About 40 years ago, a 21-year-old woman moved to Dallas and started volunteering. She didn’t stop. And those who know her say Dallas is better at her work transforming the city with a strong commitment to diversity and equity.

Today, she received one of Dallas’ oldest civic honors, the 93rd Linz Award, which recognizes community involvement that has had a significant impact on Dallas over the past decade. It is presented by The Dallas Morning Newsthe Communities Foundation of Texas and the Dallas Foundation.

Matrix Ellis-Kirk said she was “shocked and amazed” to be honored. In the endorsements, she is portrayed as someone committed to the advancement of girls and women, especially those of color, who goes beyond just attending meetings and taking action.

“At a time when so many are questioning our valuable and essential institutions, it is reassuring to find people like Matrix who have a long history of volunteering and investing in making our city a better and more equitable place. wrote former winners Tom Dunning and Pete Shenkel in an endorsement. Dunning nominated her for the award.

“Matrix is ​​one of Dallas’ top civic leaders,” said Grant Moise, CEO of DallasNews Corp. “She has a magnetic personality that makes people want to work closely with her and is a big part of what makes her such a worthy recipient of the Linz Prize.”

Those who supported Ellis-Kirk, who is the wife of former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, detailed how her work saved the AT&T Performing Arts Center from succumbing to a debt crisis, helped the DFW International Airport to remain stable during the pandemic and defended Fair Park.

“If this institution had failed, it would have been devastating for Dallas,” Dunning and Shenkel wrote of the arts center.

At the heart of Ellis-Kirk is her commitment to helping girls and women, especially those of color, and she has spent years ‘gathering’ resources and support, the former city council member wrote. and civic leader Veletta Forsythe-Lill and former Dallas City Manager Mary K Suhm in their endorsement letter.

“During her decades of work on education, Matrice has ensured that girls and women see the possibilities available to them and has broadened our community’s understanding of what they can achieve,” wrote Forsythe-Lill and Suhm. “And because Matrix continually works to add women, especially women of color, to the boards of nonprofits and corporations, it makes sure they have a voice at the table.”

Ellis-Kirk grew up in Ohio with her grandmother and great-grandmother, who she says were a big influence on her to “do something.” They often donated clothes or cooked for the community.

“If you’re sitting on the sidelines — I mean, we grew up on civil rights — we had no choice. We had to talk,” Ellis-Kirk said.

Ellis-Kirk ran her first advocacy campaign in elementary school, when she protested a rule banning girls from wearing pants. She won.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she said she grew up in poverty and won a scholarship. “When I went to school, it opened up a whole new world that I didn’t even know existed,” Ellis-Kirk said.

Ellis-Kirk focuses her volunteer work on a variety of artistic, educational and community counseling because, she says, one cannot thrive without the other. Education is more than “repeating arithmetic,” she said, but also life, self-expression and communication.

”[Art] creates understanding so that maybe we can find a more symbiotic way for us to thrive together if we leverage those three,” she said.

Ellis-Kirk said at 61 she still has more to give.

“You have a choice,” she said, her grandmother used to say. “You can either be an active part of life or you can make life happen to you.”