By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
Philanthropists Mary and Mike Terry, crediting their faith and family as inspirations for a life of service to people in need throughout North Texas, were recognized as this year’s recipients of The Catholic Foundation Award during a dinner at the Hilton Anatole Feb. 7.
The annual award from the philanthropic organization is given to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the Dallas-area Catholic community and beyond. Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell said he was pleased a record crowd of more than 1,300 people was in attendance to honor the Terry family.
“It is so good to see so many people who have come to honor a couple that has done so much for our community,” Bishop Farrell said. “We honor them for their good public leadership in this great community of ours. What an exceptional couple these people are, and what an exceptional family they have brought forth in this community. They are truly an example to all of us of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world.”
Matt Kramer, president and CEO of The Catholic Foundation, and several others, including Roger and Marianne Staubach, the chairs of the awards dinner, talked about the couple’s faith, their generosity and that has benefited countless people.
“They’re just as humble as they were,” Kramer said in an interview before the dinner. “They’re very down-to-earth people and they’ve been very generous with what they have.”
As a surprise to the Terrys, first-grade students from Santa Clara of Assissi Catholic Academy serenaded the couple with two songs before dinner, with help from music teacher Michael Leonas and first-grade teacher Ana Medina. Three years ago, through The Mike and Mary Terry Family Foundation, the Terrys decided to help the students through a program called “Sponsor A Classroom” and pledged major tuition assistance for the students until they graduate from the eighth grade.
“This truly is overwhelming,” said Mary Terry, an Ursuline Academy alum who said she was initially hesitant to accept the award because she was uncomfortable with the recognition. “At some point I came to the realization that this really isn’t just about the two of us. This is about all of us in this room. We are working towards the common goals of providing education assistance in our communities, specifically in our Catholic community. We are all in this together, thus, since we all want to better our community, we should celebrate together the great impact of our combined efforts.”
The Mike and Mary Terry Family Foundation was founded by the couple in 2006 as a way to provide an education to underprivileged children, as well as provide assistance and opportunities for the homeless to get back on their feet.
“We wanted a foundation that created a platform for the family to communicate and talk about the needs of the community,” said Mike Terry, who served as owner and president of the pest control company Terminix until he sold it in the late 1990s. “A lot of what we do at the foundation is focused on how we can help those in need now, and how can we find ways for them to help themselves later on.”
During a video presentation, family and friends and beneficiaries of the couple talked about the importance of the Terrys’ faith and service, the love of their family and their respect for others. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings lauded the couple for their role in helping fund The Bridge, a downtown homeless assistance center which opened in 2008.
“As we started to look at how we were going to answer the needs of the homeless, it became obvious to us that we needed a homeless assistance center that was more than just a place to serve a meal and that’s why we created The Bridge,” Rawlings said. “Mike and Mary both got excited about this effort and were major partners.”
As part of the dinner, the Terrys designated the Notre Dame of Dallas Special School to receive a grant from The Catholic Foundation. In addition, the Scholars Award was presented to Phong Ngyuen, a junior at Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving.
Through its network of business and civic leaders, The Catholic Foundation has helped fund many projects for schools and organizations across the Diocese of Dallas since 1955. In 2013 alone, The Catholic Foundation awarded a total of $5.2 million in grants to more than 20 organizations. Since 1983, The Catholic Foundation has recognized North Texas philanthropists and organizations that have donated significant amounts of time and treasure to those in need.