2006 - University of Houston
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2006 Biographies

Saba Abashawl

Saba Abashawl is the Executive Officer, Economic Development, City of Houston, Department of Aviation. Her responsibilities to the City of Houston include industry affairs, business development, international relations and liaison to key city constituents. Saba promotes air service development through business and trade initiatives to increase passenger and cargo traffic, and leads the market effort to promote Ellington Field.

International trade and travel to the Houston area are of critical importance to the economy and culture of the region. Saba works closely with Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection to address port of entry issues for foreign citizens and business travelers entering the U.S. through Houston to establish a clearance process with a hospitable climate while maintaining both the safety and security of our region.

Her professional affiliations include: Houston Committee on Foreign Relations, Greater Houston Partnership, World Trade Division; Texas Medical Center, International Affairs Committee; US District Export Council, Center for International Education, Bilateral U.S. Arab Chamber of Commerce, and the Houston World Affairs Council. She attended the University of St. Thomas where she earned her Bachelor’s in Marketing and Master’s in International Finance and Business.


Sofia Adrogué, PC

Sofia Androgué is a business litigator for Looper, Reed & McGraw, PC, as well as a community leader, philanthropist and mother of three. Sofia immigrated to the United States almost 30 years ago with her parents, four siblings, 14 suitcases and a dream. Pursuing her education, she graduated from St. Agnes Academy, Rice University, and the University of Houston Law Center. She is a graduate and Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum as well as graduate of Leadership Texas and Leadership Houston. She is a prolific author and speaker and has also taught as an adjunct Professor of Law.

AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and a member of “Who’s Who in American Law” and “Who’s Who of American Women,” Ms. Adrogué has been profiled by H Texas Magazine as one of “2005 Houston’s Top Lawyers,” and one of the “Houston’s Professionals on the Fast Track.” Additionally, Sofia is an ABC channel 13 2005 Woman of Distinction, a Texas Jaycees “Outstanding Texan,” as well as a US Jaycees “Outstanding American.” She is a recipient of a Barbara Jordan Legacy Award bestowed by the National Council of Negro Women, Barbara Jordan Houston Section.


Hitaji Aziz

Hitaji Aziz was born in 1953 out of the legacy of Black women who were slaves, healers, midwives, maids, addicts, mothers and wives who learned how to create something out of nothing and still decide to give of themselves. Raised in a poor working-class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it was there that she decided at the age of thirteen that she wanted to live her life working with the issues of social justice and social healing in America and the world in general.

A powerful and candid motivational speaker, Hitaji is a formerly battered wife, and once-homeless African American woman, as well as an ex-welfare mother of three. She describes herself as a Healer striving to be Spirit-led and an Abolitionist with a focused interest in the social injustice issues of the Prison Industrial Complex, Death Row conditions, families of the incarcerated, the exonerated and the abolishment of the Death Penalty in America.

She received her BA at the Union Institute of Vermont College, and is a Myopractic Massage Therapist, Healing Touch Practitioner, Diversity Consultant, Spoken Word Poet, Writer, Chanter, Coach, Motivational Presenter and Talk Show host of a popular KPFT radio show titled Earth 101. Hitaji is also the owner of Peacemaker Enterprise, a consulting agency producing and presenting products of social change.


Elizabeth Baxter

Elizabeth Baxter is a news producer with KTRK-TV (ABC 13) in Houston. She's been a journalist for over ten years and covered the Waco cult standoff and the Oklahoma City bombing in the early days of her career. More recently, constant coverage of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita kept her working around the clock. You don't see her on television; a producer stays behind the scenes and is responsible for putting the news on the air. Elizabeth also has experience in public relations and was an executive with Webber Shandwick in Chicago.

Personally, Elizabeth loves to cook, entertain and spend time with friends. She's also passionate about Texas music. If she's not in the newsroom, she's most likely at a live show in Houston or Austin.


Alison Ayres Bell

Alison Ayres Bell is the wife of former Congressman Chris Bell and it is her dedication to her family that has made her both an advocate and a lighter. A native Houstonian, Alison Ayres met Chris Bell on a blind date in 1989 while she was working as a campaign scheduler and Chris was still attending law school. They married in 1992 and began a family during Chris's first campaign for City Council.

When Chris was in Congress, Alison had the opportunity to choose a subject to feature in a public service announcement. Because a dear friend of hers had recently completed her breast cancer chemotherapy, she chose breast cancer awareness. As fate would have it, she was diagnosed in November of last year with the same disease. Alison fought back with a heavy regime of chemotherapy, and thanks to her doctors, her faith and her family and friends, the prognosis is good. This experience has motivated her to speak out for further stem cell research in hopes of finding more effective and more humane cancer treatments.

Alison is a board member of Planned Parenthood of Houston, and Advisory Board Member of the Houston Council on Alcohol and Drugs, and a Sustaining Member of the Houston Junior League. She also serves on the Children's Ministry Council at Christ Church Cathedral and volunteers at her boys' school where she also serves as a Director of the PTO. In her spare time, she looks forward to weekends with the family and occasional trips to Rockport.


Patricia Bernstein

Patricia Bernstein holds a Degree of Distinction in American Studies from Smith College and has managed her own public relations firm in Houston for the past 20 years. She has been publishing articles in magazines and newspapers for over 30 years, including pieces in venues as diverse as Texas Monthly, Cosmopolitan, and The Smithsonian. In 1993, she published her first book, Having a Baby: Mothers Tell Their Stories, with Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The book is a collection of women's first-person accounts of their childbirth experiences, ranging from the 1880s to the 1990s. 

