2009 - University of Houston
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2009 Biographies

Constance “Connie” K. Acosta 

Ms. Acosta is a Labor and Employment Specialist with more than thirty-one years of a proven winning record of commercial, employment, and appellate cases. Her last sixteen years have been spent as the Division Chief of the Labor and Employment Section of the City of Houston Legal Department where Ms. Acosta manages a group of 20 attorneys and staff to guide the City of Houston on all aspects of employer-employee relations. A graduate of Wayne State University with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Psychology, Ms. Acosta attended the University of Texas and graduated from the University of Houston law school in 1977. Before attending law school, Ms. Acosta served in many positions as a community organizer, social worker, university administrator, management and business consultant, and legislative aid. Ms. Acosta hails from the Midwest having been born in Chicago and growing up in Detroit, Michigan. From an early age, Ms. Acosta has travelled extensively and is a student of world cultures and diversity.

Ms. Acosta is very active in many civic and cultural organizations and has served as legal advisor or volunteer to other non-profit and religious organizations. She continues to be active in volunteer organizations and serves in leadership roles in several including her church. 


Mallory Agerton 

Mallory Agerton, one of Houston's premier portrait artists, has exhibited works nationally. Ms. Agerton paints portraits in the tradition of classical realism and Plein Air landscapes as well. She is currently represented by the Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale and the Stroke of Genius Gallery. She enjoys sharing her love of art with others. Her works may be viewed at: www. malloryagerton.com 


Catherine D. Anspon  

Catherine Anspon has been covering the Texas visual art scene for PaperCity magazine since 1998. As the Fine Arts Editor and Social Editor for the country’s premier luxury lifestyle regional publication, she has her hands on the pulse of our town’s thriving arts and philanthropy, traveling from black-tie gala to avant-garde art space often in a single night. Raised in Pittsburgh (the land of Any Warhol), Anspon graduated from Rice University (with a degree in History/Art History) and has a Master’s in Art History from the University of Missouri. Anspon has also contributed to national magazines from ARTnews to Art & Antiques and is completing a volume about her favorite subject — contemporary Texas artists — for the University Texas Press, to be published fall 2010.  


Deborah Moncrief Bell  

Deborah Moncrief Bell is a strong, visionary feminist leader and community organizer. She has worked to make a difference in the lives of women and their families as an articulate, persuasive spokesperson as well as a strategic political and organizational thinker with issue advocacy and lobbying experience. Working within the National Organization for Women (NOW) she has been a decisive, action-oriented leader demonstrating a commitment to and passion for grassroots organizing. Bell served two terms as the State President for Texas NOW. She has worked on a local, state, and national level to further the progress of civil rights for all. In addition to her work within NOW, Bell was the field organizer for the first successful city council race of Annise Parker; a founder and spokesperson for the Andra Pia Yates Support Coalition; and in 1992-93 served as the National Organizer for the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Civil Rights and Liberation. The march took place on April 25, 1993, and at that time was one of the largest civil rights gatherings ever to take place in Washington, DC. 
Currently a freelance consultant and writer, Bell also runs her own business providing personal services and assistance: Concierge "At Your Service". 
Bell seeks to continue her activist work in a paid position within an environment where her expertise will benefit both the organization and her personal commitment to peace and justice for all. 

Nelda Blair 

Regent, University of Houston System, & Attorney, The Blair Law Firm P.C.

Bio Missing 


Karey Bresenhan 

Karey Bresenhan is the president of Quilts, Inc. and Director of International Quilt Festival and International Quilt Market. Mrs. Bresenhan opened Great Expectation Quilt Shop in 1974 and helped it grow into one of the largest quilt shops in the country. After starting a quilting Expo in Europe in 1988, Mrs. Bresenhan became the driving force in fostering the growth of quilting there. She was inducted into the Quilting Hall of Fame Honor Roll in June 1995, and was the co-founder of the International Quilt Association, a founding director of the Alliance for America Quilts, co-founder if the Quilt Guild of Greater Houston, and a founder of the Texas Quilt Association.  

Mrs. Bresenhan has co-authored several books including Lone Stars I: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1836-1936, Lone Stars II: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1936-1986, Hands All Around – Quilts from Many Nations, and Great Expectations, which delves into the history and growth of her quilt shop. 

Mrs. Bresenhan is a fifth-generation Texas quilter and an expert on quilt dating. She has served as a director of the Texas Quilt Project and Texas Quilt Search, offering work as a quilt historian.  

Mrs. Bresenhan was born in Gilmer, Texas and has lived in Houston her entire life. She is a graduate of Houston public schools, earned a bachelor's from Sam Houston State University, and holds a Master of Journalism from the University of Texas. Mrs. Bresenhan married her supportive husband, Maurice Bresenhan, Jr., in 1963.


Elizabeth Brown-Guillory  

Elizabeth Brown-Guillory is playwright, performing artist, and Professor of English at the University of Houston (UH) where she has won the Cooper Teaching Excellence Award, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Teaching Excellence Award, and (two-time winner of) the English Honor Society's Sigma Tau Delta Distinguished Professor Award. The UH Alumni Organization recently selected her as one of four "Phenomenal Professors UH." Dr. Brown-Guillory teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in American ethnic literatures and playwriting. She has faculty affiliate status in the UH African American Studies Program, the UH Honors College, and the UH Women's Studies Program.  Her books include Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in AmericaWines in the Wilderness: Plays by African-American Women from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present; Women of Color: Mother Daughter Relationships in Twentieth Century Literature; and Middle Passages and the Healing Place of History: Migration and Identity in Black Women's Literature. She has had twelve plays produced in Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans, Houston, Cleveland, and Chicago. At Table Talk 2009, she will lead a conversation about "Life Writing" through personal essays, short stories, and playwriting. 


Bonnie Campbell  

Bonnie Campbell is director of Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, a property of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  Bayou Bend is the 14-acre estate of Houston collector and philanthropist Miss Ima Hogg (1882-1975) and houses one of the country’s finest collections of pre-1900 American decorative arts and paintings. Bonnie oversees a 35-member staff including three curators (collections, gardens and education), a facilities and security manager, and a programs manager.   

