2018 - University of Houston
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2018 Biographies

Sandy Asch

Bestselling Author, Public Speaker

Principal, Alliance for Organizational Excellence LLC

Sandy Asch is the Principal at Alliance for Organizational Excellence LLC, the bestselling author of ROAR: How to Build a Resilient Organization the World Famous San Diego Zoo Way, a best place to work expert, and the architect of the Resilience at WorkTM model. 

Asch partners with companies globally to create workplaces that are passionate, focused, healthier, and resilient. 30,000 leaders in 350+ companies in 50 countries and 6 languages have implemented her strategies to win best place to work awards, navigate mergers and embrace change.


Elizabeth Gonzalez Brock

Director of External Engagement and Planning, CenterPoint Energy 

Elizabeth Gonzalez Brock served in government relations as a Congressional Intern and a Legislative Aide, in Houston and Austin. She became District Director for the Dean of the Texas Senate, and later transitioned to the private sector, serving as Governmental Affairs Director for TSU, UH, and Reliant Energy. 

Currently, Elizabeth oversees CenterPoint Energy’s Office of External Engagement and Planning, where she manages relations for over 100 local jurisdictions in Texas and Minnesota and develops messaging and strategic plans for the company’s agendas, community relations, and campaigns.  She advances CenterPoint’s local public policies, political action committee, and city planning initiative. 

The community groups she’s served include Houston First Corporation, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, BARC Animal Shelter, University of Houston Alumni Group, Greater Houston Partnership’s Governmental Affairs Committee, and the East End Chamber of Commerce.


Lindsey Brown

Owner, Lindsey Brown Public Relations 

Lindsey Brown launched her Public Relations firm in 2016 to promote businesses that share her business philosophy of hard work and innovation.  Prior to that, she directed public relations and events for Clumsy Butcher, a restaurant and bar collective in Houston. For 10 years before joining Clumsy Butcher, Brown was the director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.  In that role, she launched the Where the Chefs Eat Houston Culinary Tours program—winner of the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award in 2011—and worked with local, regional and national media to further Houston’s reputation as a tourist destination. 

Brown also helped build the award-winning “My Houston” print and TV campaign featuring celebrities such as Beyoncé, ZZ Top, Jim Parsons and Lyle Lovett, as well as the “Houston is…” advertising and marketing campaign that continues to appear in various publications including The New York Times and on billboards in George Bush Intercontinental Airport.  She was a key player in the redesign of VisitHouston.com, the official tourism website of the city. 

Brown graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in public relations. She began her career at Vollmer Public Relations in both the company’s Dallas and Houston offices. She also served as the special projects coordinator for the Houston Ballet Academy; a trained ballerina through age 18, Brown later would go on to co-found the Houston Ballet’s young professionals group, Ballet Barre, which has more than 200 members in its sixth year. She still serves on the Board of Trustees, and also as a Hermann Park Conservancy Advisory Board Member. She co-founded Southern Smoke, a food and wine fundraiser and foundation, in 2015.


Deborah Byers

Americas Industry Leader & US Oil & Gas Leader, Ernst & Young 

As Ernst & Young’s Americas Industry Leader and US Oil & Gas Leader, Deborah Byers  is a frequent speaker and writer on oil and gas industry issues, as well as on energy tax and transaction matters. Her work has been widely published. She received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Baylor University. Ms. Byers is a member of the AICPA and Texas Society of CPAs, licensed in Texas. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the United Way and BakerRipley.


Dr. Jenny C. Chang, MD

Emily Herrmann Chair in Cancer Research

Houston Methodist Research Institute Director, Houston Methodist Cancer Center 

Dr. Jenny C Chang is a Professor at Weill Cornell Medical School, and the Director of the Houston Methodist Cancer Center, where she holds the Emily Herrmann Chair in Cancer Research (MD, Cambridge University, with fellowship training at the Royal Marsden Hospital/Institute of Cancer Research, UK.)  An internationally recognized thought leader in cancer research and clinical care, her research has received continuous support and funding from multiple organizations including the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI), Department of Defense (DOD), and investigator-initiated pharmaceutical research awards.  Her group is recognized as the first to describe cancer stem cells and the role in resistance to therapy. Through this funding, her group described some of the critical drivers of cancer stem cells, and therapeutic efficacy of targeting these stem cells in preclinical models and clinical trials. Her recent work is focused on the clinical translation of these targets, and has obtained two large DOD grants using T-cell immunotherapy (>$3 million) and nanoparticles (>$16 million) to conduct clinical trials with these new exciting molecules.


Estela Sandoval Cockrell

Founder, Switch2Pure 

Estela Sandoval Cockrell, a native of South Texas, is a former litigation attorney who now focuses her time on philanthropy, development and helping a variety of non-profit organizations specifically in the area of prevention, education and medicine. She also is the founder of an e-commerce site, www.Switch2Pure.com--purveyor of pure, clean, natural, non-toxic beauty, skincare and wellness products. 

As a volunteer, Estela serves on the board of the Contemporary Art Museum and assists at her children’s schools. She has chaired a variety of events and galas over the years and served on many nonprofit boards in Aspen and Houston. She serves as an advisory director of the Cockrell Family Fund and is very involved with fashion, interior design and the fine arts.


Lauren Levicki Courville

Vice President, Dress for Success Houston 

With leadership roles in the hospitality, medical, energy, marketing and public relations fields, Lauren Levicki Courville is a focused communicator who values relationships and results. In 2011 Lauren pursued her own entrepreneurial dream, and launched the Levicki Network. Her firm worked with companies to cultivate their client base through business development, pairing it with brand advancement, marketing and public relations strategies. 

Currently, as Vice President of Dress for Success, Lauren works closely with the president to further cultivate relationships throughout Greater Houston.  A graduate of Colorado State University, she engages the next generation of Dress for Success Houston (DFSH) in learning more about the agency and works as a team leader to develop skills and work with the staff to ensure that DFSH  continues to be a top nonprofit in the Houston community. For nine years she has served on DFSH’s  advisory board and is a founding board member of the agency’s young professional group, Women of Wardrobe. 

