Friendship makes things easier for BTD co-chairs

Posted on 28 Oct 2010 at 9:02pm

Ron Guillard, Nan Arnold scramble to make sure everything is ready for the 29th annual fundraising dinner

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold
Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold

Being one of two co-chairs of the annual Black Tie Dinner is no easy job. But it is at least a little easier when your co-chair also happens to be a good friend, according to Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold, Black Tie co-chairs for 2010.

This year’s version of the annual fundraising dinner is a week away — Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel — and Guillard and Arnold were busy this past week making sure they had every little detail attended to before the big night.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Guillard. “We have to be able to work together and lead the board with one voice. I think we have been able to do that, and I know I have had a great time working with Nan.”

Arnold added, “We’ve been friends for a long time, which definitely helps. Ron and I first met back in the ’90s when we were both working on fundraising for Lambda Legal, back before they even opened a Lambda Legal office here in Dallas. We knew each other before then, but we got to really be friends working with Lambda Legal.”

Arnold grew up near Hope, Ark., and first came to Dallas after high school to attend college here. She ended up going back to Arkansas to finish her degree, but then moved back to Dallas.

At first, Arnold said, he involvement in the community consisted just of attending events and donating to worthy causes. Then she got involved with Lambda Legal and “I realized that fundraising was something I could do. And it just snowballed from there.

“It just sounds so trite, I guess, but I got involved because I just wanted to give back to the community,” she continued.  “Dallas has been so good to me, and I really love it. So I wanted to do something for the community. And with Black Tie, you are truly giving back to this community, because of the way we work with our beneficiary organizations.”

Arnold spent four years as chair of the Black Tie Dinner sponsorship committee, and she said working on the annual fundraiser takes up a lot of what spare time she has when she’s not busy at her job doing consulting work and construction management for land developers.

“It [Black Tie Dinner] takes up a lot of time. I am lucky my partner [attorney Linda Wiland] understands. She supports me completely.”

Arnold is completing her 7th year with Black Tie Dinner, and the first year of her two-year term as co-chair. Guillard has been on the board for four years, and is finishing his second year as co-chair.

Arnold noted that she was the one who actually recruited Guillard to the board.

Guillard grew up in Northern Michigan and transferred to Dallas in 1990 for his job.

“Where I lived before, I really hadn’t experienced being part of a real community and what all went with that,” Guillard said. “I was impressed immediately by the people I met and how involved they were in building a sense of community. That’s what led me to say yes when I was asked to get involved.”

Guillard said he wasn’t out at his job — working for a small product design firm — when he first came to Dallas. But he saw a way to bring the LGBT community and his job together when he found out about DIFFA’s annual Dallas Collection event, where jean jackets were redesigned into wearable works of art by designers and celebrities, both local and national.

“Working through our professional organization, I kind of invented a way for us to get involved,” Guillard said. “It was right after [basketball player] Magic Johnson had announced that he had AIDS, and I decided to contact his representatives and see if he would let us put his name on a jacket we designed for him.”

Johnson said yes, and the jacket was one of the top money earners that year.

Guillard said he spent about five years helping design jackets for the DIFFA auctions, and then, “in the second part of the ’90s,” he connected with Gail Richards.

“I ran the White Rock Lake Marathon with her. She was on the national board for Lambda Legal, and she got me involved with Lambda Legal here.”

Guillard noted that Radio Shack acquired the design firm he worked for in 2004, but in 2008, when the economic downtown hit, Radio Shack liquidated the business.

“So that’s when I elected to just enjoy the luxury of focusing on Black Tie Dinner for awhile,” Guillard said. “I still do minimal consulting work, but I spend most of my time on Black Tie.”

And luckily, he said, he too has an understanding partner in hospital CEO Bill Brosius.

And, both Guillard and Arnold stressed, the are lucky to have the strength of the full Black Tie Dinner board behind them.

“This is a wonderful, hardworking board,” Arnold said. “It’s not all about us. We do our best as co-chairs, but we couldn’t accomplish anything with the rest of the board.”

Guillard added, “This board is a great pipeline of future board co-chairs.”

Guillard said his strength — both in his professional life and in his volunteer work — has always been “thinking about what’s next and what’s after what’s next. I am only wired to think expansively.”

It is a trait, Arnold said, that has come in most handy for the Black Tie board.

“That has been absolutely great for Black Tie,” Arnold said. “That’s always a big question for us: ‘Where do we go from here?’”

Especially since next year will mark the event’s 30th anniversary.

“Right now, I am concentrating on this year’s dinner. But I can’t say I don’t think about next year. I mean, how do we get there from here? How will I do any of it without Ron? But I know someone will come along to be my next co-chair and they’ll be great, and we’ll get it done. Plus, Ron’s number will still be on my speed-dial!”

But at least for the next week, Guillard and Arnold are focusing on the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner, which will feature openly lesbian U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as keynote speaker and recently out country-western star Chely Wright as the Media Award winner. The Rev. Carol West will be on hand to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award, and dinner officials will present the Elizabeth Birth Equality Award to American Airlines. Turtle Creek Chorale and Broadway star Gavin Creel will provide entertainment.

“Plus,” Guillard said, “we have a couple of little surprises up our sleeves!”

Arnold said, “It’s just so exciting as we get closer, seeing all these pieces coming together this way. It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it. It’s why we work all year long, because we know it all comes together for three hours on one night. That’s why we do it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

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