Abilene Chamber of Commerce Outstanding citizen honored

Business Editor
Courtesy of the Abilene-Reporter News

Former Abilene Mayor Gary McCaleb was honored Tuesday as Abilene's Outstanding Citizen of the Year for 1999.

Described as a natural leader and visionary, McCaleb shared the spotlight with former U.S. Labor Secretary Lynn Martin at the annual Abilene Chamber of Commerce banquet. Nearly 700 people attended the dinner at the Abilene Civic Center.

"I deeply thank you for this recognition, but more importantly for all the years of support and encouragement as we have joined together to make a special community filled with truly remarkable citizens," McCaleb, moved to tears, responded. "I accept this in recognition of all of you."

A second standing ovation followed his remarks.

Before the presentation, Martin challenged the audience with serious advice, laced with personal family humor, about how to approach the work place of the future.

A former five-term congresswoman from Illinois - and mother of seven - Martin is qualified to see both sides of the glass ceiling.

Men can learn a lot about communication from women, she asserted, mimicking the conversations of men and women at office parties. "Both sides have to learn to communicate. Women have had to learn it.

Hispanic-Americans have had to learn it. African-Americans have had to learn it. If you are a minority, you have to learn how to communicate with others.

"Every male manager should be required to attend an all-woman event once a year," she said.

"This would be an important way for them to learn to manage," she added.

Noting how much women have to offer to corporate America, she said, "Why would we want to exclude any group that could improve our corporation, organization or country?"

Women are making giant strides, she said, admitting that it is as important for some women to be full-time mothers as it is to be CEOs. And men are making strides in recognizing their abilities.

"For the first time we are not just doing it because it is noble or right, but because it is imperative, because it means all of us will have a better chance," she said.

McCaleb, who served five years as a city councilman and nine years as mayor before stepping down from city government in May, was introduced by last year's honoree, Joe Canon.

At least half of those attending probably assumed the then-secret honoree had won before because he had done so much for Abilene, Canon said.

"The big surprise tonight is that this individual has not been previously honored," Canon said before recounting McCaleb's long list of accomplishments. Most in the audience had figured out the winner before Canon got through the first page of his introduction.

A knack for doodling on term papers tipped off the representatives from his alma mater and employer, Abilene Christian University, and by the time Canon mentioned "celebrity sketches" nearly everyone in the Civic Center made the connection.

McCaleb's pencil sketches of athletes and other newsmakers are a trademark of sorts for a "local retail establishment" the audience quickly identified as Towne Crier restaurant.

"Our honoree's cup of capacities and capabilities definitely runneth over," Canon said.

Telling how McCaleb became ACU's youngest vice president, at age 41, Canon quoted the late ACU President Don Morris as calling McCaleb "a natural leader."

Of McCaleb's accomplishments as mayor, Canon said, "Just look around you - one facet of his jewel of vision was downtown Abilene, a restoration, a revitalization of a moribund, stagnant central core of community."

He's also championed the cause for children, helping conceive the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, Canon said. McCaleb's entire family - his parents from Anson; his wife, Sylvia, two children, and four grandchildren surprised McCaleb by flanking him when the award was presented.

Business Editor Roy A. Jones II can be reached at 676-6737 or by e-mail at jonesr@abinews.com


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