The mission of Concordia University Texas is to develop Christian leaders.

Given all the hopes invested by society in higher education, this one is breathtakingly simple and candid.

At the school’s nature-mantled campus not far from Lake Travis, the words "develop Christian leaders" can be seen everywhere.

Last night, it was heard repeatedly at Concordia’s gala which recognizes Excellence in Leadershp at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The first of the season’s 150 or so galas, this one never fails to inspire. First, there are the mobs of smart people mingling over drinks, refusing to settle into their dinner seats for fear of losing vital conversational threads.

Then there are the inevitably inquisitive minds around one’s table: Mine included Concordia President Tom Cedel, his irrepressible wife and nursing advocate Penny Cedel, retiring Rep. Mark Strama — now with Google Fiber, the next big thing — KXAN news anchor and this night’s nimble emcee, Leslie Rhode, and Dean Carl C. Trovall, who recited two of the most eloquent prayers I’ve ever heard.

Though Concordia is a Lutheran school, this is an interfaith affair. Among the honorees were leaders from Methodist and Catholic backgrounds. President Cedel radiates collaboration across multiple social barriers.

The university conferred its first-ever Emerging Leaders honor on two natural public servants, Terri Broussard Williams and Lemuel Williams. Both are tireless members of overlapping Austin communities.

Taking the top leadership honor was Lew Little, CEO and co-founder of Harden Healthcare, which has quickly carved out a growing niche in specialized heath provision. Current chairman of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and past president of Capstar Partners, entrepreneur Little has been all over the map in the business, faith and charity worlds.

Concordia doesn’t have the luxury of an enormous alumni base, since it only reached four-year status in the 1980s. Yet alumni were everywhere and clearly dedicted to this gem in the Austin area’s crown of higher education.