Bayou Bend is currently engaged in a $25 million capital campaign for a 20,000 sq. ft. Visitor and Education Center scheduled for completion in early 2010.  The new facility will include large classrooms, orientation galleries, and a research library. The building will allow Bayou Bend to significantly increase its educational and public programming and have a more visible community presence.   

Bonnie came to Bayou Bend in 2004 after serving as executive officer of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where she provided management oversight during the initial phase of museum operations, from 2000-2003. From 1996-2001, she served as project manager, overseeing a team of consultants and staff through all phases of the $80 million, 175,000-square-foot museum project.    

Bonnie’s previous experience includes positions as curator of the Texas Capitol and Texas Capitol Preservation and Extension Project, curator of the California Capitol Historical Furnishings and Art Project, and curator at the California Capitol Historic Preservation Society. She also held curatorial positions at the Clark Art Institute, where she assisted with the first complete cataloguing of the Clark’s major collection of English silver, and as an intern at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.   

Bonnie is a summa cum laude graduate of Occidental College, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in the history of art. She received a master’s degree in the history of art from the Clark Art Institute Graduate Program at Williams College. 


Dr. Jill Carroll  

Dr. Carroll is the Executive Director of the Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance at Rice University. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Rice. In addition to teaching at Rice, she has taught widely in the Houston area, including at all campuses of the University & Houston system, The Women’s Institute of Houston, the Jung Center of Houston, and in the Texas State prison system. Through her own company and through the Boniuk Center, she has done religious diversity training for corporations, schools and other groups.   

Dr. Carroll co-produces and co-hosts "Peaceful Coexistence", the popular Boniuk Center radio show which airs on Houston’s Pacifica station KPFT 90.1 FM and on podcast at the Center website (www.boniukcenter.org). She is a frequent guest on PBS television in the Houston area. She also writes a featured online blog for the Houston Chronicle entitled "Talking Tolerance.”   

Dr Carroll was the initial creator and currently serves as co-director of The Amazing Faiths Project, a grassroots dialogue and fellowship movement designed to build relationships between people across religious boundaries (w.amazingfaithsproject.org). Her most recent book is A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen’s Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse (The Light, Inc., April 2007), in which she outlines thematic resonance between traditional Islamic ideas and those of philosophers such as Plato, Confucius, Kant, Mill and Sartre.   

Dr. Carroll speaks regionally, nationally and internationally on issues of world religion, religion and world politics, and the importance of religious diversity training in an increasingly interconnected and diverse world. 


Cynthia Clayton  

Soprano Cynthia Clayton, Assistant Professor at the Moores School of Music of the University of Houston, is a favorite of opera audiences throughout the United States, having performed leading roles such as Tosca, Cio-Cio San, Mimi and Countess Almaviva with New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, Orlando Opera, Utah Opera, Central City Opera, Arizona Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Cleveland Opera, Knoxville Opera, Anchorage Opera, and Opera San José, where she began her professional career as a Principal Artist in Residence. Her concert credits include performances with the Houston Symphony, San Jose Symphony, the New West Symphony (CA), Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of the Mountains (TN), the Aspen Music Festival Concert Orchestra, the Mendocino Music Festival Orchestra, Apollo Opera, Texas Opera Theatre, Guild Opera of Los Angeles, Masterworks Chorale of San Mateo, and the Northern California Wagner Society. Ms. Clayton holds degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. 


Thao Costis  

Thao Costis is President and CEO of SEARCH Homeless Services, a leading Houston agency helping homeless people move off the streets, into jobs, and affordable housing.  She has served in multiple roles at SEARCH over her 13-year tenure, focusing primarily on improving the agency’s ability to help individuals experiencing homelessness and bringing awareness to the community problem.  Prior to SEARCH, she served as the Director of the Homeless Services Coordinating Council at the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.  In this role, she recruited and organized over 150 not-for-profit agencies to more effectively address the homeless problem.  Thao has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Texas and an MBA from the University of Houston.    

SEARCH is a not-for-profit agency which pursues a mission of providing hope, creating opportunity, and transforming lives.  Each year, SEARCH provides comprehensive services that help over 10,000 homeless men, women, and children work on their transition from the streets into jobs and safe, stable housing. Services include day shelter and essential resources, street outreach, housing, childcare, access to medical/dental care, education, job training, and job placement.  For more information, visit SEARCH at www.searchhomeless.org. 


Beverley Denver  

Beverly Denver is a career journalist and long-time publishing entrepreneur. Currently, she is the editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine and dedicated to informing, inspiring and connecting successful women.  

Beverly holds a BA in journalism and history from Louisiana Tech University and a Master’s in journalism from Louisiana State University.  

Beverly is the recipient of more than 100 civic and professional awards, including the Print Journalist of the Year Award, presented in 2000 by the Press Club of Houston.  


Chitra Divakaruni  

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her work has been published in over fifty magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over fifty anthologies. Her works have been translated into 17 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, and Japanese.   

Divakaruni’s new novel is The Palace of Illusions, a retelling of the ancient Indian epic, The Mahabharat, from the point of view of Princess Panchaali, one of its major female characters. Other recent publications include Queen of Dreams, The Conch Bearer, Sister of My Heart, Neela: Victory Song, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming, Vine of Desire, The Mistress of Spices, Arranged Marriages (which is an award-winning collection of short stories)and The Unknown Errors of Our Lives. Divakaruni has written several books of poetry, and her work has been included in anthologies such as Best American Short Stories, the O’Henry Prize Stories and the Pushcart Prize anthology.  

She is the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Writing at the University of Houston Creative Writing program. She serves on the advisory board of Maitri (California) and Daya (Houston), two organizations that help women in domestic violence situations. She also serves on the board of Prantham, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy in India. 

Divakaruni lives in Houston with her husband Murthy, her two children Anand and Abhay, and Juno, the family dog.  


