Society / Featured Parties

Houston’s Coolest Party Ever — $9.5 Million Night With Hamilton Star Sets a New Bar

Houston Methodist Celebrates 100 Years With Jim Nantz, a Superstar Crowd and Record Shattering Fundraising

BY // 11.20.19

Houston Methodist celebrated its 100th anniversary with what was undoubtedly the coolest gala ever held in H-Town. Organizers took over Minute Maid Park for a lavish party with 2,500 guests, entertainment by Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. and the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and tributes to the glorious legacy of the Houston Methodist and those who made it happen.

A record-breaking $9.5 million was raised at the “Rendezvous of the Century Gala,” more than doubling the original goal of $4 million, co-chairs Ann and John Bookout noted.

That astounding success vied for top billing with the chilly temps, which dropped below 45 degrees outside of the grand, but unheated, baseball stadium.

CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, the evening’s emcee, encouraged everyone to applaud loudly to warm up the stadium. “It’s exciting to know that tonight, with all this celebrating going on, Methodist is also going to be holding a ribbon cutting opening up the new hypothermia wing at the Texas Medical Center,” Nantz quipped.

Officials, who picked  Minute Maid for the site of the celebration because of the hospital system’s close relationship with the Houston Astros, checked the almanac beforehand and “normally it’s 65 or 70 degrees this time of year,” Methodist president and CEO Dr. Marc Boom told PaperCity.

“I’ve lived in Houston off and on since 1980 and I’ve never seen it freeze the first half of November, not once,” Boom said. “But you know what? It will make it extra special. We are referring to (the gala) as the ‘winter wonderland,’ telling everyone to bundle up and have a great time.

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“It is always going us give us something to talk about: Remember that awesome party and, boy, it was cold.”

Once the weather forecast was imminent, guests were encouraged to don their “favorite warm coats, scarves, gloves, boots, warm socks or tights but still maintain the integrity of the event since it is a ‘cocktail attire’ evening.” They followed the suggested dress code in eschewing ski jackets in favor of stylish fur coats, hats and other tasteful cold weather accessories. Astros owner Jim Crane sported an orange Astros muffler with his camel coat.

As Crane explained during a VIP reception in the Diamond Club that preceded the gala, the stadium is air-conditioned but has no heat because baseball is not played in Houston in the winter.

The chilly weather didn’t dampen the enthusiasm as guests warmed themselves under space heaters scattered throughout the infield near home plate during cocktail hour before dinner in a posh art-deco-inspired supper club setting created by Blooming Gallery in the outfield. Guests chowed down on short ribs, potatoes and grilled asparagus, which Aramark remarkably managed to keep warm while serving the large crowd.

Odom also warmed up the audience after dinner with a selection of hits made famous by the legendary Nat King Cole and a fireworks display capped off the evening’s festivities.

Beyond Big Time Guests

Maria and Neil Bush represented the Bush family as honorary chairs and former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush welcomed the crowd in a video. Throughout the evening, a number of “marquee honorees” were saluted in special categories:  Faith — Bess and Bishop A. Frank Smith, Physician — Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, Partner— Houston Astros, Leadership — John F. Bookout, Philanthropy — Paula and Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter III, and Centennial — Ella and Walter Fondren and family.

For Nantz, emceeing the event was personal.

“I love this city. I love this hospital. I’m deeply honored to have my family associated with it,” he said. “We’re in the ninth year of opening and creating the world’s greatest alzheimer’s clinic and research institute at Houston Methodist named for my beloved late father. It’s an ongoing vital part of my life and we are doing some great things.”

Houston Methodist Gala
Laurie & Tracy Krohn (Photo by Jenny Antill.

The gala capped off a full year of activity as Methodist also celebrated its milestone anniversary with a lecture series, a digital historical wall, a $500 million fundraising campaign, and a premiere screening of an 80-minute documentary, Houston Methodist: The Hospital with a Soul. A new book celebrating the hospital’s history by Dr. Bryant Boutwell will be released next month.

Boom also proudly noted that the number of endowed chairs at Houston Methodist has dramatically increased to 105 during the centennial year, thanks to the generosity of Rusty and Paula Walter, who in 2017 donated $101 million to accelerate Methodist’s neuroscience research efforts.

Since its inception in 1919, Houston Methodist has grown from a 30-bed hospital to a leading academic medical system in the Texas Medical Center and Greater Houston area, with a system of eight hospitals, more than 2,000 beds, 6,700 affiliated physicians and 25,000 employees.

“We’ve been looking forward to this evening for a long, long, long time,” Boom said. “There are not many institutions that get to celebrate 100 years.”

Joining in the celebration were former Houston Methodist CEOs Ron Girotto and Larry Mathis, Rice University president David LeBron, Texas Medical Center board chair emeritus Holcombe Crosswell and Emily Crosswell, Weill Cornell Medical College chairman emeritus Sanford I. Weill, who reminded the crowd that he remains a Yankees fan (to scattered boos), Rachel and Jeff Bagwell, Patty and Craig Biggio, Janet and Ernie H. Cockrell, Estela and David Cockrell, Stephanie and Ernie D. Cockrell, and Jan Duncan.

PC Seen: Bobbie Nau, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Whitney Crane, Dr. Julie Boom, Laurie and Tracy Krohn, Regina Rogers, Ginger Blanton, Connie Dyer, Lesha and Tom Elsenbrook, Ann and Peter Fluor, Lacey and Matt Goossen, Libbie and Greg Nelson, Lynda Underwood, Sarah and Duncan Underwood, Sue Smith and Craig Brown, Evan and Nicole Katz, Beth Wolff, and Nancy Ames and Danny Ward, whose production company produced the gala.

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