Last year, Ms. Bernstein published her second book, The First Waco Horror: the Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP. The book tells the story of one of the watershed atrocities of the lynching era and the courageous young women's suffrage activist, Elisabeth Freeman, who was sent to Waco by the fledgling NAACP to investigate the Lynching.

Ms. Bernstein is married to Alan Bernstein, acting national editor of the Houston Chronicle, and has three daughters.


Christina Cabral

Christina Cabral is the Director of Boards and Commissions for the City of Houston in the office of the Mayor. She is responsible for appointments to approximately 1200 positions of almost 200 Boards, Commissions and advisory groups. In addition, she oversees Mayor Bill White's Hispanic Advisory Board, which advises the Mayor on various issues related to the Latino Community.

A native of San Antonio, Christina Cabral attended the University of Texas at Austin earning a degree in Communication with a minor in Spanish. After graduation, Christina worked in State Government for a Bexar County State Representative during a legislative session. During that time, she was recruited to work in Washington, DC where over a seven-year period she worked in the US Department of Health and Human Services for Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen at the Pentagon, and in the White House for Vice President Al Gore.

In the Houston community, Christina has been active on several Houston boards including Girls, Inc., Houston Democratic Forum, Planned Parenthood and various political campaigns. She is also active in statewide leadership organizations such as the Texas Lyceum and the Women's Pipeline organization, an extension of Leadership Texas.


Debra L. Chernosky, MD

Debra L. Chernosky is a dermatologist in Houston, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in 1985. Her training was completed at Baylor (Transitional Internship 1985-86) and the University of Texas Department of Dermatology (Residency 1986-89). She has been in private practice since completing her residency. Her professional areas of expertise include general, pediatric and cosmetic dermatology as well as dermasurgery.

Debra Chernosky has been married to her husband, Marvin, for 22 years. They have two children. She is active at St. Martin's Episcopal Church where she serves on vestry and sings in the parish choir. Dr. Chernosky also serves on the board of The Woman's Fund for Health, Education and Research as its secretary.


Lynn Laverty Elsenhans

Lynn Laverty Elsenhans graduated from Rice University with a BA in Mathematical Science in 1978 and received an MBA from Harvard in 1980 before joining Shell Oil Company. She has had assignments in Oil Products and Chemical Products manufacturing, marketing and planning. Elsenhan's senior management assignments with Shell include Manager Natural Gas in the US. E&P; Manager Lubricants in US Oil Products; President and CEO Shell Deer Park Refining Company; Vice President Refining for Equilon Enterprises, LLC; President of Shell Oil Products East based in Singapore; and Director of Strategic Planning, Sustainable Development, and External Affairs for Shell International Limited in London.

Most recently she was President and CEO of Shell Oil Products LIS, and President Shell Oil Company and Country Chair for Shell US. She was named to her current position, Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing, with responsibility for Shell's reſining business and chemical manufacturing worldwide effective January 1, 2005.

Ms. Elsenhans is on the Board of Trustees for Rice University and on the Council of Overseers for the Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice. She is also a Trustee for the First Tee and on the board of the Texas Medical Center. She is married to John Elsenhans and considers Houston home.


Diedra Fontaine

Diedra Fontaine is the Director of Sales Development for Continental Airlines. She was previously the Director of Sales for the South-Central Region responsible for managing the corporate and travel agency sales efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Fontaine started her career with Continental Airlines in 1990 as an EDP Auditor and moved to the Sales Division in 1992 as Manager of Sales Planning and Administration.

Since then, Fontaine has held positions with various responsibilities and special projects including Brand Manager, Sales Manager, Regional Sales Manager and Senior Sales Manager, Planning & Training for North America Sales. Prior to joining Continental Airlines, Fontaine worked for Brown & Root, American General Life Insurance Company and EQUICOR. Fontaine holds a bachelor's degree in Business Computer Information Systems from the University of North Texas and a Master of Business Administration from Texas Southern University.

Fontaine is very active in the Houston community and serves on several boards including The Ensemble Theatre, Dress for Success Houston, The Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund and the Ronald McDonald House. Fontaine is also a graduate of Leadership Houston and an active member of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, The Links, Inc. - Houston Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Jack & Jill of America - Houston Chapter.

Fontaine is married to Terence H. Fontaine and they have one daughter.


Beatrice (Bea) Garza

Bea Garza joined HUISD in the summer of 2000 as Executive General Manager of Human Resources. Prior to joining HISD, she spent 15 years in the private sector, ascending through various human resource management capacities. Ms. Garza holds a BA in Education from Stephen F. Austin University and an MBA from the University of Houston. Bea's community-service activities are wide-ranging, including board membership in the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA), Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Literacy Advance of Houston. She also does committee work with the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast and is an active member of Ashford United Methodist Church. Her hobbies include reading, going to the bay, and spending time with her husband, Victor and their daughters.


Kellye Gray

From her first effort on CD, the long out-of-print Standards in Gray (Justice Record) to her amazing sophomore effort, Tomato Kiss (Proteus Recordings) Kellye Gray has proven that she is a musician to be reckoned with. If one has not had the opportunity to experience Gray in a live setting, her most recent CD, Blue & Pink; A Live Concert on two CD's (Proteus Recordings) allows you a chance to do just that! Gray is an artist who has appeared with such diverse talents as Ray Charles, Freddie Hubbard, Mulgrew Miller, Dizzy Gillespie, Arnett Cobb, David "Fathead" Newman, Willie Nelson, The Temptations, and The Four Tops. She also appears regularly on national and international stages.