Dr. Rachelle Doody  

Dr. Doody is the Effie Marie Cain Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Professor of Neurology in the Department of Neurology at Baylor College of Medicine.  She received a B.A. from Rice University, a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed internship and residency training at the Royal Victoria Hospital and Montreal Neurologic Institute in Montreal, and at Baylor College of Medicine.  Dr. Doody has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Anthropology from Rice University where she studied the brain and language. She has published over 100 original articles, chapters, and other communications, most of which deal with the diagnosis, progression, or treatment of Alzheimer's Disease and related disorders.  She has received multiple research grants, including a Zenith Award from the National Alzheimer’s Association, and conducted numerous clinical trials of Alzheimer's Disease therapies.  She participates in National and International collaborative efforts, review boards, and advisory boards.  Current research interests include studies to understand and model the progression of Alzheimer's Disease, studies of clinical heterogeneity, and research and development of new medications to treat Alzheimer's Disease.  Dr. Doody has served on the Texas Council on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, the Board of Directors for the Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and is listed in Best Doctors in America. 


Rev. Becky Edmiston-Lange  

The Reverend Becky Edmiston-Lange has been co-minister of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church with her husband, Mark Edmiston-Lange, for nine years. Before coming to Houston, Becky served the Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Burke, Virginia, a suburb of D.C., as a solo minister for thirteen years. A native of Virginia, she received her bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia in 1975, and her Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1978. Following seminary, she trained at the Institute for Pastoral Psychotherapy in Washington, D.C. completing the Pastoral Psychotherapy Specialist Program in 1981. She also holds a Ph.D. in Counseling from the Catholic University of America, which she completed in 1990 while serving as minister to the Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church. 


LaTanya Flix  

LaTanya Flix has dedicated her career to improving the lives of disadvantaged children, youth and families.  A native Houstonian, Flix was happy to return to Houston to become executive director of The Women's Resource of Greater Houston (www.thewomensresource.org), an organization that annually provides free financial education to more than 2,500 individuals; implements a leadership development program for high-risk 9th - 10th grade girls; and supports research on issues critical to women, girls and families.   Flix is a Woodrow Wilson fellow in Public Policy and earned a master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.   


Betsy Gerdeman 

Betsy is the Vice President for Community Engagement for Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston. In that role she oversees interfaith relations, development, communications, and volunteer services. She joined the organization in March 2008. 

A native Texan, Betsy graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio with a degree in Sociology/ Psychology. She earned an MBA, emphasis in European Studies, from Boston University and has studied at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, in the Master of Theological Studies program. 

Her career spans several fields, including United Way and public broadcasting in Florida, Texas, Northern Virginia and Washington DC, at both the local and national levels. She was the Associate Director for Development at Washington National Cathedral, and most recently was VP of Development for the YMCA in the Treasure Valley, Idaho. 

Betsy has a son studying for his MBA at Virginia Tech and a daughter in Boise, Idaho, working at St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center. She makes her home in the Heights with her partner Bill Talbott, a retired psychologist. 


Gabriela Gerhart  

Gabriela Gerhart is the founder of The Motherhood Center, which gives support to expectant and new mothers. Gerhart was born and raised in Jablunkov, Czechoslovakia and attended the School of Ostrava, earning degrees in Pediatric Nursing and Physical Therapy. Before moving to the United States, Gerhart held a position in the Pediatric Emergency Room in Ostrava.  

In 1999, Gerhart accepted a position in Houston assisting an American couple care for their premature baby. While in Houston, she met her husband, Gary E. Gerhart. She later earned certifications in Breastfeeding Education, Postpartum Doula, and Prenatal Massage, opening The Motherhood Center in 2003.  

Gerhart and The Motherhood Center have been featured by the Houston Chronicle, River Oaks Examiner, KTRK ABC 13, KPRC Channel 2, and FOX 26. She is committed to philanthropy and is involved with several Houston charities including Child Advocates, Children’s Assessment Center, Kangaroo Care, Children’s Museum, Camp Periwinkle, and Women’s Home.  


Eleanor Gilbane 

Eleanor Heard Gilbane is an associate in the Litigation/Regulatory department of Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ Houston office. Weil Gotshal is one of the world’s leading law firms, with more than 1,300 attorneys in twenty offices worldwide.   

Ms. Gilbane’s practice focuses on the areas of complex commercial litigation and bankruptcy litigation, areas in which Weil Gotshal is widely acclaimed as one of the premier firms in the world.  Prior to joining Weil Gotshal, Ms. Gilbane worked with Bingham McCutchen LLP in Boston, and Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP in New York. During the years 2001-2002, Ms. Gilbane served as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Allan L. Gropper in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.  
Ms. Gilbane received her J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2001 and graduated magna cum laude from Brown University, where she received a B.A. with honors in history of art and architecture and Hispanic studies.   

Ms. Gilbane is a native of San Antonio, Texas and lives in Houston, Texas.  Her family includes her husband, Dan, and their two children Danny (4) and Beatrice (1).  Outside of work, her interests include traveling, cooking, exercise and spending time with her kids. 


Melissa Givens 

American soprano Melissa Givens has been resoundingly praised by audiences and critics alike for her rich, liquid tone and intelligent, musical interpretations, and noted for her expressiveness and elegance on the stage. Hailed as a singer whose music making is “consistently rewarding” and “a pleasure to hear,” Givens is also an extremely versatile artist, regularly performing repertoire from the Baroque era through music of the 21st century.   

Currently touring Europe with Les Ballets C de la B’s production of Pitié!, Givens has also recently appeared with the Houston and Austin Symphony Orchestras. She is a core member of Ars Lyrica Houston and performs regularly with The Bach Society of Houston and Austin’s Conspirare: Company of Voices; the latter’s most recent CD being nominated for two 2009 Grammy® Awards. A member of the voice faculty of Houston Baptist University, she can also be heard on her own solo compact disc, let the rain kiss you, available at www.melissagivens.com. 


Marie-Theresa Hernandez   

Associate Professor, World Cultures & Literatures, UH; writer, anthropologist, photographer, and blogger. She established the dreamacttexas blog for undocumented college students (dreamacttexas.blogspot.com) that has already had over 94,000 hits in 18 months. She has published two books, one on southeast Texas and another on northern Mexico. Hernandez is also a Fine Art Photographer who had several exhibitions in the 1990s, including 10 pieces in a group exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in 1998. 