Lauren also serves on the Trees for Houston board, as the Chair of the Red Bud Committee. Some of her community awards include: Houston Grand Opera “Rising Star” award, selection as a member of PaperCity Magazine’s “Phrat Pack,” honoring young philanthropic individuals, and recognition by Young People for the Arts, for her commitment to the Houston non-profit community, “The New Ones.”


Cheryl Creuzot, CFP, JD, LLM, MBA

President & CEO, Wealth Development Strategies, LLC 

Cheryl Creuzot, a thirty-five-year industry veteran, is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Wealth Development Strategies, LLC, a comprehensive financial planning firm. She is a four-time alumna of the University of Houston and proudly serves as Chair of the Board of Visitors and Vice Chair of the UH Foundation. Creuzot also serves on the M.D Anderson Board of Visitors. She has been featured in Mutual Funds magazine as well as Money, Essence, Black Enterprise and Texas Monthly magazines. 

Her lifelong passion for helping others guided her career path. Creuzot has long wanted to write a book to improve financial literacy, especially for women. Several brave clients, who had to revisit difficult and sometimes painful moments in their lives, formed the core collection of stories around which Creuzot's book is built. As Tina Knowles-Lawson penned in the foreword, “This book gives you the riveting stories of many people's personal struggles to overcome mountains of debt, divorce, death and other despair, and how they got their lives back." Creuzot has appeared as a guest on several local and national programs to discuss her book, which is aptly titled Real Lives. Real Money.


Lisa Cruces

Hispanic Collection Archivist, University of Houston Libraries Special Collections 

Lisa Cruces is the Hispanic Collections Archivist at the University of Houston as well as an active member and organizer in the Houston community. In her roles as an archivist and as an organizer, Cruces advocates for bridging the divide between institutionalized cultural heritages spaces and the individuals and communities they represent.  Prior to joining UH in 2014, Cruces was the Librarian-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame. She received her Master of Science in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.


Barbara Davis

Owner, Barbara Davis Gallery 

For 30 years, Barbara Davis Gallery has brought groundbreaking contemporary art to Houston.  Driven by her intuitive sensibilities and perennially fresh vision, Barbara Davis has championed a generation of significant contemporary artists.  In the process she has challenged a generation of art collectors, both seasoned and aspiring, to see the beauty and value in their work through dialogs and panel discussions with prominent museum curators and artists from across genres.  

She has launched the careers of international artists such as Julie Mehretu, one of the most important artists of our time, and Mie Olise Kjærgaard, a rising star from Denmark discovered in a Saatchi Sensations exhibition, having given Mehretu her first gallery exhibition and Olise her first U.S. exhibition. She was also one of the first to bring to Houston such influential figures as Joseph Beuys, Kiki Smith, Jonathan Borofsky, Allan McCollum, and Gilbert & George, among many others.  She brought progressive international exhibitions such as Leipzig Select, artists from the New Leipzig School, and exhibitions for Beijing East Village artists Zhang Huan and Li Wei. The Barbara Davis Gallery was one of the first Texas galleries to be included in the influential and prestigious Art Basel Miami Beach art fair.  The gallery’s exhibitions have been reviewed in international publications such as ArtForum, Art in America, Art News, Flash Art International, The Art Economist, and The New York Times, among many others.  Her passion for exhibiting innovative contemporary art and her commitment to educating her collectors and the community has driven the focus of the gallery since the start.


Julie De Vries

Featured Table Talk Artist 

Houston native Julie Tuesday De Vries is an artist and full-time faculty member in the Art Department of Lone Star College North Harris in Houston, TX where she lives with her husband and daughter.  She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she specialized in painting and Latin American art history and completed a study abroad program in Argentina. She received her Master’s of Fine Arts degree in the painting department at the University of Houston and has since exhibited at local non-profits and galleries in group and solo exhibitions. She is currently represented by Jonathan Hopson Gallery.


Kathy Flanagan-Payton

President & CEO, Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation 

A Houston native, Kathy Flanagan-Payton is currently President and CEO for the award winning Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation (FWCRC) where she oversees the implementation of the Comprehensive Community Revitalization of Houston’s Historic 5th Ward. Kathy incorporates the vision of a diverse 15-member board of directors, the needs of both pioneering and new residents, community stakeholders, and acts as catalyst in fostering the collaborative efforts of an array of community service providers with a primary goal of improving the quality of life in a traditionally underserved community. All of which are achieved through the organization’s major lines of business -Real Estate Development which includes residential and commercial rehabilitation and new construction, property and asset management; Community and Economic Development offering tools and strategies that support comprehensive revitalization and stabilization of neighborhoods to and for residents and businesses alike. Home Ownership Promotion and Housing Preservation services that increase the opportunities for affordable housing,  And lastly, Arts and Culture, a balanced strategy  that uses place and art  to sustain the culture, invite new opportunities  and celebrate the rich heritage.  As a graduate of UT Austin, Rice University’s Certification in Nonprofit Management and 2017 Executive Education Certificate from John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Kathy has combined her education and years of experience to establish herself as a leader in the community development industry locally and abroad, lending her talents in both Western and Southern regions of Africa. 

Kathy is an active member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in the heart of Fifth Ward and oversees the audio visual ministry, and currently coordinates Wednesday Night Live Bible - a contemporary biblical based bible study coupled with practical application.  On a more personal note, Kathy is the leading lady to her husband, Michael and their three daughters Kamecia (Jonathan), Karla and Jasmine. She is blessed to be a grandmother to Payton and Jordyn. Kathy also enjoys public speaking, cooking, traveling, & reading. 


Kelly Furr

SVP, HR Market Partner, Talent Acquisition Manager, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management 

Kelly is the Houston HR Market Partner and Wealth Management Talent Acquisition Manager.  She manages a team of recruiters is responsible for developing and executing recruitment strategies to attract and hire Financial Analysts.  As the HR Market Partner, Kelly is responsible for driving market employee engagement, talent development, and key talent retention.  She has been with Bank of America since May 2017 and has 20+ years of Talent Acquisition Management experience.  Previous experience includes working for Northrop Grumman and SunTrust Bank.  Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from the University of Richmond in Virginia. 