A native Texan, this multi-talented jazz vocalist is also musician, actor, comedienne, songwriter as well as arranger and producer. Somehow Gray also finds the time to teach and mentor. She is a faculty member with The Jazz School in Berkeley, CA as well as the Austin School of Music in Austin, TX.


Ellen Elkins Grimes

Ellen Elkins Grimes is a prominent family law attorney who has worked in private practice at her own firm, the Law Office of Ellen Elkins Grimes since 1986. Ms. Grimes began her career in law at Scott, Douglass & Keeton in the early 1980's working as a business litigation attorney. A graduate of the University of Texas (BA, French), the University of Houston (MA, French) and the University of Houston Law Center, Ms. Grimes currently serves on a number of regional boards including the Gulf Coast Family Law Specialists Association, Gull Coast Legal Foundation and the University of Houston Law Foundation. 

Ellen and her husband, Pearson Grimes, reside in Houston with their two children.


Gail M. Gross 

Dr. Gail Gross is a local, national and international family and child development specialist. Gail received her BS in Education and Psychology from the University of Houston and then pursued a career in teaching with HISD for several years. She later earned her Master's degree in Secondary Education with a specialty in English and Psychology Studies from the University of St. Thomas. In 1995, Gail completed her doctorate in Education, Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Psychology at the University of Houston.

As a recognized family and child development specialist, Gail is interested in alternative and holistic medicine, and for 30 years has studied and practiced Eastern philosophy with teachers such as the Dalai Lama, Sogyal Rinpoche, Irena Tweedy, and many others. She lectures around the world in areas of education, stress, and grief as a vehicle for healing. 

For four years, Gail has been the host of the very successful radio show, Let's Talk, the host of her own national PBS television show of the same name, as well as a syndicated columnist. She also taught dream analysis and meditation techniques at the Jung Center in Houston. You will see her on both CNN and FOX as an expert in family and child development issues.

Dr. Gross has most recently been the recipient of the Spirit of freedom Award from the Dalai Lama, as well as the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from the Jewish Women International. You may also recognize Gail as a published author for Random House. Her latest book will be out next year focusing on children and how to manage stress and Grief.

Currently, Gail is engaged in working on a one-year pilot study evaluating stress reduction and the empathic process as it later affects conflict resolution, math, science, reading and attendance in the Houston Independent School District. She also is Vice President of Gross Investments/Builders, a real estate development company started by her husband. 


Bettie Hankamer 

Bettie Hankamer is in her tenth year as the Director of Admissions at the Kinkaid School. She began working in the admissions office in 1989, becoming the Director in 1996. Kinkaid is the oldest non-parochial private college preparatory school in Houston, and is currently celebrating its centennial anniversary. Bettie is a graduate of Baylor University, is married, and the mother to three Kinkaid alumni.


Sherri Hickman 

As a young girl growing up in the hills of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, Sherri was not targeted as one to yearn to go to sea for a living. However, her grandmother lived in Brooklyn and weekend visits to her house exposed Sherri to many a ship anchored in New York Harbor. After a family fishing trip off Montauk, NY, Sherri told her mother she wanted to be a sea captain. A guidance counselor in high school suggested that Sherri attend a maritime academy to pursue her career. Sherri did just that and graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy in 1985.

Over the next five and a half years, Sherri worked at sea to obtain an Unlimited Masters License. At the age of 32, Hickman sailed as Master for Keystone Shipping in 1994. She was the first female to achieve this rank at the company. During this time, Hickman accepted a position as a Houston Ship Channel Pilot, which she considers the pinnacle of her career. Sherri made history once again by being the first female pilot to be hired by the Houston Pilots Association.


Pauline E. Higgins 

Pauline Edwards Higgins is Vice President, Assistant General Counsel, and Assistant Corporate Secretary at JP Morgan Chase, Co. Her responsibilities include asset securities, legal counsel and task force implementation, finance and securities law, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance, to name only a few. Prior to joining JP Morgan Chase, Ms. Higgins worked as a transactional and tax litigation attorney for Exxon Company. Ms. Higgins holds a BS in Accounting from Louisiana State University, a JD from Tulane School of Law, and an LLM from the University of Houston Law Center. In November 2005, Texas Lawyer named Pauline Higgins “One of the best 50 Corporate Attorneys.” This year Ms. Higgins has been nominated for the 2006 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award by the American Bar Association.

Within the Houston community, Pauline has been involved with many organizations such as the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County, Alley Theatre, Coalition for the Homeless, and the Houston Area Women's Center Guild. 


Debra Innes 

Debra Innes is Executive Vice President for Retail Banking and Treasury Management at Amegy Bank of Texas, an affiliate of Zions Bancorporation. Debra has more than 25 years of experience in developing Cash/Treasury Management solutions for small and middle market business in the private and public sector. She has worked with companies of all sizes and caliber to implement Electronic Commerce Strategies, including Electronic Data Interchange and Internet-based services. Prior to joining Amegy Bank in 1992, she worked for First City Bank of Texas.