Elsie Huang  

Elsie Huang was born in 1937 in Tucson, Arizona to Cantonese parents. At age 10, after both her mother and father passed away, she came to live in Houston with her older sister. She married her first husband, C.C. Wong, at 18, and adopted two children from China. In her twenties, Huang opened two beauty salons in the Gulf Gate and Westbury areas. She eventually sold her salon to become a full-time student at the University of Houston, graduating in 1971. After earning her degree in Elementary Education, she taught at Cypress Fairbanks ISD for eight years, and was then made a school principal in Katy ISD. She received her Master of Education Administration and Supervision in 1973. Principal Huang opened Mayde Creek Elementary and worked there for thirteen years. She retired at age 59 and became actively involved in the Houston Asian community, serving as President of the Asian Chamber of Commerce and a board member for several organizations. She married her current husband, Merle Hall, after C.C. Wong passed away.  


Jenna Jackson  

Jenna Jackson has been working as a producer for the documentary-style newsmagazine show 48 Hours at CBS News for the last ten years. In her work as a producer, she meets and interviews a variety of people across the country. The show specializes in putting together hour-long shows on various murder cases that are moving through the justice system. Jenna speaks to victims’ families, suspects, their families, and numerous attorneys over the course of a day. She wrote a true-crime book with correspondent Peter Van Sant about one of their cases, Perfectly Executed, published by Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books in August 2007. She is currently working on a new book and lives in Houston with her twin boys. 


Hon. Aneeta Jamal  

Aneeta M. Jamal is Board Certified Juvenile Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 2005.  She received her Juris Doctor in 1983 from UH Law Center and her bachelor’s in Criminology and Corrections from Sam Houston State.   

Aneeta currently serves as Associate Judge of the 314th Juvenile District Court. She was previously a Judge Pro Tem for Harris County and Special Prosecutor for Harris County Juvenile Courts. She spent nine years as a solo practitioner focusing on Family Law, Juvenile Law Criminal Law and Civil Litigation.  

She has received numerous professional organization awards and been an active member in many committees including Judge of the Year Award, Police Officers looking into Courthouse Excellence (P.O.L.C.E Inc), Treasurer, Houston Professional Republican Women (HPRW), Vice Chair,ABA/YLD Juvenile Justice Executive Committee, Board of Directors Houston Young Lawyers Association.

Aneeta was born in Uganda, East Africa, is fluent in Swahili, Gujerati, Hindustani, and is conversant in Spanish and French.  


Jolanda “Jo” Jones  

Jones attended Alief Elsik High School in Houston, where she graduated magna cum laude and was an All-American in track and field and basketball. From there, she went on to the University of Houston, where she was nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship, earned an unprecedented three NCAA heptathlon championships and the title of Greatest Female Athlete of the Century. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science, and later went on to earn her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. In 1996, she qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials.  

Because of her outstanding service, she earned Congressional recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives, a key to the city of Galveston, Texas and three "Jolanda Jones Day" proclamations from the cities of Houston and Galveston. Jones holds numerous Hall of Fame titles and was a contestant on CBS' hit TV show Survivor. Today, Jones works as a successful attorney fighting to reform our criminal justice system. She was instrumental in bringing to light the serious problems at the HPD Crime Lab, refusing to back down because innocent people were being convicted, and criminals were going free. Of course, she'll tell you that her most important job is being a mother to her 16-year-old son.   


Carmen Jordan  

Carmen Jordan joined Amegy Bank in 1997 and founded the Corporate Energy Services division in 2002. She manages the bankwide energy services portfolio, which has generated over $2 billion in new loans under her watch. Her division accounts for 10 percent of the bank’s overall profitability. In both 2007 and 2008, Carmen was named as one of the Top 25 Women to Watch in the US Banker magazine.  

Jordan sits on Amegy’s Senior Loan Committee, which gives her the double distinction of becoming both the youngest member and also the first female member. In addition, she is on the bank’s forty-member Management Committee. She began her career in branch management at First Interstate Bank of Texas (later acquired by Wells Fargo). She completed the bank’s loan officer development program in 1994 and joined the commercial lending group. She rose to Assistant Vice  President before joining Amegy as a Vice President in corporate and commercial lending.  


Jordan has served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston and is currently an Advisory Board Member. Internally, she serves on the board of the Amegy Women’s Initiative and is co-chair of the initiative's Women Business Owners sub-committee. Recently, she collaborated with human resources to launch the bankwide Everyone Counts initiative, which recognizes employee success, provides mentoring and training opportunities, and fosters diversity.   

Jordan received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from Lamar University.  


Rainey Knudson  

Rainey Knudson is the Founder and Executive Director of Glasstire, a website about visual art in Texas.  Before founding Glasstire eight years ago, Knudson published and edited a statewide print magazine about Texas visual art. Before that, her career involved a peripatetic crisscrossing through law, energy, logistics and event planning in Houston, London, New York, and Monterrey, Mexico. She grew up in Houston. Knudson earned her BA in English from Rice University, and her MBA in Entrepreneurship from the University of Texas at Austin.  She lives in Houston with her husband (who is an artist) and her one-year-old son. 


Misha Laird  

Misha draws from the rigors of an architectural education, the rollercoaster ride of motherhood, and the vibrant charm of a mid-western girl to sculpt a safe and nurturing space where her students consistently get what they came for.  Trained by local master Robert Boustany and influenced by the gifted teachings of Jonny Kest, Misha demystifies yoga, welcoming all into that magical space by serving it straight from the heart.  As the coordinator of the yoga program at the Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas, her mission has been to successfully create an authentic yoga experience under the unique constraints of a fitness environment.   


Dr. Shelena “Dr. Shel” C. Lalji 

Dr. Shelena C. Lalji, founder of Dr. Shel Wellness & Medical Spa, has served the greater Houston area for over thirteen years. An honor graduate from Emory University in Atlanta GA, Dr. Shel is a board-certified physician who is devoting her full-time practice to aesthetics and wellness medicine. With her thorough experience in medicine, aesthetics and alternative treatment, Dr. Shel believes in the strong connection between the art of beauty and  the science of wellness. Dr. Shel is dedicated to inspiring her patients to live up to their fullest potential. Dr. Shel Wellness & Medical Spa also serves as a national training facility for both innovative wellness and aesthetic technology and laser management.  