Mia Gradney

Evening News Anchor, KHOU 11 

For two decades, two-time Emmy Award winning journalist and native Houstonian Mia Gradney has reported on some of the most significant headlines.  She has covered everything from hurricanes, to Hollywood red carpet events, major sporting championships and title games, medical breakthroughs and compelling environmental issues. Currently Mia anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts weekdays on KHOU 11 News. When she is not in front of the camera Mia is serving the community.  She is a longtime volunteer and Advisory Council member for Dress for Success Houston and co-founder of the young professionals’ group Women of Wardrobe.


Diva Herazo

CEO, Biomedent Inc. 

A native of Colombia, Diva Herazo earned her B. S. in Communications there and entered the field of journalism as Director of Media & Public Relations for a television station in Bogotá.  By 1998, she was a well-recognized executive and her career took a ten-fold leap when she launched her own event production company, H&H Productions, managing and promoting international artists.  After moving to the United States in 2002, she began to get involved in the community, working for non-profit organizations and volunteering at the Houston Mayor’s Office. 

In 2005, she co-founded with her husband, Jose Habib, Biomedent Inc., a dental and medical mobile management company that performs preventive and comprehensive services using mobile facilities brought directly to schools, businesses, and communities. Biomedent‘s mission is to create easy community access to affordable high quality dental care, through the use of state of the art mobile dental equipment delivered in a friendly, professional, and convenient manner. All Biomedent services and offerings are built around our core principles of flexibility, affordability, convenience, and technology. Biomedent, Inc. has earned several award nominations and is certified by the Women Business Enterprise Alliance and Texas HUB. 


Jennifer N. Herring, MSW

Director of Reentry, Harris County Sheriff’s Office 

Jennifer Herring attended DeBakey High School for the Health Professions and enrolled in Texas Southern University with an undecided major.  After getting married and starting a family, she postponed her education and joined the corporate sector to pursue a career in sales. She later returned to school, completing her bachelors and masters degree and licensing in social work in five years.  Always drawn to crisis intervention, she managed a program for women and children on welfare, provided case management services to severe and persistent mentally ill wards of the county through Harris County’s Guardianship Program, provided crisis intervention and therapeutic services to children and adolescents in the North Forest Independent School District and worked as psych response team member for West Oaks Psychiatric Hospital’s Mobile Assessment Team. Herring also established a private practice facilitating life-skills (anger management/conflict resolution, behavior management, personal development, self-care/self-esteem, parenting, gang prevention and intervention) for children and adolescents with behavioral issues through the courts of the Justice of the Peace. She created and directed a behavior modification boot camp for children and adolescents with severe criminal histories. 

Today, she provides training and development to schools, agencies and organizations, teaching on topics such as Ethics, Dealing with Difficult People, Compassion Fatigue/Secondary Trauma, and Self-Care Practices.  She was invited to become a part of the faculty at Texas Southern University and served as field liaison and visiting instructor for 8 years.  Currently she serves as Director of Reentry Services for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office where she has created programs for prisoners affected by human sex trafficking and prostitution as well as programs for pregnant women, veterans, and substance abusers.  Her Mentoring Moms Program for pregnant inmates has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the Journal of Family Strengths.           


Leisa Holland-Nelson

Vice President & CMO, Astoundz 

Leisa Holland-Nelson is the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Astoundz, where she is responsible for Marketing, Business Development, Client Relationship Management and HR, having merged her ownership in ContentActive with Astoundz. She is also the author and voice of “Women Mean Business,” a weekly segment focusing on extraordinary women on The BusinessMakers Show. 

Leisa spent 20+ years in the Fashion business in NYC, initiating product development areas for Federated Department Stores in Men’s and Women’s Accessories and Women’s Sportswear before leading companies, including Outlander and Evan Picone. After a stint in Executive Search as a Partner with Heidrick & Struggles, she moved to Houston and began her successful Entrepreneurial career launching RentTheSite.com in 2004, the first product offering of her future company ContentActive, which was recognized multiple times with Fast Tech 50 Awards, as a top web developer in Houston, a Best Place to Work and a Better Business Bureau Winner of Distinction. Her mission then and now is “Doing well by doing good.” 

Leisa currently serves as Vice Chair of Marketing and Communications for March of Dimes, on the boards of the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Executive Women’s Partnership of the Greater Houston Partnership. Additionally, she is the Board Chair and was appointed as a City Commissioner by the Mayor for the Houston Center for Literacy.  She has been honored to be named one of Houston’s Fifty Most Influential Women, a Senior Fellow of The American Leadership Forum, two-time Chair of the Board of the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, one of HBJ/ Mass Mutual’s Powerful Women in Entrepreneurship, a Celebrated Entrepreneur by Houston Technology Center, a Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce Breakthrough Woman, and an ABC/Channel 13 Woman of Distinction.  Leisa is also a fifth-generation Houstonian; she attended the University of Texas.


Patricia Hunt Holmes, PhD, JD

Author & Attorney
Egg Harbor Publishing, LLC 

Patricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP.   She was consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Top Lawyers in Houston, and awarded the highest degree by her peers in Martindale Hubbell. She was a frequent speaker at national public finance and healthcare conferences and has served on faculty at University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has written and published in on  intellectual history and law. 

Her first fiction novel, “Searching for Pilar,” will be published by Greenleaf Book Group on April 10, 2018. The story involves Houstonians of all stations helping a young stranger from Mexico rescue his sister from the horrific life of a sex slave in Houston’s glitzy Galleria area men’s clubs and barrio cantinas.  The story is influenced by her career in law, and her experience with social service organizations in Houston that focus on helping women, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.  She was a founding member and first board chair of Houston Justice for Our Neighbors, providing legal services to immigrants.  For five years, she has taken  writing workshops with Inprint, linked with the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. 

Patricia grew up in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, but has lived in Houston for 42 years.  She has two daughters, Hillary and Ashley, who have successful careers as an attorney and a geologist, and three adorable grandsons.  She is an avid golfer and traveler.  Patricia holds a B.A. in English and History, an M.A. in History and a Ph.D. in Russian and South Asian History, all from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  She received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and was an Editor on the Houston Law Review.  She serves on the Smithsonian Institution’s Texas Host Committee. 