The Treasury product line managed by Debra generates more than $36 million in annual revenue for the company. In 2004, Retail Banking and Treasury Management combined generated 72% of the bank's total non-interest fee income. Her area is responsible for services provided to 6,300 corporate relationships in the Houston and Dallas metropolitan areas.

Debra served as Chairperson of the board for I Have A Dream - Houston for two years and was a board member for five years. She serves on the board for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF); a position that she's held since 2001. Debra was recently named to its Chairman's Circle for her leadership efforts in helping JDRF with its commitment to one day cure diabetes. This year Debra was named one of “25 Women to Watch," part of US Banker's third annual ranking of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking.”


Laura R. Jaramillo 

Laura Ramirez Jaramillo was born in Houston, TX and raised in Alvin. She has a BA from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX with a major in Journalism and a minor in Spanish. Jaramillo has over 20 years of experience in banking. Jaramillo joined Wells Fargo Bank in 2003 as Vice President of Community Development for the Greater Texas Market. At Wells Fargo, Jaramillo is responsible for ensuring that the housing and small business needs of low to moderate income individuals and minorities are met by providing tailored products and services.

Laura currently serves as an appointee of the Mayor of Houston as the Board Chair of the Housing Authority of the City of Houston. She also is Board Chair of The Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans. She is a board member of the Fondren Ranch Management District, Houston Asset Building Coalition, the US Small Business Administration's Regional Advisory Committee, LISC Local Advisory Committee (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), and CROSSROADS - Community Partnership for Youth, Inc. She is active with the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its Latina Roundtable Committee, the Houston Credit Coalition, CRA Officers Roundtable and More.

Additionally, Jaramillo is founding owner of PERL, LLC, a minority, woman-owned and certified event planning company and is a graduate of the Center of Houston's future Leadership Class. She is married and is a member of Westbury United Methodist Church.


Dianne Johnson 

Dianne Johnson was elected to the Board of Education in 2001 and elected by her peers to the position of assistant secretary for 2002, second vice president for 2003, first vice president for 2004, and president for 2005.

Johnson holds a BS in Education from the University of Texas and a Master of Education from the University of Houston. She worked with the UT Ex-Students' Association beſore launching her teaching career in the Spring Branch Independent School District. A winner of national awards as a teacher and a Licensed Professional Counselor, she helped high-school students secure financial aid, scholarships, and the stipulated requirements for college admission.

Johnson was a member of the HIISD Superintendent's PEER Committee on Decentralization, the HISD Superintendent's Advisory Committee, and the HISD Southwest Area Advisory Committee. Johnson has also held the position of board chair for the School for Little Children, Bellaire United Methodist Church, and second vice president of the Gulf Coast School Board Association. She is currently on the board of directors of the Texas Education Reform Caucus and Foundation and serves as board vice president for the I have a Dream Foundation. She is also on the program committee of the Asia House Project for the Asia Society. Johnson and her husband David have a daughter, Beth, and a son, Drew. Both are graduates of Bellaire High School.


Judy Gray Johnson

Judy Gray Johnson is a Certified Public Accountant with over 23 years of experience in the areas of accounting, auditing, management, and budgeting in both local government and private industry. Ms. Johnson is currently the Director of Finance and Administration for the City of Houston, a position she was nominated to fill by Houston City Mayor Bill White and confirmed by Houston City Council in January 2004. As the Finance and Administration Director, Ms. Johnson is responsible for the city's annual operating budget, annual five-year forecast, five-year capital improvement plan, cost allocation plan, and monthly financial reports. She also manages the office of strategic purchasing, debt management, accounting, administrative services, budget and evaluation, and regulatory Services.

In January 2003, Ms. Johnson was sworn in as City Controller, the second highest city official in the City of Houston. As City Controller, Ms. Johnson managed the comprehensive annual financial reports, monthly financial reports, city's investment portfolio, financial reporting, debt management, disbursements, computer systems and auditing functions.

In private industry, Ms. Johnson served as Tax Manager of the firm Miller, Wachman and Company in Boston, MA; Controller of Dueck Developments in Aurora, CO; and Tax Manager of Coopers and Lybrand in Houston. Ms. Johnson received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Houston. She served as Chair of the Houston Society of CPA's Governmental Accounting and Auditing Committee; a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the American Woman's Society of Certified Public Accountants. Ms. Johnson was a “2003 Woman of Excellence" Honoree - an honor bestowed by the Federation of Houston Professional Women for community involvement, career, and education. Married to Michael Johnson, she has two children.


Chelby King 

Chelby King currently serves in the position of Executive Director of Lawndale Art Center. Lawndale recently completed a $1.4 million renovation of its historic 1930's Art Deco facility and launched its 25th Anniversary Year during Ms. King's administration. Ms. King also serves on the Board of Directors of the Houston Museum District Association, Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County and Glass Free Grounds. 

Prior to her move to Houston, she held positions in arts administration at both the University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center and Mexic-Arte Museum, also in Austin. After leaving Mexic-Arte Museum as an employee she was appointed to their Board of Directors and served for three years. Ms. King was a City Council appointed member of the Austin Arts Commission for four years and served as the Chair of the Arts Commission for two of the four years. As Arts Commissioner Chair she annually recommended to City Council $3.5 million in allocations to Austin arts projects and local artists. She also served on the City of Austin's Art in Public Places Board for two years, recommending public art works for commission by the City of Austin. Ms. King received her BA in History from Austin College in Sherman, TX.


