Society / The Seen

Houston Oil Tycoon’s $50 Million Gift Propels a Jaw-Dropping $83 Million Night That Sets an All-Time Texas Record

Texas Children’s Hospital Benefits From the Biggest Charity Night Ever

BY // 10.02.18
photography Jenny Antill Clifton, Wilson Parish

As long as his West Texas oil wells keep on pumping, wildcatter and uber philanthropist Lester Smith is going to keep on giving. Case in point was Saturday night’s benefit for Texas Children’s Hospital. Sue and Lester Smith contributed an unprecedented $50 million for the benefit. And that was just the beginning.

“The Legacy of Motown” gala at Revention Music Center proved to be a true gusher for TCH with proceeds soaring past $83 million, a state record for fundraising in a single night. The oversized check presentation that had the 650 guests on their feet, applauding revealed an astounding total of $83,373,119.

“I love giving away money. That’s the only reason I work is to make more money to give more money away,” Lester Smith tells PaperCity. “And it just seems that the more money I make and the more I give away, the more money I make. I don’t understand it, but I like it.”

The Smiths were joined in their fundraising efforts by his children and their spouses, Shelly and Brian Hendry and Limor and Stuart Smith, a mighty trio of chair couples. Add honorary chairs Carol and Mike Linn to the powerful mix. The Linns have held the reins of  Texas Children’s Hospital’s capital campaign with a goal of $475 million. With this night’s proceeds the total raised climbed to $567 million, prompting Texas Children’s CEO Mark Wallace to proclaim the campaign complete with no more fundraising until the campaign’s original closing date of 2020.

For their generosity, the TCH Legacy Tower has been rebranded as the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. This follows the path of 2012, when the Smiths headed the Disco Legends benefit that raised a remarkable $32.2 million for the children’s cancer center. For their generosity in this effort, the cancer center clinic was named in their honor as the Lester and Sue Smith Clinic.

The phenomenal fundraiser honored TCH leaders Wallace, Dr. Larry Hollier Jr., surgeon in chief; Dr. Mark Kline, physician in chief; and Dr. David Poplack, Texas Children’s Cancer Center associate director.

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“They don’t turn anybody down,” Lester says, explaining his affection for Texas Children’s. “These children are innocent. They are vulnerable. Fifty percent of the people that come to Texas Children’s are underserved. I cannot stand to see people suffer especially little children, anybody, even animals. It’s just part of my DNA.”

The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation underwrote expenses of the evening that included spotlighting established and emerging local performing artists backed by the Basement Soul Orchestra and the Southern-influenced buffet dinner provided by Catering by Culinaire. Chef/owner Barbara McKnight was in the trenches insuring that the fried chicken tenders, prime angus brisket, mac and cheese, shrimp and grits and more were appropriately mouthwatering.

Who: Emcee Deborah Duncan, Nancy and Jim Gordon, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Trini Mendenhall, Jan Duncan, Becky Cooke, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Martha and James Madget, Ed McMahon and Hershey Grace, Sidney Faust, Trish and Rock Morille, Maria and Neil Bush, Devon and Taylor Liedtke, Laurie and Chris DeClaire, Katie and John Daily, and Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck.

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