Geordie M. Hrdlicka

Founder, Verde Wealth Group, LLC 

Geordie M. Hrdlicka, J.D., LL.M. CFP® is the Visionary and Founder of Verde Wealth Group, LLC. She is a Certified Financial Planner professional and an attorney. Graced with impeccable timing, Geordie transitioned from practicing law to the financial planning field at the precipice of the “Dot Com” Crash of 2000.  She later rode the roller coaster of the “Great Recession” of 2008, giving her a special perspective on what really matters to each individual. Those experiences shaped Geordie’s vision: to provide holistic, customized planning, by first understanding what is essential to a client’s ideal life. 

Though she initially considered vet school, she earned a B.A. in French and International Studies at Trinity University, including one year at the University of Nice. Soon after, she attended the UH Law Center, where she met her future husband, Jim Corbett.  Upon graduation, they started careers in separate civil litigation firms. Geordie then sought a more direct means to improving people’s lives. Earning an LL.M. in Taxation at UH, Geordie came to understand the importance of planning and visualizing one’s future.  She volunteered as an adjunct instructor for the Rice University CFP Program and as a moderator for Texas Life in Leadership Institute (LILI), and led the Board of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (Houston Chapter) as President in 2009-2010. 

A graduate of the Leadership Houston Class XXV, Geordie has volunteered at the Women’s Resource (for financial literacy) and as a Zoo Friend, and recently served as President of the UH Friends of Women’s Studies.  She is active on the Finance Committee for Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart and at School of the Woods Montessori, which her daughter, Katja, currently attends.  Geordie enjoys traveling with her family, languages, yoga, hip hop dancing, riding horses and watching Katja’s creative side evolve.  Wherever Katja’s talents lead her, she’s sure to be financially savvy.


Jean T. Janssen

President of the Board, San Jacinto Council Girl Scouts of America 

A graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Jean T. Janssen practiced law with Smith & Conner, P.C. in Houston, focusing on civil litigation, family law and probate, until her retirement. She also served as an Adjunct Professor of Business Law at the University of St. Thomas, and as instructor of continuing legal education at the University of Houston Law Center and South Texas College of Law.  She is a leadership instructor for the Houston Society of Association Executives in CAE certification and recertification. 

In 1988, Jean began working as outside counsel for Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council (GSSJC) and has been active with the organization ever since. Currently, she serves as President of the Council and Chair of the Board of Directors, and chairs the Council’s Executive Committee.  She previously served as Chair of the Philanthropy Committee and of the Human Resources Committee, as a member of various Council Board committees for over 20 years, Sponsorship Chair for final Urban Campout in 2010, Sponsorship Chair for the first two Success to Significance luncheons in 2011 and 2012, and a Council Delegate to the GSUSA National Council Session in 2011 and 2017. In recognition of her outstanding service to girls, GSSJC has presented Jean with a Board Award and the Honor Pin. 

Jean graduated cum laude from Southwestern University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics.  She is currently President of the Alumni Association, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, and a member of the Board’s University Relations, Student Affairs and Trusteeship Committees. She is also active in the Houston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Delta Delta and a sustaining member of the Junior League of Houston, among other activities. An avid traveler and master scuba diver, Jean writes a travel blog, TravelbyNatasha.com.   She is married to litigator and writer Stephen P. Pate and has one son Theodore F. Crane, an aspiring filmmaker.


Dr. Melanie Johnson, EdD

President & CEO, The Health Museum 

Dr. Melanie Johnson is the President and CEO of the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science, also known as The Health Museum. She is the first African American woman to hold a senior position in the Houston Museum District. She recently achieved national designation status for The Health Museum as a Smithsonian Affiliate--the only such museum in the District. In her short tenure as CEO, Dr. Johnson has nearly doubled attendance and increased revenue by more than 30 percent. Previously, she served as the Director of Education for NASA’s Space Center Houston. 

Dr. Johnson was awarded the esteemed Nancy Hanks Award for Professional Excellence, from the American Alliance of Museums, and was the 2015 recipient of the Pierre and Marie Curie award for Humanities in Managua, Nicaragua for her contributions to global education. She was featured in an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum” as she presented facts about the Faith 7 Mercury capsule, and on Radio Disney and in Forbes Magazine. Other recognition includes selection for Center for Houston’s Future (2014) and American Leadership Forum (2016), the Ivy League Charitable Education Foundation award for one of the City of Houston’s Best Educators and a Top 30 Influential Women of Houston award. 

Dr. Johnson has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business/French from Auburn University, a Master of Hospitality Management from the University of Houston, and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas Southern University. Her board service includes the Houston Museum District Association, South Main Alliance, Park Plaza Hospital, Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, and Texas Southern University’s Foundation. She is an active member of the Greater Houston Partnership and Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce.Dr. Johnson is married to Bruce Johnson, her spouse for 25 years; they have two sons, Austin, 22 and Cameron, 18.


Myrtle Jones

Halliburton Senior Vice President of Tax 

Myrtle Jones is Halliburton Senior Vice President of Tax, based in Houston. She has more than 30 years of experience in international and domestic tax management and strategic tax planning.  She started her career at ExxonMobil, in the corporate income tax department, then moved to GlobalSantaFe Inc., taking on various positions of increasing responsibility over 20 years, finally becoming Vice President of Tax before the company was acquired.  In 2008, she took a detour from the oil and gas sector, joining Service Corporation International (SCI), the largest provider of death care services in North America. As Senior Managing Director of Tax and Internal Audit for SCI, she managed accounting, audits and planning. During her last two years there, she led the company’s internal audit function. In 2013 she returned to the oil and gas world, when she moved to Halliburton in her current role. 

Ms. Jones contributes time and talents to a variety of community organizations. She serves as executive sponsor for the Halliburton African American Network Forum, and is a member of the advisory council of the company’s Women Sharing Excellence employee resource group. She also serves on the board of Genesys Works – Houston chair), the advisory boards of the Prairie View A&M University Business School and the Women’s Energy Network - Houston, and as a member of the Greater Houston Partnership Executive Women’s Partnership, and the American Heart Association’s Go Red Executive Leadership Team.  

A frequent speaker on corporate income tax and workplace diversity, Ms Jones has received numerous awards, including: Black Enterprise Magazine 50 Most Powerful Women in Corporate America; the Houston Business Journal Top 25 Women in Oil and Gas; The National Diversity Council Top 50 Women in Oil and Gas; and Savoy Magazine Top 50 Women in Corporate America.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Mississippi State University, and is a certified public accountant in Texas. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exercising, and traveling.


Sima Ladjevardian

Attorney & Mediator 

Sima Ladjevardian is an attorney and mediator, with over 27 years of experience in Business Law, Divorce, and Family Law.  Born in Iran, she moved to France during the Iranian Revolution and came to the U.S. in 1980, earning her degrees in California. Sima’s focus for the past 10 years has been  in promoting, educating and fostering dialogue and understanding among various cultures and people. 

She is the Co-Founder of Big Hearted Texas, Co-Founder and Board Member of the Society Of Iranian American Women for Education, and Co-Founder and co-chair of Arts of the Islamic World Initiative at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. She also served as National Finance Committee Member for Hillary for America, AAPI Finance Council Member for Hillary for America, Senior Advisor and Campaign Finance Liaison for Beto O’Rourke‘s Senate Race, and Advisory Committee Member of Asia Society's Muslims of America.


Brenda Mainwaring

AVP Public Affairs Southern Region at Union Pacific Railroad 

Brenda Mainwaring is Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs for the fastest growing region in Union Pacific Railroad’s twenty-three state network. She and her team manage political, community and media outreach in seven states, including UP’s interchange points with Mexico. In her twenty years with Union Pacific, Mainwaring has managed legislative affairs, historical assets, trademark licensing and branded-products, and special activities, including UP’s role as supplier to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. In 2007, she was appointed the first public affairs director in UP’s headquarters state of Nebraska. Prior to coming to UP, Mainwaring was an intelligence analyst in Washington, D.C. 

Mainwaring is a member of TxDOT’s Freight Advisory and Border Trade Advisory committees and the Texas Business Leadership Council. She is on the Advisory Board of Transportation Advocacy Group of Houston and the Board of the North Houston Association. Mainwaring was honored as WTS-Houston’s 2016 “Transportation Woman of the Year,” Houston Woman Magazine “50 Most Influential Women of 2016,” and Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce “Breakthrough Woman.”


Heidi McDonald-Smith

Chief of Staff, President of Texas Southern University 

Heidi McDonald-Smith is the Chief of Staff to the President of Texas Southern University.  Prior to joining TSU, she was the Executive Director of First Year Experience for the Lone Star College System and responsible for coordinating success efforts for over 10,000 freshman.  She also served as the Chair of the Department of Education and as a professor at Lone Star College-Montgomery. Before entering higher education, Smith was an elementary school teacher for New Orleans Public Schools, served as director of a child-care center in New Orleans, Louisiana, and owned and operated a child-care center. 

McDonald-Smith earned her Bachelor's in Child Development at Spelman College, and a Master’s in Educational Administration Planning and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Texas Tech. 

McDonald-Smith is an active participant in The Links, Inc., and Jack and Jill of America, Inc.  She serves on the Executive Board of KIPP Houston, and was previously a board member of Collaborative for Children. She and her husband Marcu have chaired fundraisers for the Hermann Park Conservancy, Recipe for Success, and Collaborative for Children.  They have two sons - Parker and Bond.


Marcie Mir, LCSW

Chief Executive Officer, El Centro de Corazón 

Chief Executive Officer, Marcie Mir, LCSW, has been with El Centro de Corazón for 19 years and has served in numerous leadership positions since 2003.  The organization provides comprehensive health care services to thousands of low-income, medically underserved children and adults. Ms. Mir joined El Centro in 1998 as the Youth Program Coordinator for the after-school program for girls.  In 2000, she became a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist for El Centro.  Since 2003, Mir has held numerous leadership positions including: Director of Social Services, Director of Operations, Compliance Officer, Assistant Executive Officer, and Chief Development Officer. 

In 2013, Ms. Mir was appointed El Centro’s Chief Executive Officer.  In that role, she is responsible for strategic growth and for El Centro becoming a fully integrated health care service organization.  Under Mir’s direction, the organization offers adult and pediatric primary care, prenatal and women’s health, dental and behavioral health services regardless of one’s ability to pay. 

Ms. Mir received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from The University of North Texas in 1998.  In 2000, she received her Master of Social Work from the University of Houston, and earned her LMSW and LCSW licensures in 2000 and 2003, respectively.  Currently, she is a senior fellow of Houston’s American Leadership Forum-Community Development Class I.  Additionally, Mir serves on the Board of Directors for the American Leadership Forum and the Houston Hispanic Forum.


Dr. Laura G. Murillo, PhD

President & CEO, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 

In 2007, Dr. Laura Murillo was named President and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. With the support of the Chamber Board and Staff she has set unprecedented records in membership, revenue - and HHCC has become the largest Hispanic Chamber in the country.  Dr. Murillo also serves as the Founding President & CEO of the Chamber’s Foundation, Founding Executive Producer/Host for the Chamber’s Radio and Television Programs on CBS and Univision with a cumulative audience of 3.3 million. She is also a Telemundo Political Commentator and has appeared on numerous national media outlets. 

Dr. Murillo holds a B.A, a Master’s Degree, and a Doctorate from the University of Houston, where she served as an executive for 15 years. Prior to her current role, she served as an executive at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center for 7 years. She has received many state, national and international honors including being named among the “Most Powerful & Influential Women in Texas” and the “Top Latino Leader Award” by the National Diversity Council, “Woman of the Year” by Success Magazine and the “International Leadership Award” by Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation. The Mexican government awarded Dr. Murillo with the esteemed “Ohtli Award,” for her Advocacy and Civic Leadership in 2016. 

Dr. Murillo serves on the Houston BBVA Compass Board of Directors, the University of Houston Board Of Advisors, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority Board of Directors, the Houston Super Bowl Committee, the Houston Symphony Hispanic Advisory Board, the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau Board, the Aspen Institute and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Advisory Committee. The youngest of nine children, she was born to immigrant parents and raised in Houston’s East End. She is the proud mother of Marisa and Mia. 


Frances Miriam “Poppy” Northcutt

Attorney and Activist

President of the National Organization for Women, Houston Chapter 

“Poppy” Northcutt was born in Louisiana, grew up in Luling, Texas, and graduated with a degree in Math from the University of Texas.  She was the first woman to work in NASA’s Mission Control on the Apollo program and was active in returning Apollo 13 safely to Earth. Houston’s Mayor Fred Hofheinz appointed Poppy Houston's first Woman’s Advocate in 1974.  In that role, she was active in transforming the landscape for women in Houston. She was active in NOW, both locally and nationally, and in organizing the International Women’s Conference, held in Houston in 1977.  She went on to law school, and then served as a prosecutor in the Houston DA’s office, before starting her own practice as a criminal defense lawyer.  She continues to be an advocate for women’s issues today.