As a national spokesperson for wellness and aesthetic techniques and a proud mother of two, Dr. Shel still finds time to devote herself to her growing practice.  


Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson  

Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson is the sixth Executive Director of the Houston Public Library in its 101-year history. Before moving to Houston, Dr. Lawson served as Deputy Director of the Detroit Public Library, Chief of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library in New York, and Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Wayne State University.   

Dr. Lawson’s accomplishments to date include the launch of HPL-Express, a new and exciting innovative library service model developed by the Houston Public Library, the first of its kind in the United States; the reopening of Looscan Neighborhood Library, a state-of-the-art facility and the City of Houston’s first “Green” building and the reopening of the newly renovated Central Library.  Among the projects on the horizon are the opening of the African American Library at the Gregory School that will serve as a resource and repository to preserve, promote and celebrate the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston, the surrounding region and the African Diaspora; the renovated historical houses at the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, the archival wing of the Historical Julia Ideson Building unveiling.     

A recipient of numerous professional and civic accolades, Dr. Lawson has served in a leadership capacity in several professional, educational and community organizations. She is the past chair of the American Library Association's (ALA) Committee on Diversity and served as a member of the ALA President's Diversity and Recruitment Taskforce. While in New York, Dr. Lawson served as the President of the New York Black Librarian's Caucus, as a member of the Manhattan Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Brooklyn Children's Museum's Board of Directors Program Committee, the Governing Board of the St. Mark's Day School, and the Advisory Boards of the Medgar Evers College Library and Center for Black Literature.  

Dr. Lawson currently serves on the Imprint Advisory Board, whose mission it is to champion creative writing and reading in Houston, the Board of Advisors for the University of North Texas School of Library and Information Sciences, the Board of School of Library and Information Studies and the Board of the City of Houston’s Read Commission the Board of Directors of the Houston Area Library Systems.  

Dr. Lawson holds a bachelor’s in Political Science from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, an MLS from the University of Maryland College Park, and a Ph.D. in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 


Francesca Leoni

Francesca Leoni joined Rice University from Princeton University, where she earned her Ph.D. in 2008. Previously, Francesca studied in Naples, Italy (B.A. Istituto Universitario Orientale), and was a visiting student at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1998-1999) and Harvard University (2006). While a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Art History, Francesca will also serve as the Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Islamic World at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. At the museum, she will create the nucleus of a permanent collection of Islamic art and coordinate exhibitions on different aspects of the artistic production originating in the Islamic world.  

Her research interests include the arts of the book in the Islamic world; cross-cultural exchanges between the Muslim and the European and Far Eastern worlds; figurative art in the Persian-speaking region from antiquity to present, contemporary art from the Middle East, and Islamic aesthetics. Her doctoral dissertation, entitled “The Revenge of Ahriman: Images of Divs in the Shahnama, ca. 1300-1600” focused on images of demons (divs), which were taken as a case-study in order to explore the intersection between ugliness and wickedness in pre- and early-modern Iranian art.  

In 2007-2008 Francesca was recipient of Sylvan and Pamela Coleman Memorial Fund Art History Fellowship from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also received fellowships from Princeton University (Graduate School, Lee Fund, Department of Art and Archaeology, and Department of Near Eastern Studies) and the Princeton Institute for Regional Studies.  

Her recent publications include her undergraduate dissertation (Metallurgy and Metalwork in the Economy of Central Asia from the 7th Century to the 14th Century, Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale, Series Minor; forthcoming); “Picturing Evil: Images of Divs and the Reception of the Shahnama” in Shahnama Studies II, edited by Charles Melville (Cambridge: University of Cambridge, Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, 2009), “The Human in the Monster: Changes in Demonic Imagery in 14th-16th Century Persian Painting,” in Monsters and the Monstrous. Proceedings of the 5th Global Conference, 17-20 September, Mansfield College, Oxford, edited by Marlin Bates (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2008); and catalogue entries in Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797, edited by Stefano Carboni (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007). She is currently working on an article about the depiction of demons and their symbolism in the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp and researching the subject of eroticism and homoeroticism in the context of Islamic art, which is also the theme of a panel she will chair at the 2009 conference of the College Art Association. 


Dr. Susan Levin  

Sue Levin, Ph.D., executive director of the Houston Galveston Institute (HGI), and associate of the Taos Institute, is an adjunct faculty for the MS Psychology program at Our Lady of the Lake University-Houston, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and online adjunct faculty for the Post-graduate Diploma in Discursive Therapies at Massey University, New Zealand. 

Sue has experience in family therapy for over 25 years, and has special interests in collaboration, domestic violence, child abuse, trauma and disaster mental health.  She has provided training to local mental health providers working in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovena, during the war, and disaster mental health response during Tropical Storm Allison in Houston, Texas.  In partnership with the City of Houston’s Disaster Mental Health Crisis Response Team, Sue activated staff at HGI to provide disaster mental health services at the George R. Brown Katrina shelter in 2005.  Since that time, HGI has developed 3 programs to serve people displaced to Houston by hurricanes.  The Rolling Conversations Project, which started in 2007, was created when Sue informed the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers about access issues that interfere with people getting to the resources they need.  AmeriCares offered HGI a mobile unit to address that need by putting therapists in the community, where the people are. 

Sue is a coordinator of the Texas Association for Marriage & Family Therapy’s Disaster Mental Health Response Team and is a member of the Children Defense Fund’s Katrina Regional Leadership Corps and the DePelchin Disaster Recovery Advisory Team. 


Pat Lykos  

“Pat” Lykos, a graduate of the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law, has dedicated her professional career to the administration of justice, starting as a Houston police officer, working her way through college and law school, and then in her own private practice as a litigator.    

