G. Michael Gruber to Receive 2012 Justinian Award
by Mary Blake Meadows
As the youngest of nine children in a blue-collar Dallas family, Mike Gruber never anticipated being able to go to college, much less aspire to a successful legal career and a lifetime of community service. As a child, one of the few places his entire family could afford to visit together was the Dallas Zoo, he recalls. Years later, he participated in the effort to successfully privatize the Dallas Zoological Society, and now serves as its incoming Chairman of the Board.
“I thought my life was going to be painting cars and working as a mechanic. I never dreamed I’d have the kind of opportunities that I’ve experienced. The only difference in how our lives develop is the opportunities we’re given, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to give back.”
This personal commitment to improve the lives of others has resulted in Mike being selected as the 2012 Justinian Award recipient, presented by the Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary to a member of the Dallas Bar Association in recognition of volunteer efforts benefitting the community.
Mike’s opportunities began with the encouragement of Nancy Solana, his civics teacher during his senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School. Although he was enrolled in the school’s vocational education program for automotive mechanics, and spent his afternoons and evenings fixing wrecks and painting cars to gain experience and help support himself, Mike was inspired by classroom discussions about government and the law.
“I loved the class and the challenge of thinking on my feet and discussing the importance of the law in people’s lives. Nancy saw something that made her think I might make a good lawyer, and urged me to take the SAT exam.” That support led to Mike receiving a four-year scholarship to SMU, and later his J.D. from SMU Law School.
The wrenches and spray gun may have been put away, but Mike never forgot the importance of helping young people improve their lives through education, as well as the impact one person’s intervention can make.
Mike currently chairs the Children’s Education Fund, which has raised more than $8 million since its inception in 1994 to provide private, grade-school education for 7,000 Dallas-area children. Since 2005, he has served as chairman of An Evening Under the Stars, the annual Dallas benefit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Mike also is chairman of Dream Dallas, a program of Dallas Habitat for Humanity, in coordination with 60 other non-profit organizations, to raise $100 million for the revitalization of five at-risk South Dallas neighborhoods. He has served as a founding director of the North Texas Entrepreneurs Foundation, which partners with the Communities Foundation of Texas to encourage young business people to engage in philanthropy. He also has devoted his time as a director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.
A founding partner of the business litigation firm of Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank, Mike has achieved a distinguished legal career with a record of success that includes significant verdicts, judgments and settlements on behalf of his clients. He is consistently recognized by various publications and serves as one of the top attorneys in Texas, and is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He has also led a number of the Dallas Bar Association’s committees. Mike was the 2011 recipient of the Award of Excellence from the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, and has published a two volume treatise, Texas Litigation Plans and Forms.
All of Mike’s accomplishments would not be possible without the support of his wonderful family. He has been married for 33 years to (as he calls her) “the saintly Diane,” who he knew in high school but didn’t date until their college days at SMU. “You have to realize that Diane was a high school cheerleader, while I was spending my time in a body shop. You could safely say we ran in different circles.” They spend every weekend they can on their ranch in Bosque County.
Mike and Diane have three children: Michael, better known as “Grubes,” a producer for local sports radio station The Ticket (“he makes me laugh and gets me to rock concerts”); Becky, a sky-diving enthusiast and soon-to-be graduate of Texas A&M-Commerce (“she encourages me to take risks: an occasional skydive; flying lessons; scuba diving”); and Chris, an “intellectually curious” sophomore at Lynn University in Florida (“he keeps me honest and forces me to think”).
Mike joins a prestigious group of Justinian Award recipients, including Louis A. Bedford Jr., Michael M. Boone, George Bramblett, Sam P. Burford Jr., Adelfa B. Callejo, George W. Coleman, Marshall J. Doke Jr., Edward J. Drake, Henry Gilcrest, Don Glendenning, Al Ellis, Vester T. Hughes, Darrell Jordan, Ron Kirk, John Andrew Martin, P. Mike McCullough, Harriett E. Miers, Forrest Smith, Sidney Stahl, Robert Hyer Thomas, and T. Michael Wilson.
Please make plans to honor Mike as he receives the 30th Justinian Award at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, April 25th in the Pavilion at the Belo Mansion. Author Mark Curriden will be the keynote speaker and his remarks titled Lions of the Bar: the Stories of Seven Legendary Trial Lawyers and What Made Them Famous will earn one CLE credit in ethics for luncheon attendees.
Distinguished judges for the 2012 Justinian Award were Tracie Fraley, principal at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts; Robyn Flatt, executive artistic director of the Dallas Children’s Theater; Skip Hollandsworth, executive editor of Texas Monthly; Michael Meadows, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Zoological Society; and J.C. Montgomery Jr., president of Scottish Rite Hospital.
Kim Pearson and Joan Nye are serving as co-chairs for the Justinian Awards Luncheon, and Susan McCombs is president of the Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary. Tickets to the event are $100 per person or $1,000 per table with the proceeds supporting scholarships at the SMU Dedman School of Law and the Now You Are 18 pamphlet given to graduating high school seniors in Dallas County. For reservations or additional information, contact Tina Gwinn at 214-526-9828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.