It was billed as a business salute to Jim Rouse. But, in truth, it was a family reunion - the old fashioned kind with plenty of good food and music and people saying wonderful things about the family patriarch.
"Anybody who touches the orbit of his life has a goodly heritage," said Gordon Cosby, founder of the Church of the Savior in Washington.
"If you taught us anything, Jim Rouse, it's that life is a process of people working together to create something," said L. Earl Armiger, past president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Calling Columbia founder James W. Rouse "Jim" was both a mark of affection and a sign of his humility.
"It took a long time for [Mr. Rouse's wife] Patti to convince Jim that he deserves this salute, and we deserve the opportunity to thank him," Mr. Armiger said Thursday night at the chamber fete in Columbia.
And thank him they did:
In song, with Mr. Rouse clapping his hands to music sung by the St. John's Baptist Church Gospel Choir.
In film, with scores of friends and former employees offering short and to the point tributes.
In proclamation, with a letter of appreciation from President and Mrs. Bush.
And in gesture, by instituting a James W. Rouse scholars program at Howard Community College and the creation of a loan fund in Mr. Rouse's name designed to help budding entrepreneurs.
The chamber hopes to raise $1 million for the Jim Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund in the next five years and provide loans of $5,000 to $50,000 to help small businesses start or expand in Howard County.
Participants will be required to attend a three-month training program at Howard Community College and will be eligible to participate in a so-called incubator program that will provide affordable office space, shared clerical services, and management assistance.
SG "Patti said to me, 'You know, this is too much.' And it really is,"
Mr. Rouse told the crowd of 300 persons following the presentation. "This is such a marvelous thing to have happen. How many localities in the United States could put together a fund to create jobs? The whole thing is an example of the spirit of Howard County."
It is not he or his company, but the people of Howard County who deserve credit for his accomplishments, Mr. Rouse said. Where he might have received opposition, he instead received cooperation, he said.
In 1961, the county elected Republicans as county commissioners for the first time in its history, he said, because people felt the county was being overdeveloped.
OC "Think what a possible jolt it was" two years later to make the
Columbia presentation to the new commissioners, Mr. Rouse said. "But we were received thoughtfully and carefully."
In 1963, a Baltimore newspaper reported a "land grab" was taking place in Howard County, but no one jacked up prices on the 15,000 acres that was to become Columbia, he said.
In 1965, there were 35,000 people living in the county, including 6,500 in 13 developments within the boundaries of the proposed new town. But "not one single person said a thing against it" at a public hearing when he made his case to the zoning board, Mr. Rouse said. "From that day until now, this has been an all-time American victory between government, business and the people," Mr. Rouse said.
Howard County's acceptance of different races is unique, and its ecumenical centers are unequaled in America, he said. He pointed with pride to what he called the "marvelous, high quality service" that the people of Howard County receive from a local health maintenance organization, the community college, the hospital, and the most used public library in the nation.
"What we really are celebrating are the spirit and the extraordinary achievements of the people, their government, and developer," he said. "I am proud to be here tonight celebrating that partnership and the triumph of [the] Howard County spirit."