In 1980, the Harris County Commissioners’ Court appointed her to the newly created bench of County Criminal Court No. 10, and she won election that year, becoming the first Republican elected to a Harris County criminal court bench. In 1981, Republican Governor Bill Clements appointed her as Judge of the 180th State Criminal District Court, where she presided over more than 20,000 criminal cases during 14 years on the court. Pat successfully ran for re-election to this important criminal court for three terms, in 1982, 1986 and 1990.    

For the past decade, Pat has served as a senior district judge, serving as a special assignments judge, and since 2001, as Director of Special Projects for County Judge Robert Eckels, and Director of Judicial and Legal Issues for County Judge Ed Emmett.   

Pat was the former chief judge of the Harris County criminal district courts, served three terms as President of the Retired, Senior and Former Judges of Texas, and taught in programs for the Texas Center for the Judiciary, the American Bar Association, and the State Bar of Texas. She’s a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Houston Bar Foundation, of which she is a founding member. She has been an adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law and taught at the National Judicial College.    

Pat has appeared on television news programs such as “Nightline”, “48 Hours” and “Crime in America”, and is the recipient of many awards, including “State District Judge of the Year”, awarded by the Harris County Deputy Sheriffs Association. 


Brenda Lyon  

Brenda Lyon, R.N., is the Chief Patient Care Officer at the renowned Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, where she provides leadership support for inpatient nursing directors, children’s nursing administration, pharmacy, respiratory therapy (adult patients), maintenance and engineering and inpatient therapies.     

Brenda has worked with the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System for more than fifteen years, beginning her career as the Director of Critical Care at Memorial Hermann-Northwest.   She quickly advanced to various management roles and most recently spent four years as the assistant vice president of operations at Memorial Hermann-TMC.     

During her tenure, she has achieved a number of significant accomplishments, including the oversight of post-flood construction projects at the TMC campus; the implementation of the Picture Archival and Communications System, also called PACS, which has led to a significant reduction in the time it takes to retrieve medical images; and the growth of transplant services due, in part, to the successful development of the liver transplant team.     

While her nursing background is primarily in critical care, specifically neurosciences, the breadth of her experience in healthcare is vast.  Throughout her career, she has held various roles managing inpatient therapy, respiratory care, radiology, food and nutrition, pharmacy, case management, maintenance and engineering, and volunteer services.   

Brenda earned her Bachelor of Nursing and Master of Science from the University of Utah.  She is chair of the LifeGift Organ Donation Center’s board of directors and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Brenda participates in the System’s GE Steering Committee and is the co-chair of System’s Advanced Care4 Committee.   


Tracye McDaniel  

Tracye McDaniel currently serves as an executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Greater Houston Partnership, a post that she began in June 2006. In this capacity, she has oversight of the daily operations at the Partnership and its mission to be the primary advocate of Houston's business community while dedicated to building regional economic prosperity.  

She has more than 25 years of executive and senior management experience in tourism and business development, convention sales, national and international trade development, destination marketing, advertising and public relations.  During her tenure with the State of Texas, she was a part of three gubernatorial administrations.  Under her helm as Tourism Director of Texas, the state became the second most-visited destination in America.  Ms. McDaniel holds leadership positions in numerous professional and industry organizations.  Appointed by Governor Rick Perry, she serves on the Advisory Board of Economic Development Stakeholders, the Texas Economic Development Corporation (Austin, TX) and as second vice chair for Texas Southern University's Board of Regents (Houston, TX).   

In addition to Ms. McDaniel's overall operational duties for the Partnership she is charged with overseeing activities for Opportunity Houston, an aggressive five-year marketing program that is generating leads for economic development organizations throughout the ten-county region.  It is the direct result of the Partnership's visionary, ten-year strategic plan, which aims to create 600,000 new jobs; attract $60 billion in new capital investment; and increase the foreign investment to $225 billion in the Houston region.  A native of Waco, Texas, Ms. McDaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas. 


Anna Mod  

Anna Mod is a historic preservation specialist with SWCA Environmental Consultants in Houston and works with municipalities, a community and neighborhood organizations, architect and developers to identify, plan and encourage the rehabilitation of historic buildings.  Ms. Mod has served as a historic preservation specialist and principal investigator on small and large projects in Vermont and throughout Texas.  She has experience in preservation methods and theory as well as compliance processes, at the municipal, state and federal levels.  She has successfully obtained tax savings for her clients of over $20 million through her work combining various tax incentives for historic properties.  Typical professional services include architectural and historical research and writing, cultural resources surveys, submittals for National Register and Investment Tax Credit applications, design guidelines, conditions assessments and materials specifications, preservation planning, and serving as a liaison with state and federal agencies.  Ms. Mod has taught graduate and undergraduate level historic preservation course at Prairie View A&M University and the University of Houston.  She is a contributing author to Building in Texas, a forthcoming two-volume book on Texas architecture as part of the national series sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians. 


Minerva Perez  

Minerva Perez is an award-winning Broadcast Journalist, longtime TV News Anchor, and now a Co-Host and Partner of the new cable show, Latina Voices.  She is also Owner/President of Minerva Perez Media, LLC, a Public Relations/Communications firm.   

Minerva was known as a trendsetter and became the first Latina News Anchor at KTRK/ABC 13 in Houston, Texas, where she spent 15 and a half years.  She was already a highly respected and experienced Anchor/Reporter at the number one rated independent TV station, KTLA TV in Los Angeles, where she also was the first Mexican American News anchorwoman on the Peabody Award-winning News at Ten Weekend Edition.  During her 5 ½ year tenure at KTLA, she was recognized with many awards for her reporting and community involvement.  There she covered such notable stories as Pope John Paul II’s visit to Los Angeles Live 48 – hour coverage, the Whittier Earthquake, the notorious Rodney King beating, the Hollywood scene, and U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush (41). 


Sylvia Quan  

Sylvia Quan is a graduate of the University of Houston.  She also serves on the advisory board of Tara Energy and has been recognized by the Organization of Chinese American (OCA) with their “Serve with Honor” Award.  Sylvia has been instrumental in developing administrative and financial systems for the recently merged Foster Quan, LLP, the second largest immigration law firm in the nation.  She has balanced career with work raising three daughters who have been professional businesswomen in their own right. 


