People at the Sprague awards

Southwestern Medical Foundation presented The Sprague Award for 2017 to Hoblitzelle Foundation at a private dinner on Tuesday, February 7 at Old Parkland.

“Hoblitzelle Foundation has been a remarkable instrument of support for the work of Southwestern Medical Foundation, UT Southwestern, and our community at large,” said Kathleen Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation.

“We are pleased to honor Hoblitzelle Foundation, not only for its remarkable generosity, but for carrying the torch and the legacy of Karl Hoblitzelle, whose enlightened eye helped to identify the important priorities of the city and in so doing improve the lives of people in Dallas and around the world,” said Robert B. Rowling, Chairman of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “Hoblitzelle Foundation continues to steward and honor this legacy to this day, and our community is better for it.”

The Sprague Award (formerly the Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award) is the Foundation’s highest community distinction created in 1991 to honor those who provide significant support to the improvement of medical education, medical research and patient care. Since its creation, The Sprague Award has been bestowed on 46 distinguished civic and business leaders who have given generously of their time and resources to make life better for others. Hoblitzelle is the first foundation to win The Sprague Award.

“Hoblitzelle Foundation has been a remarkable instrument of support for the work of Southwestern Medical Foundation, UT Southwestern, and our community at large.” 

Kathleen Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation

“During the 75th anniversary of our organization’s founding, we are deeply honored to receive The Sprague Award from Southwestern Medical Foundation,” said Paul W. Harris, President and CEO of Hoblitzelle Foundation. “We are proud to help advance the future of medicine and education and improve communities in Dallas and around the world.”

The Sprague Award for 2017 Program Videos

The Sprague Award 2017: Honoring Hoblitzelle Foundation 

The Sprague Award 2017: Hoblitzelle Foundation History and Impact

A Brief History of Karl Hoblitzelle and Hoblitzelle Foundation

Dallas has been exceptionally blessed by a long list of benefactors, but it can be argued that in its history, no civic or business leader, or philanthropist, ever gave of themselves with greater wisdom and more lasting benefit than did Karl St. John Hoblitzelle.

Karl Hoblitzelle was born in St. Louis on October 22, 1879. His father Clarence Linden Hoblitzelle had been brought as a Confederate prisoner to St. Louis and, after being paroled, made St. Louis his home.

Mr. Hoblitzelle journeyed to Dallas as a young man in 1905 with $2,500 in his pocket. He cofounded the Interstate Amusement Company, which opened vaudeville theatres in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Waco (each called the Majestic) and the Empire Theatre in San Antonio that year. In those days, the theatre was regarded as a place that upstanding citizens should avoid – akin in reputation to a good saloon. But Mr. Hoblitzelle built a sterling reputation for providing entertainment suitable for the entire family, and his company, renamed Interstate Circuit, grew rapidly.

Mr. Hoblitzelle soon became president of the theatre chain and served in that capacity for 62 years. The financial success of his growing entertainment empire was further enhanced through investments in oil and gas, real estate and banking industries across Texas. He would later become a director of Republic National Bank of Dallas for 37 years and serve as its Chairman for the last 20 of those years.

In 1920, he married Esther Thomas who had performed on Broadway under the name Esther Walker and recorded 32 songs for the Victor and Brunswick record labels. After their wedding trip, the Hoblitzelles made their permanent home in Dallas, and quickly became part of its social, civic and cultural circles.

As popularity in vaudeville declined, Mr. Hoblitzelle transformed his theatres into state-of-the-art movie houses equipped with premium sound systems and air conditioning, and the movie theater chain prospered with the rapidly growing popularity of motion pictures.

Mr. Hoblitzelle gave of his time and financial resources with a creative flair that enabled institutions of many kinds to grow in scope and service. He exhibited a grace that taught others how to give. In accepting the 1938 Linz Award for outstanding citizenship, he seized the opportunity to talk about Dallas’ future:

“Let no little men stand in the way of vision in planning our city. We must not let it be said that we ever were too little and too late in planning for the future. We must come out of the valley and onto the mountaintop where we can view a broad horizon. This nation of ours is big because the men who founded it had vision and the courage to make those vision come true.”

Karl Hoblitzelle, 1938

The following year, he joined Dr. Edward H. Cary, along with E.R. Brown and Dr. Hall Shannon, to found Southwestern Medical Foundation, which was granted the flexibility to own and operate a medical center.

