2015 Father of the Year Awards

by Karen Alberg Grossman
Father of the Year Awards on June 18, 2015. Photo by Paul Morse
Father of the Year Awards on June 18, 2015. Photo by Paul Morse

It was a heart-warming luncheon, as always, but also a record-breaking one as this year’s event (the 74th) on June 18 raised $1.3 million, a 40% increase over the previous record, to benefit Save the Children.

Mark Shriver hosted and told a cute story about being at a book-signing in Houston, where a big guy in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots stopped him in an elevator and asked if anyone’s ever told him that he looks like a Kennedy. “As a matter of fact, yes,’ Shriver replied. “I bet that gets you really angry…” the guy replied…

The first honoree, recipient of the Ashok C. Sani All-Star Dad award (sponsored by GQ) was HVAC technician and entrepreneur David Gonzales. His daughter Marissa read her nomination essay in which she talked about how, although adopted at age 3, she’s felt nothing but unconditional love from her dad who works hard, takes side jobs on weekend, but always makes time for her. When Gonzales got to the podium, he apologized for his lack of public speaking skills (“I passed out making a toast at my best friend’s wedding…”) and said that he didn’t even remember he wasn’t Marissa’s biological father until he read her essay.

G-III Chairman Morris Goldfarb spoke beautifully, not only about his own children (Jeff and Laura presented his award) and grandchildren but also about his father Aron, a Holocaust survivor who moved to Israel to start a new life. Given a small piece of land and a chicken, Aron worked hard and brought his family to America when Morris was 6. “I didn’t know him well as a child, only his work ethic. But later in life, when we shared an office, I got to know the tender-hearted soul beneath the tough exterior. He was all about protecting and supporting family; the outer shell was likely a defense mechanism from surviving the concentration camps in Poland.”

Goldfarb praised Save the Children for the work they do providing financial and emotional support for disadvantaged kids in America, pointing out that 90% of young homeless people, 71% of high school dropouts, and 85% of young prison inmates come from fatherless homes.

Former first daughter Barbara Bush, who works in global health, presented the award to her dad, George W. Bush (43), who spoke with both poignancy and humor about fatherhood. His comment on teenage girls: “I love you; there’s nothing you can do to make me stop loving you, so please stop trying!” He then praised both daughters for their commitment to health and education, noting that Barbara’s twin sister Jenna is “continuing the warm relationship I always had with NBC…” Opening up more than the crowd expected, he confided that he might never have stopped drinking were it not for his daughters. “Alcohol was becoming the love of my life, crowding out the real loves of my life: Barbara and Jenna…”

Much of his speech was a tribute to his dad, George H.W. Bush, about whom he has recently written a book: 41 A Portrait of My Father. “I’m sure it will surprise many of you to learn that not only can I read, but I can write…” He then told the story of his father’s bucket list parachute jump on his 90th birthday, a traumatic experience for most of the family but 41 handled it with his usual class, surviving a rough landing with a smile on his face, a compliment to his professional jumping partner Mike, and a stiff Bloody Mary at the party that followed.