Asia Society Texas Center Hosts Its Largest Gala, Honors James Baker III
HOUSTON, March 24, 2011 - Asia Society Texas Center hosted its largest and most celebrated Tiger Ball ever here, as more than 650 guests filled the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton-Americas Houston.
The glittering event honored former Secretary of State James A. Baker and Rice University First Lady Y. Ping Sun, and culminated in the announcement of a $25 million Endowment Campaign to support the organization's mission of bringing Asians and Americans together for a shared future.
The evening also included a video salute to ASTC and the honorees from former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush, along with former Ambassador Roy M. Huffington, headed the group of Houstonians that founded ASTC in 1979.
Former Secretary Baker received the Roy M. Huffington Award for Contributions to International Understanding. In his acceptance speech Baker took issue with those who predict inevitable conflict between the United States and China. Baker also congratulated ASTC on its new 38,000-square-foot Center, set to open in March 2012. He noted that the new facility "provides a place to bridge differences, and that, after all, is what diplomacy is all about."
Ms. Sun was presented ASTC's Asian-American Leadership Award for a host of philanthropic activities, and for her exemplary work in advancing education in Houston. Ms. Sun, who serves on ASTC's board of directors, stressed the need to prepare young people to be global citizens, able to thrive in a culturally diverse world.
The gala opened on a serious note, as speakers extended their sympathies to the people of Japan in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. County Judge Ed Emmett, who travels often to Asia, offered a moving recollection of being in Japan on Sept. 11, 2001, as Japanese strangers spontaneously bowed in respect and sympathy when they learned he was an American.
Takahiko Watabe, Japan's Acting Consul General in Houston, offered his thanks to the many Houstonians who have expressed their concern and offered their help. Mayor Annise Parker also spoke, noting the many close ties between Houston and Japan. Master of ceremonies and Channel 11 news anchor Shern-Min Chow, who is also an ASTC Board member, announced that the board had raised $30,000 from its members toward relief efforts in Japan.
The star-studded event was organized by Honorary Co-Chair Nancy C. Allen, a leading ASTC supporter and Board member, and Houston power couples Anne and Albert Chao and Marie and Vijay Goradia, who served as gala co-chairs. Their collective efforts for Tiger Ball 2011 raised a record amount of over $600,000 in support for the organization.
The gala featured a pan-Asian theme, celebrating the diversity of Asian culture. Spectacular kites from Indonesia, Japan, India and other Asian countries, in shapes ranging from sailing ships to dragons, hung above the stage and created an environment of colorful fantasy. Musical entertainment included an Indonesian gamelan ensemble, Japanese Taiko drummers, and Chinese pipa player Gao Hong's trio.
In her announcement of the Board's decision to launch its Endowment Campaign, ASTC Director Martha Blackwelder revealed the startling news that ASTC has already received $2 million in challenge grants toward the current year's goal of $5 million. The Campaign will seek $5 million each year through 2015, and has thus has reached nearly 50 percent of its first year's goal. Endowment income will support the organization's programs and operations in the new Center, located at 1370 Southmore at Caroline in the Museum District.
Among those enjoying the chilled seared tuna, lamb chops chana, and Oriental five-spice basted sea bass were Charles and Lily Foster, Eddie Allen and Chinhui Juhn, David Leebron, Wea Lee, Willie and Linda Chiang, John and Anne Mendelsohn, Anna and Steve Fulgham, Jan Duncan, Michael and Susan Jhin, Frank and Cindy Liu, Renu and Suresh Khator, Jeff Smisek and Diana Strassman, Rick and Nozomi Watanabe, and George and Alice Yang.
James Baker still photo: Jeff Fantich Photography