Advice & Features Articles

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

By Alicia Wanek

Like Mother Like Son  
Nancy Lieberman & TJ Cline

For legendary basketball star Nancy Lieberman, “Basketball and sports have become for me the single most important part of my childhood.”  Growing up in New York with a single mom who at times struggled to keep the lights on and food on the table, Nancy found her outlet in basketball; it was when she was happiest.  For her son TJ Cline, the circumstances were much different.  By the time he was born, his mom had been named national player of the year twice in college, competed and won an Olympic silver medal on the U.S. women’s team, and had been  the first woman to play in a men’s professional league.

As a child he saw her play in the WNBA, coach the Texas Legends, and become only the second woman to serve as an assistant coach in the NBA.  She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in     1986, and now she’s the head coach of the all men’s team Power in the Big 3 League.  They won the 2018 championship, reminding us all as Nancy says, “Women can coach men and win.”

Nancy has learned a lot of lessons through basketball—responsibility, accountability, how to compete—and she wanted TJ to participate in sports to learn the same. When asked if he felt pressure to play basketball, however, T.J. says, “Honestly never.”  Since he was able to choose it for himself, he adds, “I think it helped me love the game even more.”  It wasn’t until high school that he really got serious about playing but says that whether he scored 50 points or 0, she just told him she loved him.  Now he can’t imagine himself doing anything else.  He went on to play in college and is currently playing in the Israeli Premier League outside of Tel Aviv and traveling around the globe doing what he loves.  Being the son of a basketball legend (his dad played professionally as well) has its advantages.  “Sometimes I sit back and watch film with her, and she points out stuff I’d never even see,” TJ says.  Sharing the love of basketball has given the mother and son “another level of relationship,” according to Nancy.

She is extremely proud of TJ and grateful for his success, but she’s even more proud of the man he’s become. She says it’s his “quiet strength” that she admires.  She’s had the opportunity to see his dedication to being a strong role model and a “real giver” through projects of his own as well as through her own non-profit Nancy Lieberman Charities.  To date the charity has sent 54 high school seniors to college, touched the lives of 3.1 million children through their Dream Courts in inner cities, and affected countless children through her basketball camps that teach healthy living, the importance of education, and life skills within the context of learning the game she loves.  TJ thinks the charity work he’s done with his mom is the real family business.  “Helping the kids through the game that I love has been so fulfilling,” and he says “I’ll do this ‘til I die, and then my kids will.”  Nancy realized herself early on that sports are “the great connector.  If you can play, you can be my teammate,” regardless of age, gender, color, or religion.  She’s overcome so many stereotypes herself as a Jewish woman in a male-dominated industry and wants to instill the confidence in kids that they can overcome their obstacles, too.  “I sure as heck can get out there and change a kid’s life,” Nancy says.  It’s a lesson she’s passed along to TJ, who says, “The biggest thing we share is the belief that if I can help even one kid, I’ve done my job.”

Gratitude, mutual respect, understanding the value of working hard, knowing the importance of making a difference—Nancy lives these principles every day and has obviously passed them along to her son.  “I wanted to be my son’s hero,” Nancy says.  She need not worry—she is, and now he’s certainly a worthy hero to others.   


Like Mother Like Daughter 
Cynthia Hightower-Jenkins & Annia Jenkins

Many mothers and daughters would be envious of the amazing relationship Cynthia Hightower-Jenkins has with her daughter Annia Jenkins.  This dynamic duo is striking for the mutual respect and obvious affection they have for each other, for the style and dedication they bring to their business, and for their commitment to giving back to their community.  

“We’ve always been close,” says Annia.  Raised in the presence of strong women, Annia grew up in Louisiana spending a lot of time with her mother and grandmother.  She believes that her grandmother’s death made her connection to her mother even closer.  “It roped us together even tighter,” Annia says.  Cynthia says that now the relationship she has with Annia closely resembles the relationship she had with her own mother.  It’s based on a mutual respect for each other’s strengths and time spent together.  When Cynthia is back in Louisiana, the two even just watch TV shows together over the phone.  Annia talks about relying on her mom’s wisdom; Cynthia appreciates her daughter’s “bulldog tenacity.”  

It’s that tenacity that they both have brought to their business, All Things Beautiful & Co., a luxury concierge service that curates experiences for the most discriminating clients. As Annia says it, “Everyone knows us for the jaw-dropping ambience we try to bring to Dallas.”  The pair works to choregraph intimate occasions or large events, close to home or across the globe, as individualized as they can for every client.  Their measure of success is often all the “oohs and aahs” when clients see their work.  They are quick to emphasize that privacy and confidentiality are always a priority.  That trust keeps clients coming back, as does appreciation for their over-the-top approach.

