Tilman J. Fertitta, Chairman of the Board
Tilman J. Fertitta, a Houston native, is an accomplished businessman and recognized as a world leader in the dining, hospitality, entertainment and gaming industries and is often referred to as “the world’s richest restaurateur.” Fertitta is the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment which owns the restaurant giant Landry’s, the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels and the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Through his restaurant and hospitality company Landry’s, Fertitta owns more than 600 properties in 36 states and in over 15 countries. He is also one of the largest employers in the nation with more than 60,000 employees. His restaurants include a signature collection of eateries, as well as more than 60 different restaurant brands and award-winning concepts.
Gary D. Becker, Vice Chairman of the Board
Gary Becker led the team who developed and managed the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, Texas. He stepped into the pivotal role after over 40 years with the legendary live entertainment company, PACE Entertainment Corporation. As of January 8th, 2019, his company sold that venture and now he enjoys a consultant role to the new owners and COSL. Before the venue opening in January 2017, Gary fostered a seven-year public-private partnership with The City of Sugar Land. From concept through construction and daily operations, Gary managed the team for the 6,400-seat state of the art theater.
Laura S. Ward, President & CEO
What began with a tried-and-true, $5-per-plate spaghetti supper benefiting her children’s private Christian school blossomed into nothing short of a meaningful career for Laura Ward. Thirty-one years and over 100 million dollars later, the President and CEO of Houston Children’s Charity ranks among the city’s top fundraising executives. Growing up in rural Crowley, La., Ward and her eight siblings didn’t have to look far to spot the devastating effects of poverty, especially on their fellow youth. After graduating from LSU, she returned to the impoverished community to serve a brief stint as a librarian, during which time her sack lunch would disappear from her desk drawer on a daily basis.
Grant W. Guthrie, Vice President / Funding Co-Chair
President – Rainmaker Group Executive Producer – Rainmaker Films The Rainmaker Group provides executive management consulting and investment banking services including strategic planning, business development, merger/acquisition, equity sourcing, media program development, and communications. Clients include corporations, digital media, and video production companies, feature film companies, and television and radio stations. Grant was Executive Producer of ten feature films which have been released theatrically and distributed internationally.
John B. Johnson, Vice President / Funding Co-Chair
John B. Johnson is the President and minority partner of Silver Eagle Distributors, L.P., the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. Silver Eagle employs over 1,100 employees that serve 16 counties in Texas through operations in Houston, San Antonio, Conroe, Cypress and Rosenberg. Silver Eagle also distributes Grupo Modelo beers, a broad selection of microbrews and craft beers and several non-alcohol beverages and waters. Prior to joining Silver Eagle Distributors, John held numerous positions of leadership within the Anheuser-Busch sales and marketing team. The positions included Vice President, responsible for national sales, and Officer of the Anheuser-Busch Companies.
Edna Meyer-Nelson, Treasurer
As President and Chief Executive Officer of The Richland Companies, Edna Meyer-Nelson directs all business activities for Richland’s many divisions. Since founding The Richland Companies in 1993, she has amassed a portfolio of 35 properties in five states representing more than 2.5 million square feet of commercially owned and managed property throughout the Southwestern United States valued in excess of $250 million. She began her career in the banking industry where she served as Vice President, Commercial Loan Officer, and Marketing Director for several of the larger banks in Houston, such as: Great Southern Bank, Fondren Southwest Bank, American National Bank and Charter Bank
Robert E. Ogle, Assistant Treasurer
Robert E. Ogle, CPA was born in St. Louis but has been a resident of Houston for 40 years. He is a well-known Certified Public Accountant and Certified Turnaround Professional. He has served as President of the Houston Chapter of the Texas Society of CPA’s, President of the Good Samaritan Foundation, President of Operation Rainbow, Partner with Arthur Andersen, founded the Houston Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association and served as the first President of Houston Children’s Charity. Mr. Ogle is a Senior Advisor with The Claro Group and serves as a trustee, chief restructuring officer, consultant or receiver for various companies.
Penny Loyd, Secretary
In 2009 Penny, along with her husband, created The Loyd Charitable Foundation to support numerous charities in the Houston area as well as international charitable organizations. From goodwill mission trips in American Samoa to generous donations to the Baylor College of Medicine, Penny’s generosity knows no bounds. Penny attended Southern Illinois University and St. Louis University. Her extensive career includes working as a banker, a computer analyst, an insurance executive, and time in the Foreign Service. She is currently the Vice President of The Loyd Charitable Foundation and works diligently to improve the lives of children in need through her service on numerous boards and charities across the community and internationally.
David B. Atkins
David B. Atkins has enjoyed accolades as a residential real estate professional and private business owner. His mission drives this success: To raise the bar of expectation with my fellow Houstonians and within the real estate community by providing an unparalleled level of service via an unwavering dedication to my client’s best interests.
Dr. Susan M. Blaney
Susan M. Blaney, M.D. is the Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center at Texas Children’s Hospital and a Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. She is a board-certified pediatric oncologist whose career over the past several decades has focused on the development of new agents and therapeutic strategies for children with recurrent or refractory cancer, particularly for those with malignancies of the central nervous system. Dr. Blaney has played a key leadership role in the development of numerous early phase clinical trials of novel agents for the treatment of childhood cancer over the course of her career.
Daniel R. D’Armond
As the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Executive Director, Daniel D’Armond serves as the organization’s senior official covering a territory including Houston, Beaumont, Lufkin and Bryan/College Station. He leads ACS’s community outreach initiatives and serves as principal spokesman on the organization’s patient services, research and events. Prior to joining the ACS, Daniel served as BMC Software’s Director of Community and Government Relations for 19 years. During this time, he was the principal architect for the company’s community relations programs covering corporate headquarters as well as 12 major sites across the U.S as well as throughout Canada, Latin America, Europe, India, Israel and Asia Pacific.
Brandon Dewan is a serial entrepreneur with a successful track-record of building and selling multiple businesses over his two-decade career. Mr. Dewan is currently active in his role as co-founder and CEO of Eagle Group, a Venture Capital firm with a portfolio of companies and investments across a variety of industries. Mr. Dewan is responsible for the entrepreneurial vision and strategy of Eagle Group, leading the company from a small start-up in 2013 into a diversified portfolio of companies generating over $1,000,000,000 in revenue.
Jana Fant is Co-Chairman of The Fant Foundation where she oversees the day to day responsibilities and directly interfaces with the various charities and individuals the Foundation supports. Additionally, Mrs. Fant serves on the boards of The Houston Ballet, K9s4Cops, Hope Stone and Houston Children’s Charity. Jana Fant has supported Houston Children’s Charity since 2013 with major table purchases to the annual Gala. More recently, her dedication has been to the Houston Children’s Charity Chariots for Children program and has donated 25 wheelchair accessible vans since 2016. Married to Richard Fant, they share a love for their two black Labs and a passion for giving back to the community.
Ernest Hunter II
Ernest Hunter II is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Frenchy’s Companies, which includes Frenchy’s Chicken, Frenchy’s Sausage Company and Frenchy’s Restaurant Group. He is a proven business leader with experience in operations, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) execution and financial advisory services. In his role leading Frenchy’s, Ernest not only utilizes his business skills, but serves a company with a rich local heritage and strong employee community.
Melissa H. Juneau
Melissa Juneau is active in several charitable organizations in Houston, including Houston Children’s Charity, Texas Children’s Hospital, and The Lone Survivor Foundation. She is very interested in finding ways to assist combat veterans’ transition into civilian life, with an emphasis on achieving success in business and in life. Melissa and her husband, Brad, host retreats for veterans at their ranch, the Lazy J, where they also enjoy hunting and spending time with family and friends. They have one daughter, Scarlette, who attends the Kinkaid School. Melissa Juneau holds a BS in Education, specializing in Special Education. She taught elementary school for 15 years and still volunteers for The Kinkaid School.
Gary D. Justice
Gary Justice is Manager of Regional Commercial Banking for Amegy Bank. The group targets C&I banking opportunities with companies ranging from $10MM to $500MM in revenue. Justice joined Amegy Bank in April of 2003, and is a graduate of the Bank’s Officer Development Program. After the training program, he joined the Southwest Commercial Lending team and focused efforts on growing the C&I portfolio in the region. He served as a Relationship Manager, Team Lead, and most recently Commercial Lending Manager for the Southwest Region. In the Fall of 2016, he assumed the role of Regional Commercial Manager which includes management of commercial lending teams covering Southwest, Northwest, and North Houston. Justice is a native Houstonian and graduated from Kinkaid.
LeAnn Kaczynski was named CEO of Smart Financial Credit Union in April 2022 having previously served as Executive Vice President, CFO, and VP of Electronic Member Services over her 17-year tenure with the company. LeAnn is also currently the President of the Smart Financial Foundation and has participated with multiple area charities during her years in the Houston area including Best Friends Animal Society and Habitat for Humanity.
Bradley H. Marks
Brad Marks, owner of I W Marks Jewelers, grew up in the family jewelry business. His parents, Diane and Irv Marks, opened the full-service retail store in 1978. As a young adult, Brad assisted during the summers and Christmas seasons, gaining first-hand experience in running the business. Upon graduating from Texas A&M in 1994, Brad tasked himself with evolving the flourishing business before taking full ownership in 2008.
DeeDee H. Marsh
DeeDee Hooks Marsh grew up in the North Channel Area of Houston. She graduated from Texas A & M University with a degree in Environmental Design and received her J.D. from Southern Methodist University School of Law. After working as a litigator in California and Texas, she left the practice of law in 2000, to join her husband Wallis in starting a family business and a family. DeeDee now serves as controller and counsel to Extex Operating Company, Extex Production, Inc., Extex Energy Partners, and all their related entities which are primarily engaged in the business of oil and gas production and exploration in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
Maria Moncada Alaoui
Maria Moncada Alaoui is the General Manager for BMW of West Houston on the Katy Freeway. She’s been in the automotive industry for more than 20 years and held several positions, working her way up from administration to management. Maria has been with BMW for twelve years and proudly serves as General Manager. Moncada Alaoui attended Sonic Dealer Academy, and Sonic’s Leadership Academy which prepared her to become a dealer principal. Maria is an avid learner, and most recently a graduate and fellow of San Diego’s University Shakti Leadership Program.
Dr. Lois J. Moore
Dr. Lois J. Moore, Board of Directors – BSN, MED, LHD, FACHE, is the previous Chief Administrator of The University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center served as a nurse, educator, administrator, and, first and foremost, an advocate for those who are in need of medical care. Dr. Moore was named Chief Administrator of UTHCPC in 2000 and retired in 2013. Prior to that, she worked her way through the ranks of the public health care system, serving as a nurse and in various administrative capacities, including ten years as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Harris County Hospital District. Dr. Moore is also very active in the community.
Robert R. Pierce
Rob Pierce serves as the Head of U.S. Energy Investment Banking for TD Securities based in Houston, Texas. Rob joined TD Securities in 2018 and has worked in energy investment banking over 20 years. During the course of his investment banking career, Rob has represented corporate clients and financial sponsors across all verticals within the energy sector, focusing on midstream, infrastructure, and master limited partnerships. His areas of expertise include corporate and partnership mergers and acquisitions, asset acquisitions and divestitures, and equity, debt, and structured capital markets transactions and private placements. Prior to joining TD Securities, Rob served as Head of Energy Investment Banking, Americas for UBS Investment Bank.
Dr. Jorge D. Salazar
Dr. Salazar was born in San Francisco, California. Dr. Salazar is Professor and Chief of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at the McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is board certified in Thoracic and Congenital Cardiac Surgery. After receiving a BS in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. Salazar received his MD at the School of Medicine at the University of Washington. Dr. Salazar trained in General Surgery and Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Morris Smith, MBA
Morris Smith has held numerous positions with increasing responsibility during his tenure in the Coca-Cola system. Morris is currently the Director of Public Affairs, Communications, and Sustainability for Arca Continental Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages. He is responsible for managing the core public affairs and communications accountabilities for Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas. Morris is responsible for government relations, issues management, stakeholder relations, local media relations, local community giving strategy, and leadership communications.
Kristina H. Somerville
Kristina Hornberger Somerville is an asset manager and Chief Investment Officer of Somerville Investments. Previously Mrs. Somerville was a relationship manager with The Private Bank at J.P. Morgan where she focused on bringing an integrated team of specialists together to advise clients around complicated issues including wealth transfer, investing in alternative and traditional asset classes, philanthropy, and sustaining inter- generational wealth. Kristina has been involved with the financial markets for over twelve years and was a Partner and Associate Research Analyst at Weeden & Co. where she covered the energy industry focusing on Oil and Gas Exploration and Production companies.
Robin L. Young-Ellis
Personally and professionally, every one of us has defining moments in life – moments that shape and define us and often shape the lives of others in the process. Helping others has come to define my life. The work is always fascinating, always challenging, and demanding the absolute best of me. At the end of the day, the greatest reward is feeling you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Profession/Career 1996 – Current: President and CEO, RobinYoung & Company, Inc. An advocate for plaintiff’s rights for over two decades, Young-Ellis specializes in an array of guaranteed structured vehicles and services.
Donald J Henderson
A veteran of the hospitality industry since 1972, Don arrived in Houston in August of 1994 when he accepted the position of General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Houston. He was later promoted to Vice President and Managing Director with Hyatt. After leaving Hyatt at the end of 2006, Don founded his own consulting company, DJH Consulting, LLC which specializes in dynamic hotel development, asset management, providing operational services, and advising in the implementation of sales and marketing strategies for select clients in the hospitality industry. During his years in Houston, Don has been extremely active in the community.
Paul B. Loyd, Jr.
Paul B. Loyd, Jr. was formerly Chairman & CEO of R&B Falcon Corporation the world’s largest and most diversified offshore drilling company. In 2001, R&B Falcon Corporation merged with Transocean Sedco Forex. At that time, Mr. Loyd retired as Chairman and joined the Board of the new company. He currently is a principal and manager of a Houston based energy hedge fund. He formerly served on the Board of Transocean, Inc., Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc., and was on the Board of Enterprise Oil, plc a London Stock Exchange-listed independent oil and gas company until its sale to Shell Oil Company in 2002.
John L. Nau, III
John L. Nau, III is President and Chief Executive Officer of Silver Eagle Distributors, L.P., the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. Silver Eagle employs over 1,200 employees that serve 16 counties in Texas through operations in Houston, San Antonio, Conroe, Cypress, and Rosenberg. Silver Eagle also distributes Grupo Modelo beers, a broad selection of microbrews and craft beers, and several non-alcohol beverages and waters. Nau’s commitment to service is apparent through a broad spectrum of participation in civic, community, and philanthropic organizations in Houston and throughout the country.
Michael F. Rogers
Michael F. Rogers is a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP. His law practice primarily involves negotiating and documenting commercial transactions for a variety of clients. These transactions include sales, purchases and mergers of existing businesses, formation of joint venture arrangements, creation of new business entities, the procurement of both debt and equity financing for business operations and the implementation of significant operational contracts. His clients represent diverse business interests but include those in the business of live entertainment, oil field services, beverage distribution and manufacturing. Mr. Rogers received a B.A., cum laude, in chemical engineering from Rice University in 1980 and a J.D. with honors, from the University of Texas in 1983.
David H. Ward
His name is David Henry Ward, but to thousands of Eyewitness News viewers who wouldn’t miss Channel 13’s nightly 6 and 10 pm newscasts, he is simply known as “Dave”. Dave has been a radio and television broadcaster for 57 years. Getting the facts right, consistently- that’s what defines Dave Ward. A true Texas original, Dave has made his mark as one of the nation’s most respected news anchors for more than four decades. In his trademark down-to-earth style, he begins every newscast with “Good evening, friends,” and has for 48 years. It is that candor and dedication together with unbiased integrity in getting every side of the story that’s helped him become the “most trusted newsman in Houston.”