Shantha Raghuthaman  

Shantha Raghuthaman is originally from India and has been living in the United States for 30 years. She is one of the founders and the current President of Asians Against Domestic Abuse. Her community work started with involvement in her children’s schools. After their graduation from high school, she began volunteering with Crisis Intervention of Houston and the Fort Bend County Women’s Center. She served as a Board member with the Fort Bend County Women’s Center for six years and is now on their Council of Resources. She has also served on the Board of the American Heart Association East Fort Bend Chapter as well as the Fort Bend Literacy Council. In addition to being Board President of AADA she is also a member of the Friends of Asian Art Sub-committee at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. She also works as an office manager for Houston Gastroenterology.  

She has been married for 36 years to Dr. A. P. Raghuthaman and has two children and one granddaughter. 


Carroll Robertson Ray  

Founder and Executive Manager, Meadowlake Pet Care Place, Carroll Robertson Ray is a third generation Houstonian and life-long animal lover. Filled with the boundless energy that has been a part of her life since childhood, Carroll carries on her family's long tradition of successfully blending an active business life with generous community involvement. In planning her vision for Meadowlake, Carroll combined her entrepreneurial spirit with her passion for pets. She thoroughly studied the kennel business across the country and then assembled a top team of dedicated experts to assist in the design, construction and staffing of Meadowlake Pet Care Place. Her efforts will be realized when Meadowlake opens late spring.   

Governor Rick Perry recently appointed Carroll to a term on the Board of Regents of the University of Houston System.  She also currently serves on the Board of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and was that Board's first female Chairperson.  Other Boards on which she has been or is currently a member include the Houston Ballet Foundation, the Neuhaus Center and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest.  Carroll is also a member and former officer of the Junior League of Houston and serves as secretary of the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts.   

Carroll received her undergraduate degree in history from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center where she was an Editor of the Law Review.  Carroll is of counsel with Andrews & Kurth where she focuses on tax exempt organizations and general estate planning matters. 


Dr. Anh Reiss

Ob/Gyn, Robotic Surgery

Bio Missing



Louise Richman 

Louise is a native Houstonian, though soon after birth she moved as her father was in the oil business.  As a child Louise travelled extensively in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.  She lived in South Africa, Iran and India.  She has a BA from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from Houston Baptist University and is a CPA.  She is married to Dennis Griffith and it is he who does the traveling now! 

Louise keeps her travel “local” as Vice President/CFO for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (“Metro”).  Prior to joining Metro, Louise served on its board of directors as a representative of the Multi-Cities.  Louise also was CFO for the City of Bellaire and Finance Director for the Alley Theatre.  Her only foray into “acting” was as a member of the jury box on employee night for the play Inherit the Wind

Louise’s community service work included eight years as Mayor of the City of Spring Valley Village. During that time, she also served as president of Harris County Mayors’ and Councilmembers’ Association and Texas Municipal League Region 14.  Additionally, Louise was Chair of the Board of Trustees for St. Francis Episcopal Day School. 


Rebecca Rush 

Becky Rush is a Vice President and Wealth Management Advisor with Merrill Lynch. She provides a wide array of individualized financial/investment services including comprehensive financial planning, retirement planning, estate planning, and investment portfolio management. Having made a career transition herself, she specializes in helping those who are experiencing transitions such as job change, divorce, widowhood or retirement. She is a CFP®, ChFC, and CLU. 

Becky was a Regional Vice President at Prudential Group Life and HealthCare prior to joining Merrill Lynch. There she had a variety of responsibilities including sales and sales management, marketing, health care management, human resource and organizational development.  She was the first woman to run a Group Sales Office for Prudential and the first woman to become a Vice President of Sales and Marketing. 

She is strongly committed to giving back to the community and has served on the boards of many charitable and professional organizations throughout the years.  She is currently on Baylor College of Medicine’s Partnership Board and the Breast Center Advisory Council. 

Becky is married and the proud mother of eleven-year-old boy/girl twins. 


Ping Sun

Ping Sun came to Rice University in 2004 with her husband David W. Leebron, Rice’s seventh president. A native of Shanghai, China, Ping was offered a full scholarship to Princeton University, where she received an A.B. degree (cum laude) in 1985 from the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs. She received a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in 1988, where she served as an editor of the Journal of Transnational Law. Ping practiced law in the New York offices of White & Case LLP from 1988-1992 and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, LLP from l993-2004, where her practice focused on corporate and international transactions.  

Ping serves Rice as a University Representative in numerous roles on campus and in the Houston community. She is of counsel at the firm of Yetter Warden and Coleman, LLP. Ping is a trustee of the Texas Children’s Hospital, board member of the Asia Society Texas Center, Teach for America (Houston Regional Board) and United Way. She serves on the Advisory board of Asian Chamber of Commerce and Chinese Community Center. Mayor Bill White has appointed Ping to his International and Development Council and China Task Force. Ping is also a member of the Governing Council at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and an honorary chair of the Baker Institute Roundtable at Rice University. 

Ping and David have two children, Daniel (12) and Merissa (9). 


Mary Ross Taylor 

Mary Ross Taylor has owned a bookstore, started an arts nonprofit called TACO (Texas Arts & Cultural Organization), organized a community effort that brought The Dinner Party exhibition out of storage to Houston, worked as Executive Director for Judy Chicago's nonprofit art organization, gone back to school for an M.A. in Museum Studies, moved Lawndale from the East End to Main Street as Executive Director, launched a non-commercial feminist art website, and participated as a board member of alternative arts organizations. In 2006 she received the National Museum of Women in the Arts' annual award for service to the arts by a National Advisory Board member. In 2008 she curated Thrive at Diverse Works, an exhibition of sixteen Houston-based women artists co-sponsored by the Women's Studies program in conjunction with their symposium at University of Houston, "Gender, Creativity and the New Longevity." 


Telisa Toliver  

Telisa Toliver serves as Vice-President of Commercial Development for Chevron Global Power Company, which manages Chevron’s existing global portfolio of commercial power plants and identifies new growth opportunities for power generation worldwide.   

