Two Texans Honored as Great Contributors by Dallas Arboretum

Two Texans receive Great Contributors award
Ben Weber, Marilyn Weber, former First Lady Laura Bush, DABS Board Chair Jim Ryan Photo: Steve Foxall/ Dallas Arboretum

Two remarkable Texans: Former First Lady Laura Bush and the Hon. Kay Bailey Hutchison, were honored at Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden’s annual Great Contributors Award dinner Nov. 15.

The Great Contributors Award is bestowed on individuals whose contributions have made an important positive impact on the state, country and world. Dallas Arboretum works to contribute to Dallas worldwide recognition. Funds raised help the Dallas Arboretum fund the 100,000 school-age children who attend field trips. They also underwrite 25,000 tickets to provide access to the garden to those unable to pay; and provide upkeep for the 66-acre garden to remain “best in class.”

Dallas Arboretum board chairman Jim Ryan welcomed 200 guests to the dinner. Tom Gilcrest sang the invocation with two Texas favorite songs—”Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “God Bless America.”

Ryan said, “We want to thank all of you here tonight–for your support, sponsorship and friendship to the Dallas Arboretum. It’s my pleasure to introduce our event honorary co-chairs, Marilyn and Ben Weber, who will introduce this year’s Great Contributors honorees when our program begins.

Great Contributors Award to Former First Lady Laura Bush

Ben Weber introduced Laura Bush, noting, “One of the most beloved and admired First Ladies of Texas and of the United States, Laura Bush continues to bring dignity and honor to our state and our country. A champion of key issues in the fields of education, health care and women’s rights, Mrs. Bush remains committed to issues of global concern through her work at the George W. Bush Institute.”

“As a lifelong conservationist, Mrs. Bush has visited more than 30 national parks and historic sites, spotlighting our country’s national treasures and natural wonders. She is passionate about prairie restoration, native plantings and saving our migrating birds. Mrs. Bush is the proud founder of Texan by Nature, which brings conservation and business together to protect our state’s people, plants and prosperity,” Weber said.

Laura Bush remarked, “I am thrilled to be here to accept the Dallas Arboretum’s Great Contributor Award because, as I’m sure many of you know, I am an outdoor enthusiast.
Well, the reason I agreed to accept this award tonight is so I could come on stage to recognize the true greatest contributor in the room – and that’s Mary Brinegar. Mary brought her passion for education to the Arboretum, furthering the nonprofit’s mission to build and maintain a public garden that promotes the art, enjoyment and knowledge of horticulture, while providing opportunities for education and research…so join me in giving a heartfelt thanks to the Dallas Arboretum’s Greatest Contributor, my friend, Mary Brinegar.”

Hon. Kay Bailey Hutchison Interviewed by Rena Pederson

Marilyn Weber introduced Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rena Pederson, who moderated the discussion.

Sam Coats, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Bailey Hutchison, Tom Gilchrist-photo by Steve Foxall/Dallas Arboretum

“The Dallas Arboretum is pleased to bestow its Great Contributor Award to The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison. Her lifetime of service to our nation has been extraordinary. For 20 years, she served the State of Texas as a U.S. Senator, and for more than three years, she served as the United States Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). She has written three books, and continues to serve on many prestigious local, national and international boards. Recognizing her lifetime of service, the Dallas City Council named the city’s Convention Center after her. Her alma mater, the University of Texas, proudly houses The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business. Their emphasis is on providing opportunities for business and law students to learn more about the energy industry. Sharing her unique insight on activities in our country and the international issues facing America.”

Weber added. “Rena (Pederson) has been a trailblazer for women in journalism in Texas, and Texas Monthly named her as one of the most powerful women in the state. The author of four books, she served on the Pulitzer Prize Board for nine years and received national recognition as Vice President and Editorial Page Editor at The Dallas Morning News for 16 years.”

Pederson asked Hutchison questions about the world affairs, particularly Poland, NATO, Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan and more. Hutchison had a front seat to many of these developments in her role and shared the history of these situations.

Following the conversation, Marilyn Weber said, “Kay, thank you for your many contributions that have brought positive change and strength in leadership to our country. The Dallas Arboretum is honored to present you with our Great Contributors Award with our heartfelt appreciation.”

Jim Ryan closed the evening by thanking everyone who attended to honor these great women, adding, “And thanks to each of you as you are also our Great Contributors and have continued to believe the dream of what we offer to our guests.”



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Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.