WBCA, Mr. South Texas Luncheon Honoring, Mr. Hank E. Sames, III
February 18, 2006
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for gathering on this bright February afternoon to honor our fifty-fifth Mr. South Texas, Harry Elias Sames, III. This honor, the highest distinction granted a citizen of these borderlands, recognizes not promise, not potential, not good intentions, but a life of solid, selfless achievement. It is my privilege to present to you Hank Sames, the citizen and the man.
For Laredoans, for South Texans, the Sames name is linked to the family business, Sames Motor Company since 1910 offering quality automobiles, Fords, to the people of this region. You have on your table a brief story of the Sames family in Laredo, the deep roots that connect Hank to this city and its people, the story of the three generations of Sames who preceded Hank. In a world of impermanence and change, of shifting identities and post-modern muddle, today we salute endurance. Hank Sames, the fourth generation of Sames in Laredo, heads the oldest Ford and the oldest automotive dealership in the state of Texas.
Hank Sames came into the world on November 9, 1952, the son of Harry and Lydia Sames. His mother's family were pioneering cattle people, the Jacksons from Jacksboro, the Lovings from Loving, part of the hearty stock that laid out the ranching industry in Texas in the nineteenth
century. Hank's great-great grandfather, Oliver Loving, came to Texas in 1845 and along with Charles Goodnight established the Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail. That pioneering instinct... going where no one else has been, cutting new trails through wilderness, seeing promise in
unexpected places-all are qualities Hank inherited from his Texas forebearers.
But what experiences or persons directly influenced Hank as a young man? Most significantly, Hank speaks of the unusually close relationship he enjoyed with his father, the late Harry Sames. "We met for coffee each day for twenty-five years," Hank recalls. They discussed the business, their families, their lives. Those meetings left invaluable lessons deeply etched on Hank's soul. Two examples: 1. Conflict is not altogether bad. 2. Good does come of adverse or unpleasant experiences. And Hank clearly inherited from his father an ability to carry himself
lightly. When asked how his father, Harry, might respond when he heard who would be Mr. South Texas 2006, Hank was very clear. "He would say: 'Hank, your reputation exceeds you!'"
Laredo's Coach Richard Barton embodied another decisive presence in Hank Sames' life. Because of Coach Barton, Hank remembers, "I moved from hanging out in the parking lot, smoking cigarettes, to hanging out at the track." Long legs pointed in an obvious direction, and Hank began running the high hurdles. An early career of learning to confront and to jump over intimidating barriers helped form the man sitting here today. Those early years in Laredo propelled Hank through his undergraduate experience at the University of Texas at Austin.
Today, it is the hurdles to education that Hank Sames helps young people clear. In 1997, Hank brought to Laredo the Ford Salute to Education, a cooperative program in which the dealership and the company partner to offer scholarships to college-bound students. Since 1997, many hundreds of Laredo youths have received cash awards from the partnership.
In the spring of 2002, Hank and Elizabeth Sames established the Sames Scholars Program at Texas A&M International University. Their thinking was expansive, unclouded, inspiring. Laredoans have to band together to improve our community," they explained, "Unless we do a better job of educating our people, Laredo will never grow and develop as we would hope. We want to create a program to help ensure that students who might not otherwise make it to college in fact finish high school and continue their studies." When the program reaches full capacity, 48 students will each year receive tuition and fees for their college education, a gift
from Mr. and Mrs. Hank Sames.
Unique to the Sames Scholars program, and also the idea of Hank and Elizabeth, students are identified as Sames Scholars during their freshman year of high school, and then meet each succeeding semester with University faculty mentors until they graduate and matriculate at the University. Each University faculty member who becomes a part of this program receives a stipend from the Sames. In celebration of the first cohort, each student received from the Sames a laptop computer.
Together with the scholarships for students, Hank and Elizabeth established Excellence in Education awards, given to one teacher from each Laredo High School and Bruni High School, nominated by students, who explain how that teacher touched their lives.
In 2005, Hank and Elizabeth created yet another program, Driven for Success, with Laredo Independent School District. Driven for Success selects two classrooms or student organizations per month and provides each with a $500 award in recognition of some special effort.
When thanked repeatedly by all of us at the University and many, many members of the Laredo community, Hank replied, with his characteristic mix of modesty and clarity: "If we don't educate this generation of Laredoans, which of them will be able, in twenty-five years, to buy a Ford?"
Hank, Elizabeth, all these programs depend upon your energy, your vision, your generosity. Eleanor Roosevelt famously remarked of Adlai Stephenson: "He would rather light a candle than curse the darkness." Hank, Elizabeth, this is no candle you have given us. You have laid and
lit a roaring fire in Laredo.
We know Hank the businessman, Hank the philanthropist, Hank the visionary, Hank the citizen. But there is more to Hank than we might imagine.
Mr. South Texas has a well-developed sense of adventure. One of his closest friends describes a startling scene: "Most people do not realize," we are told, "that Hank is a big motorcycle rider. Picture him with a dew rag, wrap-around sunglasses, leather jacket on top of his Harley, and I guarantee you that few people would have the nerve to talk to him, much less try to bargain down the price of their Ford!" Hank, how have the tabloids missed the real you?
Hank Sames tirelessly, restlessly looks for new ways to expand and enhance our lives. Recently, a group interested in forming a community foundation for the Laredo area asked Hank to become a part of that effort. His support was moral, yes, and verbal, but it was also substantial. At the first meeting, Hank Sames wrote the check that launched our Laredo Area Community Foundation. And then he wrote another check to ensure that our newly-formed community foundation fulfill the terms of its grant.
George VanSantvoord, for many years a member of the Yale Corporation and Headmaster of The Hotchkiss School, liked to say that "education is the contemplation of greatness." Hank, your accomplishments, as a citizen and as a man, lay before us the model of greatness. You create the vision and you provide the resources for what might be, for us and for South Texas. Proud of your heritage, you extend to young people the chance to build their own legacies, their own lives. Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. South Texas 2006, Hank Sames.