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Artist Residency Program UCROSS Announces Inaugural Founder's Dinner to Honor Legacy of Raymond Plank

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will receive The Raymond Plank Award for Visionary Leadership at the event

UCROSS, WYOMING—October 22, 2019 — Ucross, a prestigious artist residency program and creative laboratory for the arts, today announced their inaugural Founder’s Dinner & Benefit, to be held on November 2, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The event will honor the legacy of Raymond Plank – WWII bomber pilot, business leader, philanthropist, and founder of Ucross – one year after his passing. Plank lived and worked in Houston after moving Apache Corporation to Texas in the mid-1990s.

Ucross Foundation was founded by Plank in 1981 to foster the creative spirit by providing artists with uninterrupted time, studio space, living accommodations, and the experience of the majestic High Plains while serving as responsible stewards of its historic 20,000-acre ranch in Ucross, Wyoming. Plank’s legendary independence, business acumen, entrepreneurial vision, and generosity has inspired, empowered, and supported generations of artists and business leaders to boldly pursue their own visions.

Since welcoming its first group of artists in 1983, the program has been the creative home to more than 2,100 artists, including 10 Pulitzer Prize winners, nine MacArthur “Genius” winners, eight Tony Award winners, seven National Book Award winners, and two Academy Award winners, among dozens of additional award winners, as well as the current United States Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo.

The Founder’s Dinner & Benefit will be hosted by actress Elizabeth Bunch, a member of the Houston-based Alley Theatre’s Resident Acting Company. The night will feature performances by Ucross alumni and special guests, including award-winning composer and pianist Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), Tony Award-winning actor and singer Laura Benanti (My Fair Lady), the Houston Children’s Chorus with Ucross alumnus Stephen Roddy, and dancers from the Houston Ballet Academy under the direction of Oliver Halkowich, with original music composed by Ucross alumnus Michael Remson.

During the event, Ucross will also present the first ever Raymond Plank Award for Visionary Leadership, which was designed to honor and celebrate business leaders, philanthropists, and innovators who have forged their own path and had an enduring impact on business, the arts, or land stewardship. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was friends with Plank, will receive the award for his public service, his independence, and his leadership as chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. Corbin Robertson, Chairman and CEO of Natural Resources Partners, will introduce Mr. Tillerson.

“Raymond Plank was a true visionary who lived an exemplary life marked by courage, service and integrity,” said Rex Tillerson. “It will be an honor to accept this award commemorating his legacy and celebrating one of his crowning achievements, the creation of his beloved Ucross." 
“We are thrilled to present this Founder’s Dinner in honor of Raymond, and we look forward to the performances and award presentation,” said Ucross President Sharon Dynak. “We are dedicated to Ucross’s mission, and it’s wonderful to witness so many of our friends, donors, and partners commit to supporting Raymond’s legacy at Ucross.”

"As a longtime supporter of Ucross, a friend of Raymond Plank and a Houstonian, I am delighted to see so many incredible alumni and friends come together to further the cause that Raymond was so passionate about," says Board Member Jesse Marion. "Raymond would be pleased to see the creativity and passion that went into this event, and delighted to know that our alumni and supporters remain committed to the arts and land."

The Founder’s Dinner & Benefit is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Ucross provides more than 100 residencies annually. Table sponsorships and ticket sales at this event will support more than 50 of those residencies, allowing emerging and established artists, writers, composers, and choreographers to benefit from the uninterrupted time and space that Ucross provides. The event will also feature a live auction and paddle raise to raise designated funds for Texas-based artists to come to Ucross.

A native of Minnesota, Raymond N. Plank was a graduate of Yale University. After returning from his service as a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber pilot in World War II, Plank founded the Apache Corporation, which today is one of the nation's largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies. An oil discovery in Wyoming's Powder River Basin in July of 1967 brought Plank frequently to Wyoming, where his vision for Ucross Foundation as an organization that would champion the arts and land stewardship, as well as provide space for educational, community, and state events, was born. Plank was an active philanthropist. In addition to Ucross, he funded girls’ schools in Egypt, established a professorship on global energy policy at Harvard, and supported many charities that helped ranchers and farmers in Wyoming. In 2001, he also founded the Houston-based Fund for Teachers, which awards fellowships to public and private school teachers for summer study in the United States and abroad. Plank was also dedicated to land stewardship and helped establish a conservation easement on the Ucross ranch with The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming.