Gala participants join the celebration of UTHealth.
Gala participants join the celebration of UTHealth.

UTHealth took the opportunity to thank its lucky stars – donors and faculty members – at the inaugural Constellation Gala Nov. 14 at the Hilton Americas. A glittering celestial backdrop set the stage with deep hues of purple, blue and pink sprinkled with stars, creating a breathtaking atmosphere for one of the most memorable nights in UTHealth history.

More than 600 guests paid tribute to one of Houston’s legendary health care leaders Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. in addition to honoring UTHealth’s star clinicians, scientists, and researchers who are quietly revolutionizing the future of health care. The Constellation Gala highlighted some of the outstanding work of these stars, as well as the legacy of one of our most dazzling superstars, focusing on what is important – helping others. A man known for his love of service, love of medicine, and his many contributions to the field of health care, Duke sets the example for the type of health care leaders we aspire to train at UTHealth.

In a touching video tribute, Duke’s colleagues and friends shared their admiration for his contributions to medicine, his compassionate care of patients and his drive to impart his knowledge and experience to students, residents and colleagues alike. The video was a prelude to the announcement by Mistress of Ceremonies Linda Lorelle, that in honor of Duke’s footprint on UTHealth, the institution is launching a yearlong fundraising initiative to create the first full-ride endowed scholarship for medical students, the James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. M.D. Endowed Scholarship. Duke was accompanied by his daughter, Sara, as he accepted the accolades with his trademark humility and humor.

“I’m so thankful I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of this,” Duke said. “These students need all the help they can get, and we oughta try and find every way we can to help ’em because I don’t know how they’re going to pay for what they’ve been doing.”

After regaling the audience with stories, Duke delivered his signature sign-off from the popular Texas Health Reports that helped put UTHealth on the map and made him one of the most recognized surgeons in the United States: “From The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, I’m Dr. Red Duke.” He put on his cowboy hat and exited the stage as the crowd rose to thunderous applause.

Marcie Zlotnik, Kenneth Lewis and Mark and Laura Musemeche were among the first to enthusiastically support the James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. M.D. scholarship initiative as high bidders on the two live auction items featured at the event, spectacular vacation packages to stargaze in Big Bend, Texas and Big Sky, Montana. Within minutes, more than $43,000 was raised for the scholarship in Duke’s name.

Ginni Mithoff, who chaired the UTHealth Constellation Gala with her husband, Richard, said, “The theme of this evening, Constellation, represents the character of this great institution; as a constellation in the night sky is made of many brightly shining stars, so do the unique people who are UTHealth shine together as one of the nation’s premiere health universities.”

After dinner, the Luminaries – a volunteer group of young leaders committed to fostering the continued growth and development of UTHealth – lit up the night at the Club No Ursa Minor After-Party. Hundreds of guests from the Gala joined in the fun dancing to the music of the band Skyrocket! The proceeds from the After-Party will benefit The Children’s Learning Institute at UTHealth and its Texas School Ready! Project.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, sponsors and friends of UTHealth, over $1.85 million was raised to benefit current and future UTHealth students and faculty, to recruit top faculty, advance research, and provide scholarships for the students who will be the stars of tomorrow.

For more information on supporting UTHealth or the Duke Scholarship, please contact: 

-Office of Development