By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — S. Jack Balagia received a standing ovation last week as he was presented with the 2015 Larry Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award during a special luncheon held in his honor.
About 340 people attended this Friday, Nov. 20 luncheon, held at Fairmont Hotel, in honor of Balagia, the vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil Corp.
During the presentation, Balagia was lauded for his highly successful law career, his ethics, and his commitment to the ideals of the Anti-Defamation League.
“Congratulations, Jack, you deserve it,” Jeffrey S. Levinger, ADL regional board chair, said before handing him his award.
When taking the podium, Balagia reacted to the well-wishes from the audience with an initial, “Wow.”
He then went on to quote a famous passage from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
Balagia expressed his appreciation for the presence of those who attended the luncheon — a number that included his wife, mother, sister and numerous colleagues.
“There are many people in this room who have had a great deal to do with much success I have had,” Balagia said. “If I tried to identify all of you we’d be here until the evening.”
But he went ahead anyway and thanked his “work family” colleagues at Exxon Mobil, his UT law school foundation comrades, many of his former law partners and even a few law school classmates.
Balagia explained that the 2015 Larry Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award holds incredible significance to him.
“This award is closely tied to the Jewish community of Dallas,” he said. “It is perhaps an ecumenical fact that I am the third Lebanese American receiving this award.”
In point of fact, Balagia is a proud Lebanese American. Both sets of his grandparents immigrated to America from Lebanon, colleagues pointed out during the ceremony.
The Anti-Defamation League presents this award annually to a member of the legal community.
Levinger said Balagia fits the bill because he truly embodies the principles of ADL — outstanding leadership, exemplary contributions to the community, and a commitment to high ideals.
Balagia’s colleagues in the law profession and members of the ADL took turns praising Balagia for showing the character to consistently do the right thing, establish fairness, care about and help people.
“Please know that the ADL is proud to honor you today,” Roberta S. Clark, regional director of the North Texas/Oklahoma Regional Office of the ADL, told Balagia from the podium.
Charles W. Matthews General Counsel (retired) Exxon Mobil Corp. has gone on record more than once stating Balagia is known for his sterling legal reputation throughout the United States. His luncheon co-chair was Nina Cortell, partner of Haynes and Boone LLP, a law school classmate of Balagia.
Balagia has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America and named a Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine.
He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in 1973 and a Juris Doctor in 1976.
Balagia serves and has served on a number of boards and committee, including the State Bar of Texas’ Public Affairs Committee.
In 2000, the Texas Supreme Court appointed him to the Court’s Board of Disciplinary Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Texas lawyer disciplinary matters.
He served as chairman between 2003 and 2005.
Balagia, a past president of the UT Law School Alumni Association executive committee, currently serves as a trustee of the UT Law School Foundation.
During his comments, Balagia emphasized his great appreciation for ADL and its values.
“This is an organization that fights hate and injustice anywhere … at a time it seems it is everywhere,” Balagia said. “What can we do to fight injustice? One thing you can do is support this organization. It’s a very meaningful one.”