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1999 Recipient - Mr. John Ryan Gaines

Horseman and Civic Leader

It is not so much John Ryan Gaines' passion for a personal, life-long understanding of the arts and sciences, beauty and truth, man and God, heaven and earth, mind and spirit, but his will to make that same journey possible for all people, young and old, who surround him and share a community with him, that sets him apart, as it did many of the greatest Greek philosophers.

But, that is to say nothing of his deep commitment in terms of thought, planning, detailing, seeking like-minded support, giving of his own energy and worldly goods, in equal parts, in striving for perfection in a wide variety of endeavors. Let us take a brief look at the chiefest and most joyful of these enterprises.

In his inherent, perhaps genetic love of the horse - its speed, beauty, competitive nature, majesty - he was led into a world-acclaimed career in horse breeding, dedicated to the perfecting of standardbred and thoroughbred bloodlines, attested to by wins in every major stakes race in both categories. After accolade heaped upon accolade, including awards for achieving distinction in building an architecturally brilliant modern breeding complex, he achieved so much more than this in one single concept. He, and he alone, had a vision. And with it, the power of poetic persuasion and charismatic leadership to transfer his vision to full reality: the World Breeder's Cup, the Olympic Games for the athlete that is the horse.

His attraction from early youth to truly great art was not just for art's sake alone, but also rather for its ability to set human beings on a nobler and more spiritual path toward demeanor far above mankind's baser instincts. This affinity to art and understanding of its rare gifts led him to amass not one, but several, world-class visual arts collections, in European and Modern drawing, Japanese print, Renaissance sculpture, and religious art. But, he didn't stop there as many do. He delighted in sharing them with the world; finally disassembling them to make it possible to give art works and sustaining financial contributions to many of America's great museums and institutions, as well as to many local galleries and educational centers, such as the U.K. Art Museum, Speed Museum, and Catholic Newman Center, at the University of Kentucky.

When John Gaines founded, funded, and endowed the Gaines Center for the Humanities at the University of Kentucky, he gave a profound address at the opening ceremonies in April 1985 that is astonishing in the simple truths it holds for today's scholars. It includes these excerpts: "Man doesn't exist for education; education exists for man, for his personal awakening, development and fulfillment." "Is it any wonder that the poet anguishes, where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge that we have lost in information? Where is the life we have lost in living?"

And here are his final words in this address: "Through his intellect, man is called to become the light of the world, but it is through his heart that man is called to become the salt of the earth. May this new Center for the Humanities at the University of Kentucky proclaim as its motto, "Where charity and love are found, God himself is there."

In her book, "The Greek Way," Edith Hamilton has termed Euripides the most tragic of the poets, because he can walk "heights exalted," but "he feels, as no other writer has felt, the pitifulness of human life as of children suffering helplessly what they do not know and can never understand." Euripides sounds two notes, she says, which are dominants in our world today - sympathy with suffering that comes from lack of understanding, and the worth of everyone alive. She equates this view of life as the order of mind that is particularly "modern" and declares that all those possessed of it are "akin." In this, I believe she, and all those who want to emulate the Greek way, would hurry to claim Euripides and John Gaines kinsmen, and brothers in their sincere belief in attempting to come closer to a God of perfection who transcends the whims of those imperfect gods of Homer's writings.

There is much to be said of John Gaines' long search for spiritual truths, as can be said of the Greeks. Mr. Gaines' journey can be briefly traced in his membership in the National Catholic Lay Commission on Poverty and the U.K. Economy, in his close association with the Thomas Merton Society of the Abbey of Gethsemani, in his work with the Edwin Sorin Society and other alumni programs of his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, or in his return to work in our hometown religious institutions, such as the U.K. Newman Center.

Likewise, his long dedication to building edifices of enduring usefulness with outstanding aesthetic value must not be overlooked in his nomination as a fitting candidate for the Hellenic Ideals Award for 1999. How could this be allowed when he is one of only ten recipients of the National Association of Architects "Highest Honor" awards, or after he has been given the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation Citations for renovating the lovely old Italianate home on Maxwell Street, which houses the Center for the Humanities, and Mount Hope, the Benjamin Gratz Georgian townhouse dominating Gratz Park, now the Gaines residence.

And, make no mistake about the new architectural and educational jewel in our community; it is John Gaines, and John Gaines alone, who is responsible for the concept and the completion of the Commonwealth Library, University of Kentucky. He is the dreamer of the dream for such a library belonging to all the citizens of Kentucky. He was chair of the overall committee, the architect-selection committee, as well as responsible for the fund-raising efforts, and securing of sponsoring institutions' support; he had much to do with the test and design for the extraordinarily compelling brochures that brought the University the millions of dollars necessary to give Kentucky one of the foremost libraries in the nation.

Thus, I nominate John R. Gaines, competitor, leader, dreamer, warrior, philosopher, and believer in humankind, as "light to the world and salt of the earth," for the 1999 Hellenic Ideals Award. If the globe were searched today, there could be no one found who more embodies the thought and action patterns laid down by the ancient Greeks to delivery mankind to a higher estate.

[from Marilyn K. Moosnick's 03/02/99 nomination letter to the HIP Selection Committee]