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Judge Ronnie McDonald and Peierls Foundation Receives HT’s Tower of Light Award

Brian Peierls(AUSTIN, Texas) 3.5.13 Political leader Ronnie McDonald and The Peierls Foundation, Inc., were named Huston-Tillotson University’s 2013-2014 Tower of Light recipients.  McDonald and Brian Peierls received their custom, glass HT tower replica award during the recent Decennial President’s Mankind Assisting Students Kindle Educational Dreams (MASKED) Gala.

Ronnie McDonaldMcDonald is a native of Bastrop, Texas, and a former County Judge. He made Texas history as the youngest person to be elected to the position of county judge. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science and management from Texas A&M, McDonald pursued his career in politics by working for former State Comptroller John Sharp, eventually serving as executive assistant responsible for the development of the Family Pathfinder program, which has been recognized by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Also, during the 2011 Bastrop fires, he was placed in the national spotlight for his leadership efforts.

           Peierls, Vice President of The Peierls Foundation, facilitated a partnership with HT in order to support scholarship efforts, a growing Hispanic population, and the transfer of students from Austin Community College.  The Foundation has contributed more than $4.5 million to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and awarded 1,500 scholarships to outstanding Latino students since 1988. Supporting higher education, children/youth international relief programs, and civil rights are the tenets of the Foundation. There is also a focus on health, medical research, immigrants, reproductive health, and family planning.

The evening of elegance and entertainment that attracted more than 450 guests, many in highly decorated masks, and numerous corporate and individual sponsors in support of HT’s programs and scholarships, featured four musical performers:  Rhythm and blues performers After 7; Grammy-award nominee Miki Howard; Soulkitchan, comprised of HT graduates; and HT’s Jazz Combo, under the direction of Javier Stuppard. Howard also doubled as the emcee for the evening along with KXAN reporter Sophia Beausoleil.

Popular selections from After 7 such as “Heat of the Moment,” “Can’t Stop,” “Ready or Not”, and “Nights Like This” pleased the crowd and especially the females who received a red rose.  Popular pop and R&B artist “Babyface” Edmond organized his brothers, Melvin and Kevon, as After 7 in 1987 along with Keith Mitchell. Howard, accompanied by Soulkitchan, blew the crowd away with “Misty,” “All of Me,” and “Masquerade” before mingling and taking pictures with guests. 

The 2013 Gala marked the tenth year for the event that has generated more than one million dollars for the University and featured up close and personal performances from artists such as Regina Belle, Will Downing, Johnny Gill, Jennifer Holliday, Kenny Lattimore, Najee, and Pieces of a Dream.  In addition, celebrity guest appearances from Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Judge Mablean Ephriam, and Emmanuel Lewis have headlined the University’s signature event.

Community leader, political activist, businesswoman, and alumna Bertha Sadler Means was named the 2013 Honorary Chair.  Means, a 1945 graduate of Tillotson College, a predecessor institution to Huston-Tillotson University, is a pioneer and accomplished HT graduate with deeply-rooted ties to the Austin community. She reminisced about her years on campus during her comments—the place that launched her life’s journey, where she met her husband, and where she provides her support. “I want you to know that your support means a lot to me.  HT means so much to me,” she stated before celebrating the night on the dance floor with supporters.

To date, sponsorships are as follows: Platinum sponsors:  Institute for Professional Development | Johnson Controls | The Mitte Foundation | Time Warner Cable of Austin | Wells Fargo Bank.  Gold Sponsors:  George Brothers Kincaid & Horton, L.L.P. | Seton Healthcare Family | The University of Texas at Austin/Office of the President and Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Engagement | University Federal Credit Union (UFCU).  Silver Sponsors:  GSD&M (Liz and Duff Stewart) | Austin Coca-Cola Bottling Company | Gourmet Services/A La Carte Menu Services, Inc. | Henna Chevrolet | Sterling Acura of Austin.  Bronze Sponsors:  Arnold Oil Company | Austin Cab Company | Austin Energy Services | Broaddus & Associates | Dr. and Mrs. Don W. Brown | Capitol Partners, Inc. | Donna D. Carter | The Honorable Lee Cooke | J.E. Dunn Construction/Casa Bella Architects | Dr. Larry L. Earvin | Greater Texas Federal Credit Union | Sandra L. Griffin, Esq. | The Honorable Albert Hawkins | Huston-Tillotson University International Alumni Association | ImageNet Consulting | Trennis Jones | Krause & Associates, L.P. | Lee Tilford Agency | Paul J. Legris | Dr. and Mrs. C. Mark Melliar-Smith | Dr. Terrance D. Grant-Malone | Kathryn S. Page | William Pickard (Better Dreams Mattress Company) | Prosperity Bank | Regions Bank | St. James’ Episcopal Church | Scott Schmidt and Dr. Carol McDonald | Sodexo Inc. and Affiliates | David A. Talbot, Jr. | Texas Methodist Foundation | A. Leon Thompson, Jr. | Yellow Cab Austin.

Huston-Tillotson University, celebrating its 138 year anniversary, is experiencing its highest enrollment, and is in the final stages of campus renovations to the library and communication center.



Top photo
HT President Larry L. Earvin and Brian Peierls.

Second photo
HT’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement Roderick L. Smothers and Judge Ronnie McDonald