Society / Featured Parties

Reluctant Billionaire Steps Out of His Comfort Zone to Help Raise Record Amount for Vital Hospital: Energy Mogul Opens Up for M.D. Anderson

BY // 11.20.17

Neither Rich Kinder, billionaire founder and executive chairman of Kinder Morgan, nor his wife, Nancy, are fond of media attention. They, in fact, prefer to keep a reasonably low profile even while dolling out millions in philanthropy. So it was no small surprise to find that he had agreed to be interviewed on stage at the Hilton Americas-Houston as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s 2017 Living Legend.

Asking the question that everyone in the gathering of 600 was wondering, NBC news national correspondent Janet Shamlian queried what prompted him to agree to this painful 30 minutes in the spotlight.

“Actually, Bob McNair is the culprit,” Kinder quipped. “I owed him a favor and he called and he talked me into this. So I’m going to pay him back at some point . . . And he’s very proud of having tricked me. He laughed and said, ‘Oh you’re going to enjoy this.’ And I told him I’d rather go to the dentist and have a root canal.”

But there he was in the spotlight genially handling the pre-approved questions in an informative, sometimes playful and sometimes moving conversation. He choked up briefly when talking about his brother whose lymphoma was cured at M.D. Anderson. The interview focus was on the generous work of the Kinder Foundation.

“Nancy and I decided a long time ago . . .  that if you are going to be meaningful philanthropists, you have to have some priorities,” Kinder said. “So we decided that we would concentrate on transformational gifts. We defined it very simply as making gifts that allow a project to succeed when it otherwise wouldn’t have without our help.” Those priorities have included urban green spaces ( Buffalo Bayou Park and Discovery Green), educational programs and quality of life issues.

Kinder on stage was not the only remarkable aspect of the dinner evening. The event raised more than $1.3 million, surpassing all M.D. Anderson Living Legend events in cities across Texas since the signature event began in 1990. Applause, applause for chairs Denise Monteleone and Ellie and Michael Francisco and honorary chairs Patsy Fourticq, Barbara and Charles Hurwitz, Kelli Kickerillo and Todd Forester, Joan Schnitzer Levy and Cyvia Wolff.

The evening also served to introduce incoming M.D. Anderson president Peter W.T. Pisters with greetings from interim president Marshall Hicks. Shara Fryer served as emcee of the evening.

Cancer warriors: Janice and Bob McNair, Hannah and Cal McNair, Regina Rogers, Sara and Bill Morgan, Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, Barbara and Gerald Hines, Anne and Dr. John Mendelsohn, Rufus and Yvonne Cormier, George Lancaster, Katie and Pat Oxford, Roxann and Tim Neumann, Kathy and Marty Goossen and Melinda and Steve Winn.

Curated Collection