Society / Featured Parties

Legendary Ranch Brings Rex Tillerson to Houston for $1 Million Night — and a Powerful Message

Artists and CEOs Come Together

BY // 11.07.19
photography Rick Kern/Getty Images for Ucross

With Rex Tillerson, former Secretary of State and former chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, as honoree and with $1 million in proceeds, the first dinner and benefit for the Ucross Foundation was a masterful success in Houston.

For more than 30 years, Ucross, the 20,000 acre ranch in northern Wyoming, has served as the incubator for creative thinking among serious artists and groups striving for the same across multi-disciplinary fields.  It was founded by Raymond Plank, a founder of Apache the nation’s largest independent oil and gas companies. He opened his working ranch in Wyoming’s high plains to artistis in 1981. He died at his home on the ranch in November of last year.

Tillerson was the first to receive the Raymond Plank Award for Visionary Leadership in the evening at The Revaire which was filled with performances by Ucross alumni and special guests.

With  Alley Theatre actor Elizabeth Bunch serving as host, the evening included performances by award-winning composer and pianist Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) and Tony Award-winning actor and singer Laura Benanti (My Fair Lady). Guests were also treated to the music of local 15-piece big band Doc Loc & the Swangers, who played the music of Ucross alumnus Frank London; dancers from the Houston Ballet Academy under the direction of Oliver Halkowich, with original music composed by Ucross alumnus Michael Remson; and a start to the evening with The Houston Children’s Chorus.

In powerful remarks, Tillerson emphasized the need for civil discourse and the unique role the arts can play in helping the United States heal as a nation.

“Raymond would have wanted me to say something useful, so I spent some time thinking about the state of our Union, and the divided way in which we discuss things, and how treat each other as Americans.” Tillerson said.

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“I believe that the arts play an important role in trying to restore a more thoughtful, and kinder discourse, and help the American people re-connect with their country. I believe the arts can help reunify this country, and my request of you is that you think about that, because I know Raymond would want us to think about that too.”

The $1 million raised on this evening aids in the fulfillment of Plank’s dream of giving artists the chance to create art that connects and changes the world.

Since its founding, the Ucross Foundation has provided more than 2,000 residencies to some of the world’s most accomplished artists, including 10 Pulitzer Prize winners, eight MacArthur “genius” grantees, seven Tony Award winners, six National Book Award winners, two Academy Award winners, and an Emmy Award winner.

PC Seen: Ucross board president Jim Nelson; Roger Plank, CEO of Apex International and former CFO of Apache Corporation; Eloise Dunn Brice, University of Houston Vice Chancellor/Vice President for University Advancement; Cristina Rivera-Garza, renowned Mexican author and distinguished professor of Hispanic Studies, and director of UH’s PhD program for creative writing (in Spanish); Alley Theatre artistic director Rob Melrose; David Preng, CEO and president of Preng & Associates; and Corby Robertson, chairman, and CEO of Natural Resources Partners.

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