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For immediate release — Monday, March 19, 2001

(DALLAS) – A long history of partnership and fundraising was the focus of a March 5 special event that honored Dallas civic and business leader Robert L. Thornton III and was hosted Dr. William Wenrich, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District. Thornton was recognized for his contributions as a volunteer in fund raising for DCCCD’s Rising Star Scholarships program, the Dallas Arboretum and the Nature Conservancy. The DCCCD reception was held at the arboretum’s DeGolyer House.

Thornton is the recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2000 Outstanding Volunteer Fund Raiser of the Year, which he will receive from AFP during the organization’s annual international conference, scheduled March 11 to 14 in San Diego. AFP, founded in 1960 and formerly named the National Society of Fundraising Executives, represents individuals internationally who raise funds for a variety of charitable organizations and works to strengthen charitable giving, philanthropy and volunteerism. AFP helped raise $190 billion in charitable contributions in 2000.

Thornton has helped DCCCD raise more than $11 million of the $30 million endowment needed for the Rising Star Scholarship program. Created in 1999, the program guarantees a full DCCCD scholarship (including tuition and books) to every Dallas County high school graduate who earns a “B” average or better and who has economic need. “Rising Star ensures an educated future for Dallas County,” said Betheny Reid, executive director of the DCCCD Foundation. The first Rising Star class included 693 students; more than 85 percent were the first members of their families to attend college.

“Mr. Thornton’s enthusiasm and dedication during the planning phase of the project was so powerful that two members of the DCCCD Foundation’s board of directors committed the $2 million needed for the pilot program so that he could launch Rising Star in the spring of 1999,” said Wenrich. “We believe that (raising) $11 million in slightly more than 18 months is a significant accomplishment.”

“Mr. Thornton galvanized the Dallas community to support Rising Star and garnered endorsements for the program from Mayor Ron Kirk, Sen. Royce West, the Dallas Morning News editorial board, J. McDonald Williams and others,” added Wenrich.

Thornton became chairman of the board of directors for the DCCCD Foundation in 1997. At that time, the organization’s net asset worth was $4.5 million. “The foundation has evolved from a quiet organization that issued approximately $400,000 annually in grants and scholarships to a highly charged, active foundation which last year alone awarded more than $1 million in support to DCCCD,” added Wenrich.

“We can think of no one more qualified to receive the Outstanding Volunteer Fund Raiser of the Year award than Bob Thornton,” added Reid. “He fundamentally has changed the face of educational opportunity in Dallas County. He has donated so much time and energy to the (college) district; he is always available when we need him.”

“Mr. Thornton was chosen for his continued service to the community as one of Dallas' most outstanding volunteers and philanthropists,” said Christie Baskett, president of the Dallas AFP chapter. “Each year, local AFP chapter members recognize the person they believe is the most outstanding volunteer in Dallas. Because every chapter nationally and internationally also chooses someone, it truly is an honor that Mr. Thornton has been selected internationally as volunteer of the year.”

Thornton also was the impetus behind building a visitor education pavilion for the Dallas Arboretum, and he also served as the arboretum’s chairman of the board of directors.
For more information, contact Reid in the DCCCD Foundation office at (214) 860-2053.

For more info or photos:
Contact: Ann Hatch, DCCCD Media Relations at 214-860-2478
or Betheny Reid, DCCCD Foundation, 214-860-2053