It’s that time of year, when United Way of Metropolitan Dallas kicks off our Annual Campaign to raise funds and energize the community around our shared mission of improving access to education, income and health in North Texas.
Thursday, Sept. 15 marked the start of our 98th Annual Campaign, and we celebrated this exciting occasion with a special kickoff event at The Fairmont Dallas. It was the first time in three years that we had gathered in person for a campaign kickoff, and this event did not disappoint.
First off, we announced new volunteer leadership, each of whom has a bold vision to drive community impact during their tenure. Our new leadership includes the next three years of our Annual Campaign chairs:
- Jean Savage, president and CEO of Trinity Industries, is the 2022-2023 Annual Campaign Chair.
- Curt Farmer, chairman, president and CEO of Comerica Incorporated and Comerica Bank, will be 2023-2024 Annual Campaign Chair.
- Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, who just began his two-year term as chair of the United Way Board, will serve as our 2024-2025 Annual Campaign Chair during our 100th anniversary year.
During the event, these dedicated community leaders announced three gifts of $1 million each from their respective organizations. The investments—led by Trinity Industries and matched by Comerica Bank and Frito-Lay—are the first investments committed toward our Centennial in 2025 and will continue to fuel and accelerate the impact of the work United Way in Dallas is leading in education, income and health across the region.
The campaign kickoff was also our opportunity to announce the new co-chairs for our Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society: Erin Nealy Cox, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, who now leads the government, regulatory and internal investigations practice for Kirkland & Ellis; and Trey Cox, co-partner-in-charge of the Dallas office of Gibson Dunn. Erin and Trey announced their own big goal for their time as Tocqueville co-chairs: to become the No. 1 Tocqueville Society by our centennial in 2025.
Finally, the celebration included a panel discussion featuring Savage, Farmer and Williams, who discussed their commitment to the Live United movement, their goals as Annual Campaign chairs, strategies for making an impact in our community and more. Read on for highlights of the CEO panel:
Curt Farmer: What sort of vision do you have for the next couple years in this role?
Steven Williams: I believe in the power of giving back. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to do what I do every day. And you have to give back to the communities that you live, work and play in. And I don’t think there’s another organization finer than United Way to partner with to do that. So you’ve got my commitment. I’ll do my best to be the best chairperson for this organization that you’ve had and we’re going to make a big impact in this community.
Jean Savage: I’m honored to be able to be the campaign chair for this year. United Way sets the bar when you’re looking at access for education, healthcare and income. It creates opportunity for more than 1 million individuals each year. Now I know I’ve got a high bar. Anne Chow is hard to follow and [so are] all the other campaign chairs in the past. So I’m going to be dedicated to looking for businesses in North Texas who will allow us to come in and try to grow the campaigns and concentrate in that area to make sure we’re getting the support of more people in our community.
Farmer: Steven, tell us a little bit more about Southern Dallas Thrives and why it has been important for your company.
Williams: A third of the citizens in Southern Dallas are below the poverty level. And it’s just difficult to make a difference without focused effort. So we collaborated with United Way to build a program which was distinctive and [was an opportunity to] drive a catalytic effort to raise a lot of money and have an impact in a targeted way…The problem is holistic, and no one company or initiative can touch it all. And we’ve had many companies step up with us, including many in the room—AT&T, Hilti, Celanese—that have come in and matched what we’ve put in, and it has really created a virtuous cycle that’s allowing us to have a significant impact in the community.
Farmer: How important is [our local workforce] for the ongoing vitality of this market? Can we have too many companies here? We’re all worried about labor, but how important is it for our market?
Savage: I think it’s really important for our market. I wouldn’t say we have too many companies, but we have an opportunity. What Steven’s doing with Southern Dallas Thrives—we’re going to tap into that and work on workforce development. Because if we can get all the people in this area trained and skilled and working, I think the whole community rises and you get better schools, you get a better place to work, and I just think it feeds off itself.
Williams: Yeah, it does. Growth is oxygen. I think we should continue to stay focused on getting companies here, getting people here. I think it’s a unique place. I have the opportunity to travel all over the country, and there’s no place like Dallas. And I think we should continue to help it grow and thrive.
Farmer: Steven, you’ll finish your Board chair role and then head right into being the Campaign chair right on the heels of United Way’s Centennial. Tell us about that.
Williams: It’s exciting because I do think we’ll just build momentum over time, and I think we have an opportunity to just have a blowout over the next three years—not just the Centennial year. And again, it’s all fun, and I like to keep it light, but it’s about the community. It’s about the individuals in the community that we will be able to impact because we are going to feast on the generosity of this city and make a difference.
Farmer: I’ll follow Jean next year with the campaign, and when Jennifer and I started talking about it, we figured out that it’s United Way’s 100th anniversary and it’s Comerica’s 175th anniversary. We are one of the oldest banks in the United States and the largest bank headquartered in Texas. Dallas is one of our most important markets that we operate in, and there’s such alignment for us around the values and the focus of United Way with the things that are important for our company. So, I’m just looking forward for ways to celebrate both events that occur in 2025. We’ll be doing a lot at our company to celebrate with our customers, our employees and the community; at the same time, United Way is going to be doing a lot to celebrate and we’ll look for ways that we can partner together during the campaign.