Since A Conversation With a Living Legend® originated in North Texas in 1990, the event has become one of MD Anderson’s signature fundraising events, replicated across the country in Las Vegas, Atlanta, Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Washington, D.C. Over the past three decades, Living Legend luncheons and dinners, featuring live, onstage interviews, have raised a total of more than $40 million. In late 2019, Living Legend events united MD Anderson supporters in three cities as they raised a combined $4.1 million to support the institution’s mission to end cancer.
The 2019 series began with a Nov. 12 luncheon at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, where Bob Schieffer of CBS News interviewed Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV) member Mary Martha Pickens chaired the event, leading a steering committee of North Texas community and business leaders in raising more than $1.13 million.
Lyda Hill Philanthropies and Barbara and Jerry Allan King served as presenting sponsors. Nolan Ryan, the inaugural event’s honoree in 1990, served as honorary chair. Meredith Land of KXAS-NBC5 was mistress of ceremonies. Proceeds benefited the Moon Shots Program®, a collaborative effort to accelerate the development of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that save patients’ lives.
Lyda Hill, a BOV member who conceived the Living Legend concept and served as the event’s first chair 30 years ago, was honored with the institution’s Making Cancer History® Award. Another highlight of the luncheon featured Kershaw’s in-laws, Leslie and Jim Melson, who shared their experiences at MD Anderson as survivors of pancreatic cancer and lung cancer, respectively.
Barbara and Alan Dreeben, Paige and Marc Sachs, Lisa and Kelly Sechler and Allison and Josh Zeller co-chaired the 10th A Conversation With a Living Legend luncheon in San Antonio on Nov. 18, raising $800,000. The event honored former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an interview with “PBS NewsHour” anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff. Proceeds support the Moon Shots Program.
Emcee David Chancellor, news anchor at News 4 San Antonio, and co-chair Alan Dreeben shared their personal reflections as cancer survivors and expressed respect and gratitude for the expertise and compassionate care available at MD Anderson.
Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson, paid tribute to event co-founder Kim Johnson, who created the Teal Lunch for Life in 2008 with her mother-in-law, Paula Johnson, and their husbands to raise funds for ovarian cancer research at MD Anderson in honor of Kim’s mother, Shelly Vescovo. The event’s success led to the inaugural San Antonio Living Legend luncheon in 2010. Vescovo died in January 2019. Pisters presented Kim Johnson a crystal memento as a token of appreciation and sympathy.
Co-chairs Maureen and Jim Hackett led A Conversation With a Living Legend at the Hilton Americas on Dec. 11, honoring Houston Astros owner Jim Crane in an interview with NBC Sports’ Jimmy Roberts. The event raised more than $2 million for cancer research initiatives at MD Anderson, topping all of the series’ fundraising records in Texas since the event’s inception.
Major sports figures, including members of the golf community as well as Astros owners, management staff and players, lent their support as members of the Eagles for Jim and Hometown Champs committees. Butch Harmon was honorary chair.
Reflecting on the lasting impact small gestures can have on the lives of others, Pisters recalled a visit Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and his then-fiancee Daniella Rodriguez made to MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, during the American League Championship Series, to meet 17-year-old Jalen Garcia. Correa promised to dedicate a home run to Garcia and signal to him by pointing to the sky as he ran the bases. After a video clip played featuring Correa’s walk-off run during the 11th inning of Game 2 in the series, Pisters recognized Garcia’s mother, Paula Diez, and expressed sympathy on her son’s death in November. Members of Garcia’s care team were there to applaud Diez and her mother, Gabby Crane, on their positivity and courage throughout his treatment.