by Cyndi Allison, Catawba News
Phillip Kirk's life flashed before his eyes. He didn't suffer a near-death experience. In fact, he laughed from start to finish as friends and family members gathered to share memorable moments spanning his years of service in business, education, politics and as the father of four daughters.
Kirk, Vice President of External Affairs at Catawba College, was honored at "Speak Up While Phil Kirk Takes the Hot Seat" in Cary, NC at the Prestonwood Country Club. Proceeds from the event went to the National Kidney Foundation.
Kirk is a native of Salisbury and recently returned to his alma mater where he serves on the President's Cabinet coordinating community projects particularly through the Ralph W. Ketner School of Business and the education department.
Prior to accepting the appointment at Catawba College, Kirk was President/CEO of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry (NCCBI), the state chamber of commerce and state manufacturing association and publisher of NORTH CAROLINA magazine.
In addition, he served as chief of staff for N.C. Governors Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin and for U.S. Senator Jim Broyhill. Kirk began his career in politics in 1970 when he was elected to the N.C. State Senate, the youngest member in state history at that time.
Betty Ray McCain, former North Carolina Secretary of Cultural Resources, turned on the southern charm and kept the lineup of Jims in order as she hosted the soft roast.
"We got Betty Ray gonna pick on us," quipped one of the roast panelists, and she did, indeed, keep the program on track and the audience in stitches. It became quickly obvious why actor Alan Alda once called McCain the "funniest woman in America."
"You're doing so much better, since you got that Democratic kidney," McCain told Holshouser who is Republican.
Holshouser received a kidney transplant at NC Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem in 1986. He suffered kidney problems for many years and had end-stage kidney disease. The transplant has allowed him many extra years of life and service as well as more games of golf with Kirk.
Kirk took the hot seat following a glorious feast capped off with white chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries and served in chocolate bowls. His throne was a huge wooden chair covered in red velvet.
Broyhill looked around the fabulous banquet room and noted that he had discussed buying a chandelier with Kirk at one time. Broyhill said that Kirk thought the chandelier was too expensive and that "no one knows how to play it anyway."
Broyhill also pointed out that "Do what?" and "Say what?" are different southern terms which delighted the predominantly southern audience.
Hunt ribbed Kirk about a hunting trip but went on to note that Kirk is "one of the great ones." He said that Kirk puts in twenty hour days and has had a major impact on education in the state. "All should be proud of what he has done," said Hunt.
Others on the panel and in the audience agreed that Kirk has had a profound impact on the lives of many in the state. In addition to his staggering professional duties, Kirk is also known for his charming notes and emails. He gets up around 4 a.m. and pens personal messages too numerous to count.
"When I woke up this morning, I had an email from Phil in my box," said Dr. Tim Moreland, professor of communication at Catawba College. "And that was very early."
The roast wrapped with comments from Kirk's daughters. The girls, Angela Prenoveau, Wendi Hamilton, Ashlee Kirk and Allison Kirk, joked that they had nine minutes and 37 seconds and that their father had taught them to stick to schedules.
Angela, the oldest daughter, recounted a time when she called to set up a lunch date with her father. His assistant said, "This year?" She also joked that she planned her child's birth around sporting events and scheduled a c-section so "maybe Dad could make it."
Wendi noted that she was the only Kirk girl who got a first name that didn't start with A. She said that she's still waiting to hear the story on that.
Kirk's third daughter said that she was the closest thing to a son her father has, since she loves sports.
Allison, the baby of the family, said that the last time she'd seen her father was on her birthday. "When will we get together for Christmas?" she asked.
All four daughters applauded their father for his hard work and dedication to the community at large. Ashlee noted that she was honored to be a part of the roast to celebrate her father's accomplishments, and her sisters nodded.
I was especially proud of our four daughters," said Kirk. "Other than the oldest, they have not had much experience speaking in public. They said they were nervous, but I could not tell it."
Kirk responded to the roast with some thoughts on achievement. He said that strong family support is critical. He noted that many in our state to do not have that family foundation. Kirk said that programs like Head Start and Kindergarten as well as services for the elderly help fill in those gaps.
He also encouraged strong support for the National Kidney Foundation. Diabetes and hypertension are on the rise, and the number of individuals on kidney dialysis is expected to double in five years.
McCain wrapped the program with these thoughts, "Blessed are the brief for they shall be invited back again."
Following the roast, Kirk said that Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, told him, "They were too easy on you." Kirk responded with, "Thank goodness."