Susan A. Lieberman 

From 1998 until last month, Susan Lieberman was director of Leadership Rice at Rice University. She is also the founder of the Collaboration for Intentional Leadership. Dr. Lieberman is the author of five books including New Traditions, The Real High School Handbook and Venus in Bluejeans. She is completing a program to be ordained as an interfaith Minister.


Elizabeth (Tiz) MacNaughton 

Tiz MacNaughton is a Houston-based psychologist who has consulted schools, students, parents, and business organizations locally and nationally for over 40 years. From 1960-66 she limited her practice to St. John's School where she served as head of the Lower School. In 1985 Lt. Governor Bill Hobby appointed her to serve with Ross Perot on the Texas Select Committee on Public Education which resulted in a special legislative session, dismissal of the state Board of Education, and significant changes in educational guidelines at the state level. In 1986 Gov. Mark White appointed her to the State Board of Communities in Schools. She volunteered on that board and, for 10 years, on the local CIS board. Today, she continues in private practice on a limited basis.


Patricia (Patti) Mercer 

Patti Mercer has served as President of the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the past 22 years. She has worked in the animal protection field for 26 years and is a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. Mercer currently serves on the board of the National Council on Pet Population and Study.

The nationally recognized Houston SPCA will place 15,000 animals into new homes this year. Eight full-time cruelty investigators handle 10,000 cases of animal cruelty each year. The organization also offers other comprehensive programs including Pet Loss Support Group (for grieving pet owners), animal behavior services (HSPCA employs an animal behaviorist), humane education programs for schools, Critter Camp for children 8-14 yrs., and 24-hour injured animal rescue and animal disaster services.

Houston SPCA was heavily involved in animal rescue and relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina and served as lead agency in managing the animal response teams for the Texas side of Hurricane Rita. Over 3,000 Katrina/Rita hurricane victims moved through the Houston SPCA and they fed over 8,000 on site until their families could return home.

Patti lives in Brazoria County with her husband, three horses, two goats, four cats and one dog. She shares her office with an African Grey parrot who barks and meows. Currently, she is focused on raising funds for capital expansion of the Houston SPCA.


Vickie L. Milazzo 

Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, not only started her own successful business in 1982 she pioneered a whole industry. As founder and president of Vickie Milazzo Institute, she founded the field of legal nurse consulting. As the authoritative educator in her field, Vickie has been profiled in numerous publications, including the New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Houston Woman Magazine, NurseWeek, Entrepreneur, Small Business Success and Ladies' Home Journal

The principles she's learned and lived by as an entrepreneur and educator in a female-dominated industry are presented in her new book this March from John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Inside Every Woman: Using the 10 Strengths You Didn't Know You Had to Get the Career and Life You Want Now.


Laura Gonzales Murillo 

Dr. Laura G. Murillo is Senior Executive Director for Memorial Hermann Foundation. As a member of the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Executive Council, she is responsible for Development and External Relations. 

Prior to joining the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Dr. Murillo was employed at the University of Houston for 14 years. She began her career at UH, and at age 23, was named Director for the Urban Experience Program sponsored by the Office of the President and the Center for Mexican American Studies. As founding Director, she organized the first

Center for Mexican American Studies Noche Cultural Scholarship Fundraiser, benefiting the Urban Experience Program. During her last three years at UH, she was a full-time Major Gifts Officer; a full-time doctoral student; was named "Education Advocate of the Year” by the Houston Chronicle and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and gave birth to a second child.

Dr. Murillo holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, a Master's and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Houston. She and her husband of 14 years, Jose Luis Murillo, have two daughters.


Sharon E. Murphy 

Sharon Murphy is a partner within McConnell, Jones, Lanier & Murphy, LLP's consulting division and heads the firm's education practice. She has 25 years of experience in financial management, business and strategic planning, organizational assessment, policy analysis, and program evaluation. As a consulting partner, she is responsible for a national clientele that includes government (federal, state, and municipal), school districts, and institutions of higher education. 

Sharon's civic involvement includes serving on the Board of Directors for Aspiring Youth of Houston, a non-profit organization that provides alter-school programs for disadvantaged middle school aged youth. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Ensemble Theater. Sharon is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University where she earned a MBA degree in Finance and Indiana University where she earned a BA degree in Communications.


Kyrie O'Connor 

Kyrie O'Connor is Deputy Managing Editor for Features at the Houston Chronicle. Born in Rochester, N.Y., she is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She has worked for newspapers for most of the past 30 years. For 14 years, she was at The Hartford Courant in Connecticut. In 2003, she joined the Chronicle, where she oversees the daily Star sections, Flavor, Zest, Travel and Preview sections, as well as Gloss, the fashion magazine. She also writes the daily blog MeMo in chron.com.

O'Connor is also a regular panelist on NPR's news quiz show "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me." She is the mother of two daughters, Bess, a student in the master's in photography program at Savannah College of Art and Design, and Laura, a senior at Champlain College in Vermont. She lives in Houston and often has a chocolate Lab named Sparky hanging his head out the back window of her car.


Ann Owens 

Houston Grand Opera Interim General Director Ann Owens has spent more than 20 years of her career with the HGO. She arrived in Houston in 1984, after having worked at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and obtaining a MBA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Ms. Owens' first position at HGO was in the production department as Schedule Coordinator and Technical Administrator. She served in the position of Artist Relations Coordinator throughout the transition from Jones Hall to the Wortham Theater Center, and spent the 92-93 season in New York as Executive Director of the famed Robert Wilson's Byrd Hoffman Foundation. She returned to HIGO in 1993 as Artistic Administrator and served for nearly a decade in that position before becoming Production Director in 2002, overseeing the technical, costume, wig/makeup, artistic/music administration, Houston Grand Opera Studio and safety departments. 

