Serenaded by members of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, former banker and politician Christine Jennings — who helped steer the troupe into a debt-free status and to a new permanent home — was honored along with three other prominent Sarasotans Monday.
Jennings, Asolo Rep Theatre producing artistic director Michael Donald Edwards, Sarasota County Library System director Sarabeth Kalajian and the well-known orthodonist who helped put the region on the map with the The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, Dr. Murray "Murf" Klauber, were inducted into the Community Video Archives (Klauber, with his son, Michael, were the first father-and-son duo to be part of the honor).
Jennings seemed taken aback when members of the troupe sang "Pride and Joy" to her.
"I don't know if that was planned or not, but that was wonderful," Jennings told the troupe and the audience at Michael's On East.
Jennings, whose career spanned from teller to CEO of Sarasota Bank, recounted her bank opening on Sept. 15, 1992 with a $10-per-share investment that returned $62.11 per share when the bank was sold in 2003. Banking was rewarding, but nothing was more difficult than her run for Congress in 2006. "There is nothing harder than running for national office," she said. "Everyone has a comment" — from issues to Jennings' style of dress.
Her advice for life: "Be kind. Be kind. Be kind" and "remember that words once spoken are like bullets" and can never be recalled.
In its 28th year, the CVA honored four individuals who have made significant contributions to the community. A professionally produced video biography is made and the biographies are available at all Sarasota County libraries, the Jane B. Cook Library on the New College of Florida campus and at the Sarasota History Center. They are also available at the Library of Congress. Guests were welcomed by event chair Chris Pfahler and president Annette Scherman.
Klauber, now 91, told videographers about serving for four years as altar boy at a Catholic Church in his native Buffalo, New York. "I didn't tell them I was Jewish."
Invited to Longboat Key by a friend, Klauber quickly determined to move to the area. "I was so excited by the trees, the birds, the water."
The rest is history. "What a fun and fabulous life I have enjoyed," said Klauber, known among friends and family for never having a bad day. "Never stop pursuing your dreams," he advised.
Edwards said he had been an itinerant director before finding "home" in Sarasota, noting he signed a three-year deal and has stayed for 12."When I arrived, I had not a single gray hair," he joked.
The director cited great support for the arts and great relationships for keeping him here longer than anywhere since he left his native Australia at 17.
"I'm now in the Library on Congress," Edwards said. "Look out America."
Kalajian grew up in a small Illinois town and her first professional gig was selling nightcrawlers to local fisherman. She spent some time as a television reporter and anchor, but found her calling in libraries.
Looking around the room at the other inductees, she remembered a quote from her aunt: "Baby girl, you're walking in the tall cotton now."
She urged people to help build a community and always help your neighbors. She cited the influence of her father who, at the age of 79, once climbed a neighbor's roof to make repairs. "My dad was the original good neighbor."
"Kindness — simple, genuine kindness," she said.