HOUSTON – (Nov. 7, 2016) – UTHealth’s friends and community of experts gathered at the Hilton Americas-Houston for the 2016 Constellation Gala on Friday, Nov. 4, to celebrate the legacy of one of Houston’s most well-known philanthropists and one of UTHealth’s leading patrons, the late John P. McGovern, M.D., and his wife Kathrine G. McGovern.

Last year, the John P. McGovern Foundation, which was founded by Dr. McGovern and is now led by Mrs. McGovern, made history with a transformational gift of $75 million to support critical areas of education and research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). More than 500 guests helped celebrate the impact of the foundation’s gift while also recognizing the incredible generosity of UTHealth champions who helped raise more than $5.6 million during Friday’s dazzling event.

In addition to honoring the McGoverns and other supporters, the gala served to thank star faculty members who are working at McGovern Medical School and UTHealth’s five other schools to solve the greatest health challenges of our time and train the next generation of health care professionals.

The gala featured a special tribute to the late Dr. McGovern, a pediatrician allergist, immunologist and educator who helped shape the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in its formative years. The family foundation continues to transform the TMC through numerous gifts supporting the art and science of medicine. “My husband would have been very pleased by the amazing work that the faculty and staff are doing at UTHealth and tonight’s tribute has really touched me,” said Mrs. McGovern.

“The McGovern name is synonymous with service, knowledge and compassion – values that are embedded in the very foundation of our university. Tonight we are honored to celebrate the tremendous legacy of Dr. John P. McGovern and his wife Kathrine, and how their transformational gift will impact our students, faculty and staff for years to come,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., UTHealth president and Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair.

“Additionally, we are very fortunate to have such fantastic support from our board, donors and foundations who share UTHealth’s vision to treat, cure and prevent disease through education, research and clinical practice,” said Colasurdo.

UTHealth Development Board President Phil Ferguson, said, “We are privileged to be part of such a remarkable and important evening for UTHealth and are pleased that it was such resounding success.” Ferguson and his wife, Kathy O’Neil, chaired the Constellation Gala, working with members of the development board and gala host committee to generate awareness and raise funds for endowments that will support faculty and students.

Highlights of the evening included performances by Ash Danceworks; a special video tribute from country music star Clay Walker, a patient and supporter of UTHealth for almost two decades; and a live auction that raised $42,000. Kenneth Lewis had the highest bid for the “Meet A Shining Star” prize, which includes two tickets to Walker’s “Chords of Hope” concert in Nashville in June, an opportunity to meet the country music star, an autographed guitar and travel accommodations. Pete Seale and Chalon Fontaine, Flo McGee, Bette and Ralph Thomas, and Mike and Susan Padon cooked up the highest bid for the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Italian meal prepared by UTHealth’s president with nine other guests. Rick and Jessica Williams won the “Party Under the Stars” package, which includes accommodations at the Director’s House at the McDonald Observatory, Cibolo Creek Ranch and the Gage Hotel in the Big Bend area.

The evening ended with the UTHealth Luminaries After-Party where guests mingled and danced the night away to the music of the Jordan Kahn Orchestra. UTHealth Luminaries is a volunteer group of young leaders committed to fostering the continued growth and development of UTHealth. Proceeds from the after-party will benefit the pediatric brain cancer research program of David Sandberg, M.D., who has pioneered novel treatment approaches for pediatric brain tumors. Sandberg is the principal investigator of a joint clinical trial currently being conducted at McGovern Medical School, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital on an innovative form of local chemotherapy delivery into the brain.

“Knowing that the Luminaries were able to come together in support of such important pediatric cancer research like Dr. Sandberg’s is the reason why our organization was created and we are happy to be able to contribute to such important groundbreaking research,” said Jennifer Kane, UTHealth Luminaries chair.

Guests included John P. McGovern Foundation President Kathrine McGovern and members of the foundation’s board; Memorial Hermann Health System President and CEO Benjamin Chu, M.D.; County Judge Ed Emmett and wife Gwen; former UTHealth Development Board Chair Bob Graham and wife Annie; Margaret Alkek-Williams and Jim Daniels; Evelyn Griffin; Maria and Christopher Pappas; UTHealth Development Board Chair-Elect Diana Hawkins and husband Russell; Jim and Molly Crownover; Beth Robertson and Steve Pearce; State Rep. Sarah Davis; Nina and Michael Zilkha; Ann and Karl Stern; Don Sanders and Laura Moore; State Rep. John Zerwas, M.D., and wife Sylvia; Mary and Will Williams; Marcie and Bob Zlotnik; and Nicole and Evan Katz.

Written by Ivan Perez, UTHealth Development Communications