By Elizabeth Lenart | Contributor

A sold-out crowd of 300 filled the ballroom on Thursday, February 20, at the Belo Mansion for the TWU Dallas Leadership Luncheon to celebrate the 18th Annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Award Recipient Jennifer Staubach Gates, a lifelong Dallas resident now in her fourth term representing District 13 on the Dallas City Council. The award is given annually to Dallas leaders dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community and to furthering the importance of education. The luncheon, presented by Bank of Texas and sponsored by Luther King Capital Management, was founded by TWU Alumna and Visionary Virginia Chandler Dykes, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. The annual event also recognizes the achievements of five scholarship award recipients. 

As luncheon guests dined on salad, herb-dusted filet beef, mashed potatoes, carrots and green beans, Dr. Kimberly Russell, vice president of university advancement/executive director, TWU Foundation, welcomed distinguished guests such as Senator Nathan Johnson and Dallas City Councilmembers Lee Kleinman and Chad West. She also recognized Bank of Texas as the 13-year presenting sponsor of the luncheon.

Bob White, executive vice president of Bank of Texas, recounted the bank’s history with the luncheon and introduced past Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award recipients in attendance: Mary Brinegar (2014), Ralph Hawkins (2015), Kathleen Mason (2010), Dale Petroskey (2019), and Kern Wildenthal (2006). He recognized the scholarship students “whose hard work and service make the world a better place” and credited Dykes for her leadership, concluding how “we are all honored to be a part of what you started so long ago.”

Scott Neuendorf, vice president & portfolio manager of Luther King Capital Management, the luncheon sponsor, also thanked Dykes for her vision and leadership in planting the seeds almost 20 years ago for this inspiring event, celebrating Dallas’ best and brightest, from the honorees to the scholarship recipients who “put aside their self-interests and champion a better community.”

Dr. Carine Feyten, TWU Chancellor and President, began her remarks with “when you believe in something, the stars align.” She thanked Bank of Texas and the TWU Foundation Board and others stating she could not imagine TWU without this event and credited Virginia Chandler Dykes as an inspiration to everyone. She announced that the luncheon has raised almost $1 million for scholarships through the years and this year alone raised $110,000. She also recognized the five 2020 Virginia Chandler Dykes Scholarship recipients: Lou Ann Hintz of Lubbock, College of Health Sciences; Nisha Mathews of Houston, College of Nursing; Aubree Evans of Denton, College of Arts and Sciences; Alex Conner of Burleson, College of Business; and Lorna Durrant of Cleburne, College of Professional Education. Each will receive a scholarship award worth $4,000.

After highlighting the purpose of the annual award and his longtime friendship with Dykes, Luncheon Chair Ralph Hawkins, chairman emeritus with HKS, Inc., turned the microphone over to Dykes, who shared how meaningful this event is to her. She thanked the sold-out crowd and recounted the luncheon’s humble beginnings at Lakewood Country Club with 100 attendees. She concluded by recognizing the scholarship recipients and expressing her joy in their interest in education.

Following a video presentation on the life work Jennifer Staubach Gates with interviews by Councilmember Lee Kleinman; Mary Vache; and daughter Jessica Whitsitt, Gates was presented with the 2020 Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award.

Moved by the video, Gates thanked attendees and congratulated the scholars, stating “I share this stage with you.” She expressed her gratitude to Dykes and the numerous contributors, “We are all here today because you made a choice to give back to the community.”  She shared that she was present at the Lakewood Country Club for the very first luncheon because she was working on Camp Summit with Susan Cooper, who was the first Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award honoree along with her husband Charles. “I would have never imagined I would be standing here today.”

A highlight of her talk was regarding leadership and how it does not happen by chance. “We are all products of the environment, and my first blessing is being the first child of Marianne and Roger Staubach.” As Gates became choked up, she looked at her Dad and said, “Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dad.” She explained that was a trick her father had taught her. “Whenever you get emotional, just think of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” implying that thinking about your dislike of the team helps you control yourself.”

She praised her family who “let me be me, held me accountable, and loved me unconditionally” and thanked her siblings, her “partners in crime and best friends.” She bestowed love upon her in-laws, children and grandchildren, stating there is no greater joy than being a mom. To her husband, John Gates, she credited him with always knowing the right time to whisper in her ear, “Jen, you got this.”

Gates concluded that her formal education as a nurse laid the groundwork for her to be a leader and serve the community. “TWU needs your support because we all know that education is the greatest equalizer. It has the ability to change lives.”

Guests also included Mary Anne Alhadeff, Brent Christopher, Trisha Cunningham, Jack Gates, Jordan Gates, Melva Gates, Carol Glendenning, Don Glendenning, Michelle Grimes, Margaret Keliher, Sarah Losinger, Cheryl Mansour, David Martineau, Harriet Miers, Margot Murphy, Marianne Staubach, Roger Staubach, Jeff Staubach, Jenny Staubach, Jessica Whitsitt, and Will Whitsitt.

Photo Credit: Kristina Bowman

group photo
TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Carine Feyten, Bob White, Bank of Texas, presenting sponsor, Virginia Chandler Dykes, Ralph Hawkins, luncheon chair and 2015 recipient of the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership award, 2020 Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Recipient Jennifer
Staubach Gates


older couple
Marianne Staubach, Roger Staubach


group of women
Mary Vache, Kathleen Wunderlick, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Melva Gates, Jessica Whitsitt


man and women
Dr. James Lumpkin, Dean, College of Business, TWU; Alex Conner, Virginia Chandler Dykes Scholarship Recipient, College of Business


TWU Ambassador Chad Wick, TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Carine Feyten, Jennifer Staubach Gates, John Gates


Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award recipients
Dale Petroskey, 2019 recipient of the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award; Dr. Kimberly Russell, TWU; Bob White, Bank of Texas, presenting sponsor


Virginia Chandler Dykes with award recipient
TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Carine Feyten, Virginia Chandler Dykes, 2020 Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Recipient Jennifer Staubach Gates


Group of women at the TWU Dallas Leadership Luncheon
TWU Regent Janelle Shepard, Regent Jill Jester, Student Regent Lexi D’Abrosa, Regent Bernadette Coleman


man and woman at TWU Dallas Leadership Luncheon
Hon. Chad West, Trisha Cunningham


group of women at the TWU Dallas Leadership Luncheon
Judy Switzer; Janet Marcum; Suzy Birnbaum; Kathleen Mason, 2010 recipient of the Virginia Chandler Dykes Award; Sharon Venable


TWU Chancellor and President at the TWU Dallas Leadership Luncheon
Hon. Margaret Keliher; TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Carine Feyten; Mary Brinegar, 2014 Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award recipient