Both were visibly moved by the experience and were quick to thank others, especially their respective parents, for their achievements. Wilson García asked her parents, Kenny (’74) and Sharon (Wilson ’74) Wilson, to stand and receive their own recognition for their support of her education and her dreams. She and her husband, Óscar, began the luncheon by praying together, Óscar in Spanish with Kara translating in English.
“ACU is honored through Project RED,” Wilson García said. “A phrase that we say often at Project RED is that we are, all of us, transformed by relationships. And it dawned on me that that’s kind of the motto of ACU. I believe that the values I have learned, not only in my time as a student here but my whole life, are reflected in what we do at Project RED.”
Kenny Wilson gave a tribute to his daughter and the organization she spearheads, sharing a story about Kara and Óscar’s recent wedding. They invited Salvadoran families who have benefitted from Project RED to attend, as well as American families who have sponsored the care of those in need in El Salvador. Seeing the two sets of families meet, and the Salvadoran families be served in a way they weren’t used to, was a special and humbling experience, he said.
Blanton, who has had a celebrated career in the Christian music industry and is president of Be Music Management and Imagine One Networks, was quick to thank his wife, Paula (Mayfield ’76), as well as his parents. They supported his plans to enter the entertainment industry, but they also were quick to point out it wouldn’t be easy, he said.
“My mom said, ‘It’s just really hard to be godly in that game,’ ” Blanton recalled. “I said, by God’s help we’re going to try and figure that out. Surely there’s a way to affect our culture through entertainment and make a difference.”
Michael’s resume features a who’s who of Christian and other contemporary artists, both in music and in publishing. He helped launch the careers of Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Rich Mullins, to name a few. Blanton served as executive producer for some of Grant’s biggest hits, including the multi-platinum Heart in Motion (1992), which has sold more than 5 million copies and received five Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year.
Grant was on hand at the luncheon to pay tribute to her former manager and producer. She set a timer on her phone for six minutes but joked she planned to talk longer than that – which she did. She echoed the praise Blanton received in a surprise video tribute compiled by his daughter, Chelsea (Blanton ’04) Drimmel, featuring artists and industry types praising him for his kindness and endless positivity.
“Mike, you’ve never been afraid of flooding a person with words of encouragement and hope,” Grant said. “I’ve been carried on those waves of inspiration through every stage of my life. Every creative leap we’ve dared to attempt has been fueled by your vision. Thank you for believing in all of us for so long that we finally began believing in ourselves.”
Blanton’s other tribute speaker, author Stephen Mansfield (’88 M.L.A.), first remarked about how many relatives Blanton has who attended ACU. Between him and Paula, they believe the number is at 86 or 87.
“I think Michael has worked out something with the President Schubert – the 100th Blanton goes free, right?,” he joked.
Mansfield went on to describe to the audience what he sees as “the Michael Blanton way” toward success, and it starts with believing in others.
“He believes in people – they’re not cogs in a system, parts of his success machinery,” Mansfield said. “He believes that God has created and gifted people and made them special and put greatness within them, and he’s committed to them.”
In all her years working with Blanton, Grant said, she has never heard him say one negative thing about another person.
“I think that’s because he sees the world with great compassion,” Grant said. “I think he inherited that from his mom and dad. When you see the world with compassion, it’s just poised for miracles. Poised for possibility.
“Compassion rids the mind of comparison and competition, and lets that vat of creativity and mercy and belonging and oneness that exists in all of us be free to pour into the world.”