More than 1,200 people turned out to celebrate a philanthropic society that has been making a major difference in Dallas for the past 30 years. Ruth Sharp Atlshuler began hand-writing letters encouraging her friends and acquaintances to contribute to the United Way in 1987, and that small act set in motion a legacy that has grown tremendously over the past few decades.
Now named in her honor, the Ruth Altshuler Tocqueville Society recognizes civic and business leaders whose vision for North Texas is matched only by their generosity. The more than 950 members each contribute $10,000 or more annually, bringing hope and essential aid while helping shape the region's future.
Altshuler was honored at the United Way's luncheon, held at the Omni Dallas, along with 2017 Decades of Distinction Award winners Margaret McDermott and Margot Perot.
McDermott, who turned 105 this past February, founded the McDermott Foundation with her late husband, Eugene (the founder of Texas Instruments), in 1955. Millions of dollars have since been donated in support of educational, cultural, social, and other civic ventures. Perot has lived in Dallas with her husband, Ross, since 1957, and has served on numerous philanthropic and civic boards. She also chaired the first Dallas Tocqueville Society member dinner in 1987.
United Way board chair Anne Motsenbocker and foundation board chair Jason Downing each welcomed and thanked the crowd — the group's largest ever turnout — before Ross Perot Jr. gave a short introduction to Altshuler and her work.
Luncheon chair Regen Fearon stressed the impact of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, which treats 360 degrees of need in the community and beyond. Just the day before, NBC's Today visited Dallas to follow United Way volunteers as they packed up supplies and donations for the city of Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Kelly H. Compton, Caren Prothro, Carolyn Perot Rathjen, and United Way CEO Jennifer Sampson then introduced the Ruth Sharp Altshuler Basic Needs Fund, which will help ensure that the United Way can continue to respond to the needs of families year after year.
Two of Altshuler's grandsons, Lucas Jacobson and Peter Jacobson, paid tribute to the remarkable woman through a song they composed and performed for the occasion, drawing a palpable reaction from guests that included former First Lady Laura Bush, Annette Strauss, Diane and Hal Brierley, Gene Jones, Drew Pearson, Caroline Rose Hunt, Ron Kirk, Matrice Ellis-Kirk, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, and Roger Horchow.
Fresh off his California wedding that weekend to Capa Mooty, former Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman took the stage as the 2017-18 United Way campaign chair. His #UniteWithTroy campaign vows to make good use of social media and digital giving with online auctions, where one-of-a-kind experiences with Aikman and his football pals will be up for grabs.
Altshuler herself closed the event, inspiring laugher and several standing ovations as she spoke of her years with the Tocqueville Society and the United Way. Altshuler summed up her decades of service with a particularly apt quote from Albert Schweitzer: "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."