contributors for “Gifts that Change Life” at the second annual Gratias Dono celebration of philanthropy on March 24, 2010.

“Exploranda,” a tribute to the Age of Discovery, was the theme of the event, which recognized both service and gifts to UTHealth.

University of Texas System Vice Chancellor for External Relations Randa Safady, PhD, emceed the program, which featured a video presentation. In a series of clips that opened with a statement by President Larry R. Kaiser, MD, about UTHealth and its mission, the audience heard the stories of individuals who had made life-changing gifts to the institution and those whose lives had been transformed by those gifts.

Kaiser personally recognized major contributors to the university, who were featured in a presentation. He noted the generous support the university has received from the Texas Legislature and recognized State Representatives Debbie Riddle and Beverly Woolley, who were present at the dinner.

During the evening, UTHealth honored Development Board service, too. Board member and former chair, Peggy Barnett, was made a Life Member, becoming the 11th to receive the distinction. Three other Life Members received longhorn steer sculptures from Development Board Chair Eugene H. Vaughan: Beth Robertson, Buddy Hightower Sr. and Buddy Hightower Jr.

The event’s setting evoked Renaissance Florence, where civic philanthropy helped change the course of history. Safady explained that the theme, which means “the things which must be discovered,” honored not only those whose insights and cutting-edge work change our lives but those who believe in that work and support it. “For hundreds of years, philanthropists have enabled brilliant minds to achieve greatness,” Safady observed.

Vaughan agreed, quoting astronaut Frank Borman, “Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” He added that the spirit of exploration “is alive and well at this university.” He also commended the Development Board, acknowledging current and former members, Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT), and Advisory Councils for their service.

The late John P. McGovern, MD, and his wife Katherine were recognized with a special award for their family’s contributions to education, research and health care. Mrs. McGovern received a gift from UTHealth.

Cynthia J. Johnson, PhD, Office of Advancement