In 1941, he donated $300,000 to begin the Texas Research Foundation, which was established six miles north of the Dallas city limits. The foundation engaged in basic research, building twenty laboratories and putting more than 400 acres in test fields and pastures.

In 1942, Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle established Hoblitzelle Foundation.

The next year, Southwestern Medical College was established by Southwestern Medical Foundation, which became the key instrument through which Mr. Hoblitzelle worked to improve the healthcare of the Southwest. Esther Hoblitzelle died unexpectedly of cancer that same year.

In 1946, Hoblitzelle Foundation donated monies to Southwestern Medical Foundation to buy the original 62-acre site of UT Southwestern’s campus that lay adjacent to the newly proposed Parkland Hospital. The gift was made in memory of Mrs. Hoblitzelle.

“The Hoblitzelle donation ensured a world of possibilities. Without its happening when it did, I seriously doubt that UT Southwester would be the institution that it is today,” said Bill Solomon, then Chairman of Southwestern Medical Foundation and current Chairman of Hoblitzelle Foundation.

When Dr. Cary died in 1953, Karl Hoblitzelle served as its president until 1962 and then as its Chairman until his death in 1967.

“He was a magnificent specimen of human being. More than a businessman and philanthropist, he was a philosopher, a scholar and a fine gentlemen all rolled up into one person.”

Mayor Erik Jonsson upon Mr. Hoblitzelle’s death in 1967

“He was one of the best friends Dallas ever had, and his influence will be felt in the city for many years to come,” said R.L. Thornton Jr., then President of Mercantile National Bank.

Mr. Hoblitzelle believed that “wealth is only justified if it is generated and used to improve the lot of your fellow man.”

In 2016, Hoblitzelle Foundation gave $2 million to purchase a Magnetoencephalography (MEG) machine to advance brain-imaging technology. The new technology is a critical component of the Magnetoencephalography Center of Excellence at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. The Center is dedicated to understanding the molecular workings of the brain in order to better diagnose and treat brain disease and injury.

“The acquisition of the MEG machine will provide UT Southwestern physicians and researchers information on how the brain is working through non-invasive procedures.  This will tremendously advance what we understand about the brain,” said Dr. Neil Rofsky, Chair of Radiology at UT Southwestern.

Since 1942, Hoblitzelle Foundation has given more than $30 million to fund critical projects and initiatives through Southwestern Medical Foundation to benefit UT Southwestern. Gifts have helped construct the Karl Hoblitzelle Clinical Science Building in 1958, supported the medical center’s Endowed Scholars Program in Medical Science, and helped to equip the T. Boone Pickens Biomedical Building and the Bill and Rita Clements Advanced Medical Imaging Building, among many other projects.

“Karl Hoblitzelle and Hoblitzelle Foundation have been among UT Southwestern’s most important benefactors,” added Solomon. “Its commitment to UT Southwestern has helped accelerate its growth and emergence as one of the top academic medical centers in the country.”

In total, Hoblitzelle Foundation has made over 4,000 grants, investing over $213 million in social service, cultural, educational, medical, preservation and civic organizations in Texas.

In his will, Mr. Hoblitzelle directed his foundation “to lean towards and be most sympathetic to those programs which in general involve discovery, transmission and extension of facts, thoughts, ideals and ideas….which are good and true…in an effort to make this a better world in which to live.”

It has been said that he patterned his life on a famous thought by prominent 19th  century Quaker missionary Stephen Grillet: “I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to a fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.”

Sponsors of The Sprague Award for 2017

We’d like to thank our sponsors for their generous support:

Legacy Sponsor
     Miss Lyda Hill

Barnraiser Sponsor
     The David B. Miller Family Foundation
     Phyllis and Paul Seegers

     Carolyn and Jere Thompson Jr.

Friend Sponsor
     Della and Robert Best
     Jennifer and John Eagle
     Lori and David Haley
     Locke Lord/Stuart Bumpas
     Nancy Cain Marcus
     Ray Nixon
     Gay and Bill Solomon
     Lisa and Mac Tichenor

Community Sponsor
     Vin and Caren Prothro Foundation
     Andrew Lawrence
     Mike A. Myers Foundation
     Peter Kraus
     Luther King Capital Management
     Bank of America / US Trust
     Stephen Sands / Rosewood Foundation
     Jan and Fred Hegi
     Sandra and Henry Estess​
     Arlene and John Dayton​

The Sprague Award Winners

Hoblitzelle Foundation joins an elite list of community leaders whose dedication to Dallas have earned them The Sprague Award. To learn more click here.