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Ashlee and Chris Kleinert

Southern Methodist University (SMU) president, R. Gerald Turner, PhD, was honored on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 with the 12th annual Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award for his academic, civic, educational and business leadership in Dallas.  Recognizing his love for education, music, sports and all-things SMU, the evening brought together family, friends, colleagues, and even the SMU mascot, for an unforgettable celebration.

Established in 2005, the Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award recognizes individuals whose demonstrated commitment to excellence in community leadership emulate the achievements of former Dallas Mayor Robert S. Folsom.  The 2016 event raised $1.4 million proceeds, which were designated by Dr. Turner and his wife Gail, to create a world-class simulation laboratory at Methodist Dallas Medical for the Graduate Medical Education Program. 

As the evening began, nearly 800 attendees arrived at the Hilton Anatole Dallas and mingled over cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres outside the Grand Ballroom.  At the appointed time, the doors opened to sounds of SMU’s renowned a cappella groups, the SMU Belle Tones and the SMU Southern Gentlemen, performing some of Dr. Turner’s favorite songs.  As guests took their seats, master of ceremonies Michael Boone, co-founder of Haynes and Boone and 2012 Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award recipient took the stage.  After welcoming attendees, Boone recognized this year’s recipient, Dr. Turner, as well as the “first lady of SMU,” Gerald’s wife, Gail.  He also recognized the 2016 event co-chairs, Kelli and Gerald J. Ford, Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt, and Lottye and Bobby B. Lyle, who were seated nearby.

Reverend Mark Craig, member of the Methodist Health System Foundation board and 2013 Folsom Award recipient, followed with the invocation.  As guests enjoyed their first course, Stephen L. Mansfield, PhD, FACHE, president and CEO of Methodist Health System, added his congratulations to Dr. Turner and thanked all in attendance for their support of the hospital system. 

“Over the last 10 years, I have watched with pride as the Folsom Award has become one of the most prestigious traditions in North Texas,” remarked Mansfield.  “Thank you for your commitment to make Methodist Health System the provider of choice for so many.  When this year ends, Methodist will have served nearly 1 million North Texans.  Your support enables us to continue to fulfill our mission of improving and saving lives through compassionate quality healthcare.  Thank you for making that mission possible.” 

One of Dr. Turner’s daughters, Angela Turner Wilson, gave a special musical tribute as she was joined onstage by Clifton Forbis, associate professor and chair of voice at SMU, with Brian Bentley, adjunct professor in vocal and performance at SMU on piano, with a performance of one of Dr. Turner’s favorite hymns, Great is Thy Faithfulness.  

As dinner was completed, Boone revealed that one of Dr. Turner’s favorite pastimes and sports is tennis.  CBS Sports and Tennis Channel broadcaster, Bill Macatee, joined via video to congratulate Dr. Turner and to introduce his weekly tennis group, self-named the “Smiters,” who play each week in the “Saturday Morning Invitational Tournament (SMIT).” Named by fellow-SMIT founder and former owner of the Dallas Stars, Norm Green, each week a partnership is awarded the SMIT trophy, patterned after the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup. “Smiters” Chris Kleinert, Frank Campbell, Dale Petroskey and SMU’s All-American Kit Carson came on stage and shared stories of Dr. Turner’s success on and off the court.  Ms. Carson closed by announcing that in honor of Dr. Turner and his love of SMU, the weekly event has been renamed the “Super Mustang Invitational Tournament,” after SMU’s mascot.

April Box, CFRE, president and CEO of Methodist Health System Foundation, followed and echoed Dr. Turner’s love of music, sharing he has been known to create mixed CD’s for friends as well as attend live shows, such as Dire Straits.  Box asked patrons to put on the wristbands located at their seats, and turn on the LED lights to create a concert spirit for the next surprise…SMU graduate and Academy of Country Music award-winning singer/songwriter, Jack Ingram.

To much applause, Jack Ingram took the stage with his acoustic guitar.  He recounted memories from his time at SMU, as well as his successes as a professional musician, as he performed three of his hit songs, including his first number one single, Wherever You Are.

Box returned with one more surprise, a personalized early-release of “The Whistler,” written by one of Dr. Turner’s long-time friends since his days at Ole Miss, author John Grisham.  She also took a moment to recognize the evening’s co-chairs, the many sponsors including presenting sponsor The Lupe Murchison Foundation, as well as the Folsom family members who were in attendance, Methodist Health System Foundation board chairman Steve Folsom and his wife Sharon, Bob Folsom’s daughter Diane Frank and her husband Robert, and Bob Folsom’s daughter Debbie Jarma and her husband Don.

Box took a few moments to salute Dr. Turner’s many accomplishments.

“Methodist Health System is proud to celebrate great leaders in Dallas.  When Dr. Turner came to SMU in 1995 he had a vision to build SMU into a world-renowned university.  His vision is today a reality,” said Box.  “Ellen Johnson Sirlef, Africa’s first woman president, is known for saying ‘If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.’  Thank you, Dr. Turner, for having big dreams. As the longest serving president of SMU, you have led an era of unprecedented progress, including a $1 billion major gifts campaign that surpassed its goal three months ahead of schedule.  You have truly impacted our lives.”

Dr. Turner joins a prestigious group of past recipients including Robert S. Folsom (2005), Nancy Ann Hunt (2006), Troy Aikman (2007), Laura Bush (2008), the late Norman Brinker (2009), Pat and Emmitt Smith (2010), Trevor Rees-Jones (2011), Michael M. Boone (2012), Rev. Mark Craig (2013), Bobby B. Lyle (2014), and Jack Lowe, Jr. (2015).

Following, attendees enjoyed a special tribute video featuring past recipients, board members, SMU trustees, and long-time friends, who all shared their admiration for Dr. Turner and his many successes throughout his life.

Dr. Turner humbly accepted the 2016 Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award from Ms. Box, before extending his gratitude to the Foundation, friends and colleagues in attendance, SMU and of course his beloved family.

Since its inception, the Folsom Award events have netted more than $15 million to benefit Methodist Health System’s programs and services.  For more information about supporting the 2017 Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award and Methodist Health System, contact Angela Nash, vice president, 214.947.4596 or  More information is available at

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