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NEW YORK — From the podium of Cipriani 42nd Street here, former Texas governor Ann Richards surveyed the crowd of 300 media and fashion figures, saw Henry Grunwald, Dominick Dunne, Liz Smith, Nan Kempner and Herbert Gallen, among others, and declared, “As my daddy would say, ‘I am in high cotton.’”
The ex-governor hosted Lighthouse International’s Third Annual Henry Grunwald Award Luncheon last Thursday, where the always impeccably dressed Philip Miller, former Saks Fifth Avenue chairman and chief executive and now a consultant, received the award. Miller has long been active raising funds for Lighthouse and helping the visually impaired find employment.
Having Richards host a New York fund-raiser filled with fashion types seemed strange, but then again, Miller’s daughter, Laura, is now the mayor of Dallas, and Richards, with her Southern charm and dry humor, can enliven any crowd. At one point, Richards recounted another situation filled with pomp and ceremony, when she and her granddaughter visited the Queen of England for a private tea at the palace. Afterward, she asked her granddaughter what she remembered most about the experience, and she replied, “She had lipstick on her teeth.”
On a serious note, Richards said her father suffered from macula degeneration. “Watching family and friends lose this vital sense renews our commitment to help this organization. It’s the gift of independence that the Lighthouse makes possible.”
In introducing Miller, Kenneth Cole, who co-chaired the luncheon, said Miller has helped raise over $12 million to support Lighthouse initiatives. “The problem is, it’s very expensive to be one of Phil Miller’s friends,” Cole joked. In recognition of Miller’s commitment to the cause, the Lighthouse named its employment center the Philip B. Miller Center for Career Services in 1999.
The event brought in more than $200,000 in donations for the Lighthouse, where Miller has served on the board for nine years. Miller said he had several reasons for supporting Lighthouse. His father suffered from glaucoma and cataracts, and Frank Reilly, a former Brooks Bros. president who worked with Miller at Saks and Wallach’s, and Kitty D’Alessio, who once ran Chanel in the U.S., encouraged him to participate.
Grunwald, the former editor in chief of Time Inc. and author of “Twilight: Losing Sight, Gaining Insight,” was the first to receive the honor in 2001. Harry Belafonte received it in 2002.