Ms. Owens has had the pleasure of travelling extensively on behalf of HIGO, viewing productions, auditioning singers and adjudicating several prestigious vocal competitions Guild Vocal Competition, and the Concorso Voci Verdiani in Busseto, Italy. Two of her favorite HGO memories are of serving as company manager for HIGO's presentations of Nixon in China at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival in 1988 and Show Boat at the opening of the National Cultural Centre in Cairo in 1989. Ms. Owens is married to Robin Forman, Professor of Mathematics and Dean of Undergraduates at Rice University; their son, Saul, is eight.


Lynn Randolph

Lynn Randolph is a Houston-based painter who has exhibited widely in Texas and the Southwest. Her work is in many private collections as well as the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Menil Collection; the San Antonio Museum of Art; the Arizona State University Museum and the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. She was a fellow at Radcliffe Center for Advanced Studies in 1989-90. She conducted a live-year collaboration with the cultural theorist Donna Haraway, which resulted in Haraway's publication of the book, Modest Witness@Second Millennium. FemaleMan Meets OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience, featuring several of Randolph's paintings. For the last four years, Randolph has been painting the Texas coast. She is represented by Joan Wich Gallery, where she will have an exhibition in late April 2006.


Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is the author of four collections of poetry: Don't Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf Press); PLOT (Grove/Atlantic); The End of the Alphabet (Grove/Atlantic), and Nothing in Nature Is Private (Cleveland State University Poetry Press). She is co-editor of American Women Poets in the Twenty-First Century (Wesleyan University Press). Her work has been published in numerous journals including Boston Review, Tri Quarterly and The Poetry Project Newsletter. Her poetry is also included in several anthologies, including Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present, The Best American Poetry 2001, Giant Step: American Writing at the Crossroads of the Century and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African-American Poetry. 

Rankine also teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.


Olga Rodríguez 

Olga Rodríguez currently serves as Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Precinct 2 Harris County Commissioner Sylvia R. Garcia. Rodríguez’ responsibilities include community and economic development for Precinct 2, which includes one quarter of Houston, 14 other municipalities, 11 school districts and 3 community college systems. She also serves as Commissioner Garcia's liaison to the Port of Houston Authority, the sixth largest port in the world. Other major economic engines in the precinct include NASA and the petrochemical industry. Precinct 2, which consists of southeast Harris County, is largely urban and has almost one million residents of which 55% are of Hispanic heritage. 

Rodríguez, a native Houstonian, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and is currently enrolled in the School of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington pursuing a Master's in Public Administration. She is active with many local not-for-profit organizations and has been active in local politics for over 20 years.


Barrie Scardino 

Barrie Scardino is an architectural writer who has published numerous articles and lectured on Texas architecture. She is former editor of Cite Magazine: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston and has co-authored three books: Houston's Forgotten Heritage (1991, Rice University Press); Clayton's Galveston (2000, Texas A&M University Press) and Ephemeral City (2003, University of Texas Press). She is past president of both the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance and the Rice Design Alliance, and a past Executive Board member of the Hermann Park Conservancy. She is currently Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects, Houston Chapter.

Scardino is a native of Savannah, Georgia, and a graduate of Duke University (BA) and the University of Southern California (MS). She also attended the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning at LICLA. 


Cindy Siegel 

Mayor of the City of Bellaire, Cindy Siegel was re-elected to her second term in November 2005. She served on City Council as a council person from 1998 until her first election as mayor in 2003.

Cindy has served on the Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission and on the Bellaire Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. She has also been an active volunteer for various organizations serving children and the elderly in the community. Cindy is a former board member and officer for the Houston Alzheimer's Association and the Texas Coalition of Alzheimer's Associations, a past member of the Aged and Disability Advisory Board to the Texas Department of Human Services, and a past board member of the Nature Discovery Center. 

Additionally, Cindy is a Certified Public Accountant with over 22 years experience. She owns a public accounting firm that provides accounting and tax services for small businesses and individuals. Cindy has a BS in Business from Kansas State University and a MBA from the University of Houston. She is also a member of the Houston Chapter of CPA's, Texas Society of CPAs and American Institute of CPAs.


Nancy Sims 

Nancy Sims is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Pierpont Communications. Nancy’s division is in charge of civic engagements where they provide guidance to corporations on their community and civic involvement. She also manages governmental relations on behalf of clients. Nancy teaches courses at the University of Houston in the Political Science Department, including Women in Politics and Science and Technology Public Policy Prior to joining Pierpont in 2002, Nancy ran her own political consulting firm for 15 years providing advice and counsel to many of Texas's political luminaries and businesses. 

She simultaneously ran a market research firm that specialized in researching hard-to-reach populations. Nancy is involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations in Texas. She is the proud mother of 4-year-old Hunter (yes, she's 46) and collects planet earths for a hobby.


