FORT WORTH -- Pianist Van Cliburn was honored Wednesday with the Vandergriff Award for helping put Fort Worth on the cultural map.
"Van is so touched and so humbled that his friends and his neighbors in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, are honoring him. It's most precious to him. He wanted me to reiterate to everyone how much he loves them," said Alann Bedford Sampson, interim president and CEO of the Van Cliburn Foundation, who accepted the award for him.
Cliburn, who turned 78 in July, has bone cancer. He is responding to treatment and resting well, Sampson said.
"He's very courageous. He's in good spirits," Sampson said.
The award, named for longtime Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff, was presented at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce's second annual State of the County luncheon at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel.
"This year, as Fort Worth's Van Cliburn Foundation marks its 50th year of showcasing extraordinary talent in classical music, we honor Van Cliburn for showcasing our city so extraordinarily," said Whit Smith, owner of The Whitney Smith Co. and chairman of the chamber.
"He has been hailed as one of the most persuasive ambassadors of American culture, as well as one of the greatest pianists in the history of music," Smith said.
"Van Cliburn is truly a cornerstone for the 'culture' reference in Fort Worth's marketing tagline, 'cowboys and culture,'" he said.
In his address, County Judge Glenn Whitley said Tarrant is a "great place to do business."
"We live within our means," he said, noting that while the county has grown by 400,000 people in a decade, the tax rate is lower than 10 years ago.
With over $10 billion in large transportation projects under way, Whitley said "no place in this country has as much construction going on as we do at this time."
At the same time, he said, county officials know they can't spend their way to prosperity.
"Let me be clear, we understand that it's not government that creates jobs -- it's you," he said.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981