Billy Mounger honored for ballet contribution
On July 13th the USA International Ballet Competition Organization, hereinafter referred to as IBC, conducted an honorary dinner for W.D. (Billy) Mounger at the Country Club of Jackson and on the following night a gala pperformance featuring ballet stars from around the world was presented in Thalia Mara Hall. Thalia Mara was a famous ballerina who established a ballet company and school of dance in Jackson. She was responsible for bringing the first IBC to Jackson and was so ably supported by Warren Ludlum, Esq., the first chairman of the event. It was Warren Ludlum that subsequently involved Mr. Mounger in the IBC.
Billy received a framed certificate at the tribute dinner which contained an acknowledgement of his many contributions to the IBC including 26 years as financial chairman and/or overall chairman. During this time approximately 10 million dollars were raised. The certificate was signed by Gov. Bryant and delivered by Sen. Thad Cochran. Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Gregg Harper were among other dignitaries in attendance. The event was well attended, the food was great and the banquet room was completely occupied with attendees.
Upon arriving at the Country Club, Patsy, my wife, and I were greeted by Sue Lobrano, the director of the USA IBC. Soon thereafter we visited with Dr. Bill Wilson and his wife, Biba, and Bennie Webb and daughter, Sarah. Subsequently I enjoyed the company of Homer and Jane Best, Billy Mann, Joe Harris, John Baxter Burns, Carla and Richard Lewis, Max and Carolyn McDaniel, Howard and Flo Stover, Tammy and Nora Jane Etheridge. I was able to greet Larry Johnson and Rip Baker. Again I told Larry that a check was in the mail for a 27-year-old gaming debt. Don’t believe everything I say, Larry. Seated at my table were Patsy Mounger; Stuart and Sandy Harris from Oklahoma, friends of Billy and Jan (Sandy served on the Kennedy Center board with Billy as President Bush appointees); Colonel Fritz Lash, senior giving officer of West Point Military Academy Association; and Amy Tuck, former lieutenant governor of Mississippi. Amy reminded me of a Mexican jumping bean. She seemed to know everybody and was constantly jumping up to meet people.
At a nearby table were Wade and Betsy Creekmore, Jimmy and Meredith Creekmore, and Carla and Richard Lewis. Wesley and Dolly Goings were present and also sponsored a table. Many of the other tables were sponsored and each honored a ballet star scheduled to perform at the gala. One could say that we had an eclectic mix. I wore a monkey suit (I mean a tux) and looked much like a penguin, but I felt rather important being the brother of the honoree. My nephew, W.M. (Billy Mounger) rendered the blessing. After graduating from Vanderbilt he studied at Reformed Theological Seminary, so he was a good choice for that role. Then a video was shown featuring W.D. (Billy) Mounger. After the video W.D. made a talk containing a lot of commentary regarding the IBC; he added humorous comments about his life. He mentioned the banter that goes on with Tammy Etheridge, an Annapolis graduate. Billy is a West Pointer. OK – these are geographical locations and are not the official names of these military academies. Therefore, it must be proper for me, the University of Mississippi graduate, to say that I went to school at Oxford. I think that I will try this out and see what response I get.
There were many Moungers among us including: Billy and Jan; Cissye and Billy, Patsy and yours truly, Callie and finance’ Reed Wesson, Catherine, William, Bobby and Rivers with daughter Rivers and son Robert, a wonderful tennis and soccer player. Also Callie Swango Brandon, mother of Cissye, from West Helena, Ark. and Montell Watkins, a tireless IBC supporter and administrator for W.D. Mounger’s office, were in attendance. I knew Callie Swango at Ole Miss; she was among the best dancers on campus. I will not date us by reporting the dance era.
The gala performing event with Entergy as the presenting sponsor was at Thalia Mara Hall on Saturday night and was outstanding and included performances by former USA IBC medal winners: Jose Carrefno, Misha Llyin, Misa Kuaranaga, Brooklyn Mack, Joseph Gatti, Alys Shee, Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero. Billy’s contributions to the IBC were again recognized by Sen. Thad Cochran and Sue Lobrano presented him with a gold medal similar to the ones awarded competitors during the IBC competition. Other major sponsors for the tribute dinner were AT&T, C Spire Foundation, Regions Bank and Trustmark. In addition to Entergy’s gala sponsorship the Grand Prix sponsors were Mr. and Mrs. W.D. Mounger and the after-party sponsor was the Taylor Group Companies Inc. The gold, silver and bronze sponsors numbered 35, too many for me to list in this article, but these wonderful sponsors were all recognized in the gala program.
The current officers of the IBC are: Haley Fisackerly, chairman; William D. Mounger, chairman emeritus; Dolly Goings, vice chairman; David Clark, president; Doris Brickell, vice president; Phil Hardwick, vice president; Marilyn Beach, corporate secretary; Frank Alley, assistant corporate secretary; Gloria Harvey, treasurer. These dedicated citizens are poised to lead the IBC to even greater heights along with Sue Lobrano, executive director and her staff, to wit: Kitty Cook Ramsey, director of development; Chantel Lott, director of public relations and marketing; Mandy Woodward, director of finance and operations; Hannah Renegar, artistic administrator.
In conclusion, in order to give an idea of the prestige bestowed on Jackson and the state of Mississippi, W.D. (Billy) Mounger acclaimed the USA IBC in Jackson as the “best in the world” and can back that statement up with many quotes including this one from Russian ballet expert, Valeria Uralskaya, who stated that “the Jackson event was not only the jewel of ballet competitions but the diamond of competitions.” The New York Times once published regarding the USA IBC in Jackson: “The most important competition in North America.” Jackson has been designated as the official home of the USA IBC by an Act of Congress. Many of us are anxiously awaiting the next IBC in Jackson.
Henry Mounger is a Northsider.