Great Contributors Award honors positive change, strength in leadership

By Terry Lendecker

On November 15, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden’s annual Great Contributors Award dinner honored two remarkable Texas women — Laura Bush and The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The Great Contributors Award is bestowed on individuals whose contributions have made an important positive impact on the state, country and world as the Dallas Arboretum works to contribute to Dallas recognition from throughout the world. 

Funds raised help the Dallas Arboretum fund the 100,000 school-age children who attend field trips; 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.”

Jim Ryan, Dallas Arboretum board chairman, welcomed 200 guests, saying, “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.”

Tom Gilcrest sang the invocation with two Texas favorite songs — “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “God Bless America.” 

Ben Weber, Marilyn Weber, Great Contributor Award Honoree Laura Bush and Jim Ryan. Photo courtesy of Steve Foxall/Dallas Arboretum

Ben Weber introduced Laura Bush. “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. ”

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.”

Marilyn Weber introduced Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rena Pederson, who moderated the discussion. “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. Sharing her unique insight on activities in our country and the international issues facing America, she will be interviewed by Rena Pederson.”

Weber continued, adding: “Rena has been a trailblazer for women in journalist 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, thanking 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.”