Kim K. Ogg, JD

District Attorney, Harris County 

Kim K. Ogg was elected District Attorney of Harris County, effective January 1, 2017. A nationally recognized victims’ rights advocate, as District Attorney she is committed to more effective criminal justice through treatment of every individual with dignity and fairness. Upon taking office, DA Ogg immediately placed public safety—paramount among her guiding principles—at the forefront of her administration. 

DA Ogg emphasizes collaborative efforts between the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement to narrow the focus of police and prosecutors alike on the violent offenders who pose the largest danger to the public.  Licensed by the State Bar of Texas in 1987, and recognized as a specialist in Criminal Law by the Board of Legal Specialization since 1992, DA Ogg has a track record of public service and thirty years professional experience to rely on as she works to reform the Harris County criminal justice system. 

A native Houstonian, DA Ogg received her law degree from South Texas College of Law Houston in 1986, and her undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.


Dr. Terri Pustilnik

Gynecologic Oncologist, MD Anderson Medical Center 

Dr. Terri Pustilnik is the mother of three boys and a Gynecologic Oncologist (or women’s cancer surgeon) who has been caring for Houston women for over 20 years.  Trained at Yale and MD Anderson Cancer Center, she has a mission to make sure that all women, young and old, have access to state-of-the-art cancer care in their community.  To this end she has helped pioneer the use of robotic minimally invasive surgery for gynecologic malignancies and complex gynecologic surgery--both locally, nationally and internationally.  One of the highest volume robotic surgeons in the country, Dr. Pustilnik has trained many of the OB/GYN doctors in Houston, with the goal of expanding this revolutionary technology, so that postoperative pain and suffering is minimized and women can get back to what matters to them. 

Dr. Pustilnik is also helping to educate and spread the word about genetic testing.  In order to cure cancer it is critical that we identify women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer, so that ultimately it can be prevented.  She is also involved in clinical trials, which are paving the way for more targeted and specific cancer treatments. With all the fantastic advances we are making in cancer care, she is excited and proud to be part of the solution.  Eradicating cancer and the unnecessary suffering it causes, is her number one priority.   


Josefina Rendón

Attorney, Mediator, Associate Municipal Judge 

Josefina M. Rendón is currently an Associate Municipal Judge and mediator in Houston. She is the former judge of the 165th District Court in Harris County, Texas (2009-2013). A graduate of the University of Houston Law Center and an attorney since 1977, Judge Rendon was one of Harris County’s first Hispanic Women Attorneys and the first woman & first Hispanic Civil Service Commissioner for the City of Houston (1981-1983). She served as the Judge of Municipal Court No. 5 (1983- 1995) and as an Associate Municipal Judge (1995-2008). She has also served on the board of directors of the Texas Center for The Judiciary. 

Judge Rendón is a published author of over 100 articles and book reviews as well as a frequent speaker in the areas of dispute resolution, negotiation, cultural diversity and law. She currently serves on the editorial board of The Houston Lawyer. She is also the former editor of The Texas Mediator and a former editorial board member of the Texas Bar Journal.  In 1993 Judge Rendón  became a mediator and has since become a leader in the Alternative Dispute Resolution movement in Texas. She has mediated over 1,200 legal disputes. She is president of the Association for Conflict Resolution-Houston Chapter, as well as former president of the Texas Association of Mediators. She has served on the board of directors of the Dispute Resolution Center of Harris County for several years and is a former member of the councils of the Alternative Dispute Resolution sections of both the State Bar of Texas and the Houston Bar Association. For almost 4 years, she mediated and taught negotiation for the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy until shortly before becoming the Judge of the 165th Civil District Court. In 2011 Rendon was awarded both the Justice Frank Evans Award at the State Bar of Texas convention and the Susanne Adams Award at the Texas Association of Mediators Conference, for outstanding efforts in promoting and furthering the use of mediation and setting an example for the rest of the mediation community in Texas. 

Born a U.S. citizen in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she has lived in Texas since her adolescence. She is married to Attorney Ruben Rendón. They have two adult children, a son-in -law and a beautiful granddaughter.


Carolyn Rodz

Founder, Alice 

Featured in Fortune, Inc., Fast Company, Entrepreneur and more, Alice was founded by three-time Latina entrepreneur Carolyn Rodz. She has helped raise billions of dollars of capital for innovative organizations, created a luxury retail line sold in over 400 stores worldwide, including Neiman Marcus, Harrod’s, and Bloomingdales, and launched a global marketing firm that supported specialty product launches within Fortune 500 enterprises and startups positioning themselves for industry leadership. 

Carolyn now serves as an advocate for women entrepreneurs, connecting them to sources of capital, strategic partners, and mentors to create businesses that scale. She is committed to closing the gender gap prevalent in the startup environment by helping female founders implement key strategies for sustainable, accelerated business growth. 

Carolyn was recognized by Inc. as among the “17 Women to Watch in 2017,” by Entrepreneur Magazine as a 2016 “Woman to Watch,” and was selected to participate in the United Nations Foundation Global Accelerator. She is a member of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, a Fortune Most Powerful Women attendee, and has received numerous accolades, including being chosen as a Sam Walton Emerging Entrepreneur and American Express Micro to Millions awardee. She is a TEDx speaker, regular contributor to major media outlets, and is a board member for the Texas A&M Mays College of Business. Carolyn resides in Houston, Texas with her husband and two boys, Luca (5) and Henry (3).


Jessica Rossman

Senior Managing Director & Managing Counsel, United Airlines 

Jessica Rossman is a Senior Managing Director & Managing Counsel—International at United Airlines in Houston.  Her responsibilities include legal oversight of Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.  She has legal responsibility and manages all legal affairs for approximately 30 countries.  Beginning in 2010, she has managed the merger process throughout her region between Continental and United, at the time the largest airline merger in history. 