Margaret Cooke Skidmore 

Margaret Cooke Skidmore was born and raised in New York City, where she graduated from the Nightingale Bamford School. Skidmore is also a graduate of Chatham College, in Pittsburgh, with a BA in History. After 27 years, Margaret retired from her positions as the Associate Director and Director of Development for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in June 2005. Currently, Mrs. Skidmore is a philanthropic strategic planning consultant. Previous fundraising employment includes Yale University and Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Mrs. Skidmore has served on the Board of Trustees of Chatham College, The Nightingale Bamford School, and the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago. She is a member and past President of the Art Museum Development Association and a member of the American Leadership Forum, Class XV. Skidmore belongs to Christ Church Cathedral, is married and has three children and two grandchildren.


Anita Webber Smith 

Anita Webber Smith is an Interior Designer and Owner of Webb Design Interiors. Mrs. Smith earned her BFA from Texas Tech University and her designs have since been published in House Beautiful, Houston Life, the Houston Chronicle and Texas Monthly. 

Anita serves on the boards of Project Row Houses Advisory Committee, Children's Museum Advisory Committee, and the Rice Design Alliance. Mrs. Smith has been honored as a Lamar High School Distinguished Alumni, CCFA Woman of Distinction, and Pacesetter of the Year from The Cancer League. Anita and her husband, Gerald B. Smith, live in Houston with their four children, Marcus, Jackson, Jordan and Joy.


Dayna Steele 

Dayna Steele is the popular host of The Art of Doing Business with Dayna Steele on the BizRadio Network. Dayna reigned for eight years as Houston's First Lady of Radio, building large army of fans known as Steeleworkers. She has been nominated as “Radio Personality of the Year” by Billboard Magazine, named one of Talkers Magazine's “100 Most Important Radio Show Talk Show Hosts," and was featured as one of the top female DJs on the Women of Rock CD. 

On television, she anchored Houston Entertainment News, co-hosted Houston's Texas Today, reported on numerous stories for several TV outlets and was ring announcer for the Houston Boxing Association. She has broadcasted live worldwide from the war zone in Bosnia to the opening of the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. In addition, Steele was asked to audition for ABC's The View during their replacement search in 2004. 

In 1997, Steele founded TheSpaceStore.com, a highly successful e-commerce venture she eventually sold to a NASA aerospace contractor. She continues to do voice-over work, emcee charity functions and is a popular speaker. Steele is married to a NASA research pilot, has three sons, two cats, one dog and occasionally a fish and/or a hamster.


Ellen Susman 

Ellen Susman is a television host and producer whose 13-week series, Superwoman Central, aired on Houston PBS in 2005. Her new show, Balancing Your Life with Ellen Susman, celebrates the strength of women as they work to balance career and family. It will begin airing on public television nationwide in the fall of 2006. 

Susman began her career in 1977 as one of the original hosts of Philadelphia's KYW-TV evening/PM magazine and had a successful career as a reporter and anchor. Among many other endeavors, Ellen created, produced and hosted the Aspen Institute Television Show, which focused on leadership issues with high-profile people in industry and government.

In 2001, Ellen became fascinated with the challenges facing women in the workplace. With support from Houston companies such as Reliant Energy, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG and others, The Myth of Superwoman conference was a sellout, with 300 women attending one week after 9/11, Ellen frequently addresses women's groups on the issues of career and family. Her firm, Ellen Susman Enterprises, Inc, specializes in creating, moderating and facilitating programs and seminars for the corporate marketplace. 

Ellen serves on the Board of Directors for the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, the Student Conservation Association, the Alley Theatre, the Houston Grand Opera, the National Council on the Whitney Museum of Art, and the Aspen Art Museum. Ellen lives in Houston with her husband. They have two daughters.


Cheryl Thompson-Draper 

Cheryl Thompson-Draper served for three years as a Commissioner of the Port of Houston. She is only the third woman to be appointed to serve as a Commissioner since the inception of the Ports and Harbors Board in 1909. Thompson-Draper is the retired president, chief executive officer, chairman of the board and owner of Warren Electric Group, Ltd., the 83-year-old, woman-owned enterprise that distributed wholesale electrical, automation, telecommunications and utility products. Thompson-Draper began her career with the company in 1970 and held a variety of positions before moving to her top executive position. In 2000 Warren Electric Group generated sales revenues of $315 million. Warren Electric Group was the largest woman owned and managed business in Houston for many years as well as third largest in the state of Texas.


Toby Topek 

Born in New York, Topek grew up in Houston. She has studied art, architecture, archeology, the culture and environment in Mexico, North Africa, Mediterranean countries, the Near and Middle East, Brazil, and Canada. 

Topek has been involved in the Houston Women's Caucus for Art, the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County, Artist's Rescue Mission, and the Holocaust Education Center. In 1990 she was an Iris Sill Women of Achievement Honoree for the Oral History Library of Houston.Topek's work has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Texas. In 2000 she completed eleven marble mosaic medallion paving inlays for a Public Art Commission from the City of Houston on a six-block area of Texas Avenue in downtown Houston.


Martha F. Turner 

Martha Fuller Turner is a leader in the field of residential real estate in Houston and around the country. Founding her company in 1981, she guided it to become a premier Houston real estate company. She achieved a national reputation through her affiliation with the prestigious Christie's Great Estates international network of top tier companies. 

A fifth-generation Texan and former schoolteacher, Martha employs those same talents on behalf of the Houston community. Believing firmly in the importance of serving others, she has assumed numerous civic, philanthropic and professional leadership roles, while encouraging others to contribute.


Connie Tuthill 

Connie Tuthill is the Chief Financial Officer of the Greater Houston Chapter of the American Red Cross. Connie is a CPA with Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Rice University. She joined the American Red Cross in January 2004 having worked in the non-profit sector for many years. At the Red Cross she is responsible for the financial health of the organization as well as the accounting, IT, and administrative departments.

