American Cancer Society, The Rotary Club of Houston and the Lombardi Award
In 1970, Houstonian Rick Ashburn had an idea for a sports award that would be given to college linemen who had demonstrated outstanding levels of performance and ability each year. Rick also wanted the event to raise money that would then be given to a local non-profit. After being turned away by several organizations, Rick approached the Rotary Club of Houston who loved the idea.
To sell the idea to potential candidates, voters of the award and ultimately the guests that would support and attend the events, it was decided to name the award the Rotary Lombardi Award after Hall of Fame legend and coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, who died in September 1970 of intestinal cancer. Marie Lombardi, Vince’s widow required that to get the rights to use Coach Lombardi’s name and likeness, all charitable gifts raised on behalf of the event would have to be gifted for cancer research. With the addition of Lombardi’s name and image it was also decided to add the qualities of Discipline and Character to the award’s requirements.
It was at this time that the Rotary Club of Houston reached out to the American Cancer Society. Representing the Society was Louis Wynhoff, CEO, Harris Co. Unit, Steve Romanosky, Director, Dr. Tom Arnold, Rotarian/ACS Board Member, Dr. Les Hoaglin, ACS President and Jan Norris, ACS Board Member.
The ACS team along with Rotarian team which included: Elmer Faught, President, Sam Davis Jr., Dan Willis, Dr. Tom Arnold, Mark Storm, Frank Guernsey, Hugh Pitts, Carl Menger Jr. and Rick Ashburn started the process of attaining endorsements, sponsorships and a list of supporters for the first event.
Thanks to these individuals as well as the efforts of hundreds of others over the years, the annual Lombardi Awards Dinner has been an overwhelming success. As a result of Rick Ashburn’s idea, the Rotary Club of Houston and key individuals at ACS, millions of dollars have been raised for cancer research in Vince Lombardi’s name and legacy.