HMH Honors Blanton, Chronicle at Guardian Luncheon
Houston, TX - Holocaust Museum Houston honored both
the Houston Chronicle and Jack Blanton with its Guardian of the Human
Spirit Award during a luncheon held on September 18, 2002. Over 600
attendees were impressed by the butterfly-themed décor and moving
program. The luncheon committee consisted of E. William Barnett,
Melinda Berkman, Janis Goldstein, Roslyn Haikin, Punkin Hecht, and
Velva G. Levine and the event, chaired by Joe and Eleanor Zuber, raised
more than $164,000 to help fund the Museum’s education and outreach
David P. Bell, chairman of the board of Holocaust Museum
Houston, opened the ceremonies with a look at the Museum’s outreach
efforts, education programs, and its mission in light of current world
“In the aftermath of September 11 and still today, one year
later, this community and others throughout this region have called
upon this museum to develop programs to teach the invaluable lessons of
tolerance, acceptance, and mutual respect,” he said.
Eleanor Zuber followed with a general welcome and noted that
through education, an important part of the Museum’s mission, a better
future is possible. To highlight this theme, she introduced the guest
speaker for the afternoon, Jenny McConnell, a teacher at St. Thomas
“One of the most important educational experiences the museum
provides for the students is the opportunity to hear the life stories
of survivors who put a face, a name, and an individual and personal
encounter to the six million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust,” said
McConnell. She went on to stress the importance of the survivors, but
also mentioned the Museum’s library, the docents, the seminars and
educational programs, and the collaborative efforts between the Museum
and the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston as important means of
moral growth and understanding.
Following the lunch service, Janis Goldstein began the awards
presentation with an introduction of the first honoree, the Houston
“The Houston Chronicle is honored today not because they are
involved in the community, or because they are charitable in that
involvement,” she said. “They are honored today because the Houston
Chronicle embraces the causes most dear to it with a depth and scope
that goes well beyond what is expected.”
“Believing, as our Museum does, that an educated and literate
society is the best defense against the abuse of the public trust,” she
continued, “the Chronicle gives of itself to build a community that
will embrace tolerance, understanding, and diversity and will speak out
against prejudice and unfairness of any kind.”
Jack Sweeney, publisher and president of the Houston Chronicle, accepted on behalf of the paper.
“This award honors all of the Chronicle people who work so hard
and cherish and support the spirit of this community,” he said. He
noted that the economy had made it difficult for many non-profit
“guardians of the human spirit” and he was glad that the city’s
newspaper could help with volunteers, free advertising, and even cash
donations. He stated that a daily newspaper has an obligation to the
community and should serve as an independent monitor of power and
provide a forum for public criticism and compromise. He said the
Chronicle shares a unique bond with the people that is reconfirmed and
improved upon every day.
“Journalism’s first loyalty is to the community and its citizens,” he concluded.
Joe Zuber introduced the day’s second honoree, Jack Blanton.
“Let me tell you something,” Zuber said of his friend. “If you
think you know Jack Blanton because of his accomplishments as a public
person, you don’t know Jack!”
Zuber explained that Blanton is a family man, a devoted father
and grandfather. He came up through the public education system and has
had a continuing interest in education ever since. One example cited by
Zuber was Blanton’s tenure as chairman of the Board of Trustees of
Houston Endowment Inc., during which the foundation was able to
increase the scholarships awarded by 50%. Also mentioned was Blanton’s
service as chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of
Houston System, when he was able to convince the state legislature not
to cut the budget for higher education.
“Jack deserves this award not just for what he has done, but
also for what he is,” stated Zuber, “a man with a giving, caring
attitude who wakes up every morning with the goal of doing something
In his acceptance speech, Blanton spoke eloquently of the
nature of Holocaust education and its impact on his own views. He
listed the various elements of civilization and stressed the importance
of education serving to transmit these elements from generation to
“Civilization is not inherited, it has to be learned and
earned by each generation. And if this transmission should be
interrupted for one century, civilization would die and we would be
savages again,” he stated. “That is why we need and must have a
Holocaust Museum and why eternal vigilance calls on us to pay a price
and we will properly and with much thanksgiving pay that price!”
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