In addition, she supervises the Transportation Services and Health & Safety Education Services departments. Working with the Red Cross during two back-to-back large hurricane response efforts (Katrina and Rita), has provided Connie with experiences “outside the box” of an average accountant manager. Connie lives in Houston with her three children.


Cecilia T. Valdes, MD 

Cecilia Valdes was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to the United States as a child. Fluent in both English and Spanish, she understands both Hispanic and American cultures well. She has practiced medicine in Houston, since completing medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in 1983, and her OB/GYN residency in 1987. In 1987 and 1988, she studied endocrinology, focusing on problems such as hormone disorders, insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian disease, elevated prolactin levels, and thyroid abnormalities. Completing a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in 1990, she has concentrated on surgical infertility, IVP and other assisted reproductive techniques with the Fertility Specialists of Houston.


Helen Vollmer 

As CEO of Vollmer Public Relations, Helen Vollmer sets the tone at the firm she began 25 years ago and which is now the largest independent public relations firm based in the Southwest. She provides strategic counsel and tactical focus for accounts, and ensures that client work continuously upholds the firm's standards of quality and creativity. Helen has personally represented clients in a wide array of industries, from retail to healthcare to the corporate and technology arenas. She has a deep expertise in consumer and packaged goods and is recognized as a leader in the branding of goods and services.

Helen is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of that group's Counselor's Academy. She is a former executive board member of the Council of Public Relations Firms, the industry's advocacy organization. Currently, she is on the Executive Board as a Trustee of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and she chairs the Public Affairs Committee as a board member of the Development Board of the University of Texas Health Science Center. Having grown up in South Texas, Helen is fluent in Spanish. She and her husband are the parents of two teenage daughters. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Radio/Television/Film from the University of Texas.


Naomi Warren 

Naomi Warren was born in Eastern Poland and survived three concentration camps during the Holocaust. After the WWII, she immigrated to the United States and married Martin Warren. The Warren's raised a family and established the International Trading Company, an import company specializing in Danish ham. After her husband's death in 1960, Mrs. Warren continued to run the business until she retired in 2002.

Mrs. Warren is an active member of the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Jewish Federation. She and her children established the Holocaust Museum's Warren Fellowship Program to train future teachers on strategies and approaches for bringing Holocaust education into the classroom. To date, nearly 60 teachers have completed the program. Their teachings will help ensure that future generations will never forget the horrors of the Holocaust.

Mrs. Warren considers her greatest legacy to be her three children, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.


Nicole West

Nicole West, as President and CEO of both NCA Investigations and sister company NCA Medical Review, is responsible for managing the overall operations of each company. NCA Investigations, Inc. is a professional private investigation company whose intent is to provide professional services designed to assist clients in reducing exposure to loss and help make informed problem-solving decisions. The clientele of NCA Investigations include leaders in the insurance industry, third-party administrators, attorneys, oil and gas companies, municipalities, school districts and retail businesses.

West received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Lamar University, and a Master of Public Administration-Public Policy from Texas Southern University. With more than 15 years in Project Management and Business Planning experience, she is very skilled in problem determination, strategic management and resolution in the business environment. West is also the owner and partner with her husband, Anthony West, of the UPS store in Pearland.


Jody Williams

In 1997, Jody Williams became the tenth woman in its almost 100-year history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Organizer and activist, teacher and writer, Williams is an internationally recognized eloquent and inspirational speaker on the power of individuals to bring about dramatic change. She also speaks about international campaigning, human security, human rights and international law, the role of civil society in international diplomacy, and on women and peace.

Williams served as the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which began in early 1992 with two non-governmental organizations and a staff of one - Jody Williams. She oversaw the growth of the coalition to over 1,300 organizations working together from 95 countries to eliminate antipersonnel landmines.

Working in an unprecedented cooperative effort with governments, UN bodies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), she served as a chief strategist and spokesperson for the ICBL as it dramatically achieved its goal of an international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines during a diplomatic conference held in Oslo in September 1997. Three weeks later, she and the ICBL were awarded the Peace Prize.

Since February 1998, Williams has served as a Campaign Ambassador for the ICBL, speaking on its behalf all over the world. In mid-2005, she took the lead, working with other women recipients on the Nobel Peace Prize, to lay the groundwork for a new organization, “The Nobel Women's Initiative for Women's Rights," launched in early 2006.Williams is the recipient of twelve honorary degrees, among other recognitions. In 2004, she was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

Ms. Williams is also a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Social Work and Global Justice in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Houston.


Huda Zoghbi, MD

Huda Zoghbi is Professor of Pediatrics, Neurology, Neuroscience, and Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and serves as an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Zoghbi received her medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Her postgraduate training included residencies in Pediatrics and Pediatric Neurology, and a research fellowship in Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. Zoghbi's group generated a mouse model that faithfully replicates most of the behavioral and motor features of human Rett, and recently they showed that MeCP2 also regulates RNA splicing in addition to regulating gene expression.

Some of Dr. Zoghbi's many honors include the Sidney Carter Award from the American Academy of Neurology, the Derek Denny-Brown Neurological Scholar Award from the American Neurological Association, and the E. Mead Johnson Award from the Society of Pediatric Research. She is also a member of the Institute of Medicine and of the National Academy of Sciences.

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