Jessica received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, and her juris doctorate from the University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law in 1994.  Prior to joining Continental Airlines, she was an associate with Bracewell & Giuliani and, prior to that, a legal intern at Ferrero & Deustua, Attorneys-at-Law, and research associate at Centro Peruano de Estudios Internacionales, both in Lima, Peru. 

In 2015, Jessica was named one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women of 2015 by Houston Woman Magazine and named Best Corporate Counsel by Houston Business Journal.  In 2017, she received two philanthropic awards, named to Houston’s Best Dress List by the Houston Chronicle and named a Woman of Distinction by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.  She is currently Chairman of the Board of AIDS Foundation Houston, a Trustee of the New York Academy of Art in New York City, member of the board of Kids’ Meals, member of the board of Great Age Movement, member of the Advisory Board of Latin Women’s Initiative, and charter member of the Houston chapter of the International Women’s Forum.


Rabbi Adrienne Scott

Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel 

Rabbi Adrienne Scott, from Akron, Ohio, received her ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, in June 2004. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, she received her BA with Honors in Judaic Studies in 1998. While an undergraduate, she attended a one-year course at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel. Upon graduation, Rabbi Scott moved to Texas to assume a one-year fellowship with the Hillel Foundation of Greater Houston. She worked as a Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow throughout the year, focusing on outreach programming for undergraduates at Rice and UH. During that year, she met her husband to be, David M. Scott, a law student at the UH Law Center.  

From 1999-2004, Rabbi Scott attended rabbinical school. After spending her first year in Jerusalem, Israel, she returned to the HUC Cincinnati, Ohio campus. While a student, she served pulpits in Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, and Florida. Additionally, she was very involved in both choral and orchestral groups throughout her rabbinical school career. Rabbi Scott and her husband returned to Houston in June 2004. 

In September 2012, Rabbi Scott was recognized as a Woman of Influence by the National Council of Jewish Women. In 2014, Rabbi Scott was recognized by the Houston Woman Magazine as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Houston. She is active with the Houston Rabbinical Association (HRA) and participates in the Jewish Federation’s Fund for the Jewish Future.  Rabbi Scott and her husband are the parents of Beryt and Ezra, both students at The Shlenker School. Rabbi Scott enjoys being outdoors and staying active through a variety of activities. She is a devoted member of Crossfit Houston and has competed in both full and half marathons. When she isn’t at Beth Israel, she is often found running the streets of Houston.


Dr. Shreela Sharma

Associate Professor of Epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health

Co-Founder, Brighter Bites 

Dr. Shreela Sharma is a behavioral epidemiologist with a passion for treating preventable diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. A professor of epidemiology and faculty member of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the UTHealth School of Public Health, her interest is in nutrition and physical activity-based interventions to address childhood obesity via school, family, and the community, predominantly in low-income minority populations. She is also co-founder of Brighter Bites, a non-profit organization that focuses on food justice by rescuing nutritionally-sound but perhaps ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded into the landfill from growers, food distributors and retailers and channeling this produce into underserved schools and communities while teaching them how to use it. Brighter Bites started as a small idea in 2012 and since then has delivered over 14 million pounds of produce to 30,000 families across 100+ schools, preschools, community centers in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and New York City.


Peggy B. Smith, PhD

Baylor College of Medicine Teen Health Clinic 

Over the past 45 years Peggy Smith has directed 11 comprehensive county-wide Baylor College of Medicine Teen Health Clinics. As a Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry, Dr. Smith has participated in projects on adolescent pregnancy, reproduction, and male sexual health and has successfully collaborated with the Harris County Hospital District, HISD, the Harris County Commissioners and the Texas Legislature to craft and implement health policies to reduce health disparities among youth.  The 11 clinics integrate health care education and research, around such issues as expedited partner treatment for STIs, outreach for male patients, maternity care and family planning, and rapid testing for HIV. The BCMTHC are the model for quality care among adolescents in Texas and provide state-of-the-art vaccinations to at-risk youth, including HPV for males and females, MVC4 required for higher education admissions, and remediation of other vaccines including IPV. 

Dr. Smith has served on numerous statewide public committees to educate policy makers on reducing Texans’ health risks.  She currently serves on the State’s committee to provide comprehensive health care to Texas women. Dr. Smith’s commendations include: the Good Samaritan Award 1996, Kezia DePelchin Award 2003, The Women’s Fund 2006 Award, Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Creating Opportunities for Women 2009, Kathryn S. Stream Award for Excellence in Women’s Health Care 2010, Missouri City Chapter of the Links “Walking in Her Shoes,” 2012 Our Choice Honor, Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy David Wiley Award, and the Children’s Defense Fund Champion for Children Award 2017. 

Peggy Smith has been married 48 years to Ashley Smith; they have one married daughter and twin 5-year-old grandchildren, Quint and May. 


Erin O’Leary Stewart

Co-Owner, DEFINE Studios 

DEFINE body & mind is a contemporary, body-mind fitness concept leading the market in movement, meditation and mindfulness. Erin joined the company in 2011 as co-owner, playing a vital role in expanding the brand with its third location, developing new class programs and products, as well as creating Define Foods; a program dedicated to educating on the importance of whole foods health with a product line of next-level snacks, juices and tea. Erin’s background in the movement arts, kinesiology and dance profession with extensive teaching experience in Pilates, barre, dance and fitness classes, coupled with a culinary degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, perfectly aligns with her role in and contribution to the success of Define. In 2013, Erin transitioned to work on the implementation of the franchise program, with the ultimate goal of bringing Define to every viable community. She continues to instruct movement and culinary classes, changing the way the world sees health and wellbeing, as well as to explore her new motherhood role to son, Liam. 


Claire Cormier Thielke

Chief Operating Officer, Hines Investment Management 

Claire Thielke, retired USA Track & Field athlete, is COO of Hines Investment Management, the $50B AUM institutional/private equity and REIT fund management division of Hines Interests.  She manages the activities of the Hines Investments & Performance Committee, has served on the firm’s Strategy Committee, and serves as an advisor to the Hines IT Steering Committee. She has also held positions in construction management for the Hines Southwest Region and investment management for the Hines Emerging Markets Funds. 

Claire is a lecturer at Stanford University and has served as a board member or outside strategy advisor to businesses including Memorial City Bank, Consumer Solutions inc., and Spire Ventures. She is also on the National Association of Corporate Directors. Claire earned her undergraduate degree in Urban Planning and Design from Stanford, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 2.5 years as captain of the track and field team and Stanford BCSC Valedictorian. After completing her Masters in Construction Management from Stanford’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as the program’s youngest graduate, Claire continued on to earn her Degree of Engineer from Stanford’s Civil Engineering Ph.D. Department in 2009, conducting dissertation research on green retrofitting and seismic upgrading for historic buildings. She has written numerous scholarly contributions on green building, city planning, adaptive reuse, and urban revitalization. In addition, Claire volunteers with arts, healthcare, and preservation nonprofits through board service. She is an avid skier, horseman, and alpinist – most recently running a marathon on Mount Everest.


Ana Trevino-Godfrey, DMA

Director of Prelude Music Classes for Children & Co-Founder of The Prelude Music Foundation 

Ana Trevino-Godfrey, DMA, directs Prelude Music Classes for Children and co-founded the Prelude Music Foundation, a non-profit organization which brings Music Together to underserved communities in Houston.  She is passionate about music, music-making, and education, is a popular presenter at early childhood and music education conferences, and she is an international teacher trainer at early childhood centers and music schools. Ana is a graduate pf Rice University (DMA, MM) and the Cleveland Institute of Music (BM). Prior to her work with children, her passion for music led her to co-found Mercury: The Orchestra Redefined, a period-instrument orchestra.  She has performed opera and early music in the US and abroad. 


Candice Twyman, MSW

Better Business Bureau Education Foundation 

Candice Twyman has forty-one years of experience working with non-profit organizations throughout the Houston area, specializing in gerontology, program development, and management of volunteers.  She has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Houston and a Bachelor of Arts from Baylor University. She worked for 21 years at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston and has since then spent 20 years at the Better Business Bureau Education Foundation.


Anne Whitlock

Director, Connect Community 

Anne has lived and worked in five countries, starting in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa, then moving to Chad, Costa Rica, Mexico and back to the US. She speaks Spanish, some French and a smattering of Bambara. These experiences gave her a sense of what it’s like to be pulled from one’s roots and transported to a new land, culture and language. Serving since 2015 as Founding Director of Connect Community, a holistic revitalization effort in Gulfton/Sharpstown based on the Purpose Built Communities model of high quality wraparound wellness services, cradle through college education pipeline and mixed income housing, she has the honor to work with newcomers from all over the globe who have landed in Houston to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families. Prior to Connect, she worked as the Program Director for the Community Clinic Funders’ Collaborative at the Harris County Healthcare Alliance, working to improve sustainability and collaboration in the Houston healthcare safety net system. She has also worked at the Baker Institute and led the America’s Project seminar for “Young Leaders” from throughout Latin America. She also rode the dot-com boom and bust wave in the early 2000’s and survived her husband’s congressional campaign in 2008. She currently serves on the boards of Buffalo Bayou Partnership and the UT Children’s Learning Institute and has served on the boards of Vecino Health Clinic and the East End Foundation. She has three children and lives in the East End in a converted fire station. 


Betti Wiggins

Officer of Nutrition Services, Houston ISD 

Betti Wiggins is among the foremost authorities on school nutrition and food service management. Her work’s impact has been felt throughout the US. In May 2017, Wiggins was named Officer of Nutrition Services for Houston ISD, the nation’s seventh largest school district. She is responsible for managing all the district’s school nutrition programs, serving more than 280,000 nutritious meals to students at 287 schools every day, including free breakfast to all students, free lunch at 186 campuses, and dinner at more than 50 sites. She is also responsible for the Food Services Support Facility, a state-of-the-art cooking, storage, and distribution center--the largest such center in an urban school district. 

Prior to HISD, Wiggins served as executive director of the Office of School Nutrition for the Detroit Public Schools. Under her leadership, the Detroit School Garden Collaborative was established in 2011. The program now supports more than 80 school-based gardens and a two-acre school farm.  Before Detroit, Wiggins held school district executive positions in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Atlanta, Paterson, NJ, and Ann Arbor, MI. In the private sector, she has consulted on ensuring quality service, operational accountability and statutory compliance with local, state and federal laws. In 1989, Wiggins as one of the first African-Americans recruited to management in the Marriott Corporation’s Division of School Services. 

Wiggins awards include among others: selection as one of EatingWell’s American Food Heroes, the International Foodservices Manufacturers Association’s 2017 Silver Plate award, the School Nutrition Foundation’s 2017 Hero award, FoodService Director Magazine’s 2017 Food Service Director of the Year, the Life Time Foundation Healthy Hero award, the 2016 FAME award, as well as the School Nutrition Association of Michigan 2015 Director of the Year. 

She currently serves as vice chair of the Local Food Association and sits on the executive committee of the National Farm to School Network. She has delivered special testimony before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry of the United States Senate. 

Wiggins earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Wayne State University and pursued graduate studies at the University of Minnesota. She holds a certificate in municipal management from George Washington University.


Lynn S. Wyatt


Lynn Wyatt is a fashion icon named to the International Best Dressed list, a legendary philanthropist, and hostess. Wyatt has chaired some of the most prestigious events benefiting the world's important causes. In 1981, Princess Grace of Monaco invited her to chair the prestigious annual Bal de la Rose in Monaco, to benefit the Red Cross and the American Hospital of Paris. 

She has received distinguished and esteemed honors including the Order of Arts and Letters, rank of Officer, by the Government of France, for her significant contributions to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance. She was also appointed to the Board of the U.S. Naval Academy by President Reagan, and served as an advisor for the Academy when it first considered accepting women. 

She and her husband of over 50 years, Oscar S. Wyatt, Jr., are proud of their four sons Steve, Douglas, Trey and Brad, and two grandchildren Ford and Catherine Wyatt. Lynn's parents, Ann and Bernard Sakowitz, taught her the importance of giving back to the community by example. Wyatt serves in various roles for worthwhile organizations including a lifetime trustee of the Star of Hope Mission for the Homeless, the vice chair of the Houston Grand Opera, The Alley Theater executive committee, a founding trustee of the film department and lifetime trustee for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, a member of the executive committee for the Houston Ballet, a founding trustee for The Princess Grace Foundation, USA, and an honorary director for the American Hospital in Paris.


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