Anyone who has been to the ladies’ Krewe de Etoile Mardi Gras party has seen that extravagance themselves.  Bringing Louisiana tradition to Dallas was their inspiration, but wanting to give back to the city that’s been so welcoming to them is the motivation behind the event.  Each year, Annia and Cynthia vet several philanthropies to determine which two will be the beneficiaries of that year’s event.  One is usually a more well-known charity, the other a deserving organization that may be underfunded.  Over the years they have worked with North Texas Food Bank, the Martin Luther King Scholarship Foundation, City Square, and Rays of Light, among many others.  Cynthia instilled the importance of philanthropy in Annia and her brother from an early age.  “Volunteerism is the currency, the rent you pay for living on this earth,” Cynthia says.  

Nothing these vibrant women do is on a small scale, and they are celebrating life with each other, with their clients, and with those who benefit from their charitable giving.  For these Louisiana natives “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”  


Like Father Like Daughter 
Ike Vanden Eykel & Lindsey Vanden Eykel

Lindsey Vanden Eykel says, “Law school teaches you about the law, but it doesn’t teach you how to practice law.”  Lucky for her, she’s learned all about that from her dad Ike Vanden Eykel, attorney and CEO of Koons Fuller, the second largest family law firm in the U.S.  Ike realizes that there has been a lot of pressure on her as the boss’s daughter, but he says, “She has withstood that pressure very well.”  Now she works just two doors down from her dad’s office.  “It’s invaluable to be able to walk down the hall to talk to him about anything,” Lindsey says.  He’s an extremely proud dad, and she obviously admires her father very much.

Lindsey’s appreciation for her dad really hit home this January when her son was born.  As a new mom, she has come to realize the depth of her own parents’ love and the lessons she’s learned that she wants to pass along.  She says her dad was always able to separate his work life from his family life, and she hopes to be able to do the same.  When he was home, his dedication was to his family, but she also saw his work ethic and commitment to his clients.  That hard-working spirit is a trait they share.  Growing up, Lindsey was a gymnast and traveled internationally with the U.S. National Team, winning the title of National Champion twice.  Ike says, “She knew that if you want it, you have to go after it,” and even back then he could envision how that same discipline could carry over to the field of law.  Lindsey says that both as an athlete and as an attorney you “have to work harder than the next person.”

That determination they share translates into a real dedication to their clients.  Both father and daughter realize that often they are helping people through what may be one of the most difficult times in their lives and strive to do their best for everyone they represent.  Their commitment extends from the courtroom to the community in which they live and work.  Both live by the quote, “To whom much is given much is expected,” and they are proud of the philanthropic work they have participated in together.  The Koons Fuller Family Law Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations to organizations across the state.  Lindsey says the idea of giving back is a principle she was raised with and that “watching my dad live what he preaches has been invaluable.”

As for Ike, seeing his daughter follow in his footsteps has been “extremely gratifying” and seeing her as a mother, giving 100% with the same intensity she’s brought to everything in her life is “truly remarkable.”  This next generation has some very big shoes to fill but also has a mother and grandfather committed to giving him every opportunity. 


Like Father Like Son
Howard Wang & Jowin Wang

Ask anyone in the Dallas area where to get the best Chinese food, and you’ll undoubtedly hear Howard Wang’s.  Patriarch Howard brought the family recipes and traditions and over 30 years of experience, and he is thrilled his son Jowin is now taking the reins running their Frisco restaurant.  Since the 2005 opening of Howard Wang’s China Grill in Preston Hollow, the restaurant’s reputation for amazing Chinese dishes in a contemporary atmosphere has made it a hugely popular destination.  Now with locations in Uptown, Southlake, and its newest at The Star in Frisco anyone in the metroplex can experience their signature dishes.  Jerry Jones himself, a regular at the Dallas locations, was instrumental in luring the loyal Cowboys fans to The Star, right by the Cowboys practice facility.

Howard admits, “The restaurant business is not easy,” and he should know.  Eight years after immigrating to the U.S, his parents opened their own restaurant in Irving where he grew up learning the ropes.  Now his son Jowin is the third generation in the family business.  He says his dad had him start at the bottom, just like anyone else.  Over the years Jowin has worked in every area of the restaurant, with the exception of the kitchen.  “It’s one of the most difficult businesses to go into,” Jowin says, “but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” 

The lessons learned working are ultimately, lessons in life.  Jowin says his dad has worked to help instill good values and a strong work ethic in him and his younger brother (who is now training as a manager at another location).  Now that he’s a father himself, he can recognize that the sacrifices Howard made and the commitment he had to his business and his family are the values he wants to pass along to his own two children.  Howard says he taught his boys that “If you want a better lifestyle you have to work hard.”  Their success can be attributed to that shared commitment…. and to the delicious food they serve.  Now with so many locations, in communities they feel a part of and show support to, especially for local schools and events, they are looking forward to their new venture together in Frisco.  “It’s something I’m passionate about,” says Jowin.  There’s not any doubt where that came from. 

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