Telisa was named to her current position in 2006, where she is responsible for the development of gas-fired and renewable power generation projects to support Chevron asset growth goals in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  The Commercial Development group provides optimal commercial power solutions for existing Chevron operations. 

Telisa began her career in the energy industry with Texaco and has held various positions of increasing responsibilities in natural gas sales, fuels management, strategic planning and commercial development. 


Dr. Elizabeth C. Travis  

Elizabeth Travis, Ph.D., received her Ph.D. degree in Experimental Pathology from the University of South Carolina. A distinguished biomedical researcher in the area of radiation oncology, Dr. Travis has been on the faculty at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center since 1982; she was promoted to Professor in the Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology in 1988.  She is past president of the Radiation Research Society, prior member of the Board of Directors for the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, a member of numerous editorial boards of scientific journals, and a reviewer for grant funding agencies, including NIH and DOD. She has published extensively on the complications of cancer treatment.  In 1997, in recognition of her academic accomplishments, she was named Mattie Allen Fair Professor in Cancer Research at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which she continues to hold. 

In November 2007, Dr. Travis was appointed to serve as M.D. Anderson’s first associate vice president for women faculty programs.  Throughout her career she has been an advocate for women in medicine and science not only in her institution but on the national scene. She is the current chair-elect of the Women in Cancer Research of the American Association of Cancer Research.   

Most recently, she edited the book Legends and Legacies: Personal Journeys of Women Physicians and Scientists at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, a collection of inspirational stories of 26 accomplished women faculty members at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The authors are physicians, scientists, educators, mentors, wives, life partners, mothers, daughters, aunts and friends who describe in this book the struggles and triumphs that have marked their paths to distinguished careers. Their collective hope is that others, particularly young women, will be motivated by their stories to choose careers in the biomedical sciences and to strive to become leaders in their disciplines, in management and in professional organizations. 

Dr. Travis is the mother of a college-aged son.  In her spare time, she travels and pursues her passion for dance, taking ballroom and Argentine tango lessons. 

The book is available online via the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Women Faculty Programs Web site: www.mdanderson.org/departments/womenfaculty.     


Donna Vallone  

Donna was born in Olympia, Washington and at three months was transplanted to Houston.  She graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Music degree. She began her professional career as a music teacher for HISD for fourteen years. Her final three years were spent teaching children with special needs at T.H. Rogers. Married to a restauranteur, Tony Vallone, they have five children and six grandchildren.  She works with her husband in the corporate office and Tony’s.  Donna is a board member of the Galleria Chamber of Commerce, the Friends of Nursing at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, The Maxine Mesinger Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine at the Methodist Hospital, Theatre Under the Stars, the Arthritis Foundation, The Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, The University of St. Thomas Nursing Advisory Council and the Founding Advisory Committee for the Design Society of Houston Community College.  With her husband, she has dedicated many years of support to the Houston Holocaust Museum and March of Dimes. 


Michelle White  

Michelle White is Assistant Curator at The Menil Collection, Houston, where she has curated the exhibitions, “Lessons from Below: Otabenga Jones and Associates” and “Imaginary Spaces.”  She is regional editor of Art Lies: A Contemporary Quarterly, writes for Art Papers and Modern Painters, and holds a master's degree in the history of art from Tufts University.  Prior to her position at the Menil, she worked in the prints and drawings department at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, taught courses on women and contemporary art at The Glassell School of Art, and was Curatorial Assistant of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  She is currently organizing the retrospective drawing exhibition of American artist Richard Serra. 


Emilee Whitehurst   

Emilee Dawn Whitehurst is the Executive Director of The Rothko Chapel, a sacred space open to all established to advance interfaith understanding, human rights and justice based in Houston, Tx. She is the former director of the Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, Central Texas’ most comprehensive interfaith organization dedicated to uniting faith and cultural communities in service of the common good.  Ms. Whitehurst is an ordained Presbyterian minister with a background in community organizing around issues of homelessness, police accountability and alternatives to incarceration.  She has a BA with honors in Human Biology from Stanford University and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 2001 where she was a Williams Fellow awarded to the top ten students demonstrating promise in ministry.   In addition, she completed coursework towards ordination at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  A native Austinite, she has worked with non-profit organizations and congregations in California, Kansas, Massachusetts and Texas.   


JoAnne Woodard  

JoAnne Woodard was appointed Executive Artistic Director of HITS Theatre in June 2008. A teacher, performer, director and acting coach, she has both a breadth of experience and a depth of knowledge in working with children and young adults.  
As a teacher, JoAnne has taught acting, directing, musical theater, improvisation, and auditioning in public and private schools for the past 15 years. From grade school to middle school to high school, she has directed productions and been an Artist-in-Residence. She has been a Master Teacher at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in the BA, BFA, and MFA programs. She has also been a Master Teacher at the University of Miami in both the Frost School of Music Opera Program with Dr. David Alt, and in the School of Liberal Arts with Vince Cardinal. Much in demand as a lecturer, JoAnne has conducted seminars in acting and auditioning across the country including the International Thespian Festival and the Educational Theater Association of which she is a member.  
As a performer, JoAnne has appeared in over 200 plays, musicals, television pilots and national commercials including the national touring company of “Grease” and at the renowned improv group, Second City in Chicago. She was also a member of the off-Broadway improvisation troupe, New Yuk City".  
JoAnne spent 6 years as Artistic Associate of “First Stage Theater”, the third largest children’s theater in the country in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her hometown. She has directed many professional and high school productions and has been nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year. JoAnne is a nationally known acting coach, specializing in preparing high school students for auditions for colleges and universities across the country. She has coached over 100 private students who have been accepted into a selection of over 95 colleges and universities including Yale, the Tisch School at NYU, Harvard, North Carolina School of the Arts, SMU, University of Michigan, Carnegie-Mellon, University of Southern California, and the University of Oklahoma, and the Julliard School.  
JoAnne believes in teaching life skills through stage skills. She hopes to teach HITS students to use their brains, their courage and their hearts to find a home at HITS. 

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