Meet the Fellows

Current Tower Fellows

Tower Fellows Alumni
Chris Abbruzzese, TOWER Fellow Alum
Born on Long Island, and raised in the family claims consulting firm, Chris helped scale the global sector of the family business. The company represented Fortune 500 companies quantifying Property/Fidelity Insurance Losses in banking, manufacturing, hospitality, and governmental affairs. To develop his skills beyond the family business, Chris graduated from St. John's University in NYC with a BS in Risk Management and Insurance. He then co-founded numerous successful companies ranging from Aviation, Restaurants, Real Estate Development, Construction and Brokerage services. After moving to Austin in 2012, he became a founding partner at Keller Williams Realty Israel and invests in numerous national real estate projects and developments within the US.As a young child, charitable endeavors were a big part of the family traditions. Most holiday celebrations included taking the time to serve and give back to the community via volunteering. This philanthropic family value is a legacy that Chris is proud to honor and continue. Chris dedicates his time to various causes including, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels, Big Brother Big Sisters, Austin Pets Alive, and many Catholic Charities. When he's not volunteering and building companies, Chris enjoys spending time playing tennis/golf at the country club, boating, and spoiling his nieces and nephews at every opportunity.
Janet Allen, TOWER Fellow
Janet Allen, TOWER Fellow
Janet is involved in the Austin community as a volunteer and philanthropist. She is immediate past chair of the Blanton Museum of Art National Leadership Board, and still serves as co-chair of the museum's Art Club. Over the past twenty years, Janet has been involved with the museum in myriad roles, including co-chair of two galas and founder of Art Club.

Janet was on the board of Waterloo Greenway, and chaired the development committee. During this time she focused on membership, annual gifts, the capital campaign, and corporate sponsorships. She also led and completed a $10 million capital campaign for Trinity Episcopal School.

A graduate of the University of Texas (Bachelor of Arts, 1988; Master of Social Work, 1998), Janet is a proud Longhorn. A native Austinite, she has "orange blood" and grew up attending UT football and basketball games. She and her husband, Wilson, are the proud parents of three children: Amelia (a junior at Colorado College), Wilson (a sophomore at UT), and Channing (a senior at St. Stephen's Episcopal School). Janet is passionate about art, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends.
Jamie Barshop, TOWER Fellow Alum
Jamie Barshop worked for Southwest Airlines for 39 years as a flight attendant and member of the airline's Critical Incident Stress Management Team. During that time, she was appointed to the Texas Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service (now One Star Foundation) by Governor Ann Richards, and reappointed by Governor George W. Bush. She served as the Chair for the State of Texas AmeriCorps Programs and is currently a member of Leadership Texas, an organization providing programs that improve the personal, economic and professional status of women.

Currently, Jamie serves on the Advisory Board of the McCoy College of Business at Texas State University and is a Board Trustee of the Texas State University Development Foundation. She is a board member of both the Austin Smiles Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing craniofacial reconstruction, and the Animal Trustees of Austin (now Emancipet). She enjoys extensive adventure travel including helicopter skiing and medical mission-related trips.
Chris Bray, TOWER Fellow Alum
Chris Bray, Ph.D., MA. LP is a psychologist and the Clinical Lead for the MN Statewide System of Care federal expansion grant. She recently retired from the University of Minnesota as the Co-director of The Center for Resilient Families, a center in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and as Associate Director of the Institute for Translational Research in Children's Mental Health. She has served as a consultant to multiple organizations including the University of Oklahoma National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth and Minnesota Fairview Hospital System. Her interest areas include child traumatic stress and trauma-informed care at the individual and organizational level as well as the justice system and in particular, justice involved youth. Chris retired from public service as the Acting Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections after a career in juvenile and adult corrections at the state and local level.

Chris is on several boards related to mental health, public safety, and aging in place. She lives in Minneapolis, and loves her two adult daughters, the mountains, hiking, biking, and skiing.
James Bryant, TOWER Fellow Alum
Bryant is the founding partner of the National Litigation Law Group (NLLG) and former President of ProServ Basketball – a division of ProServ. He also served as Vice President and legal counsel of ProServ and counsel of ProServ Television. In 2019, Bryant co-founded Jesse James Films alongside Emmy winning Producer, Jesse Murphy. Bryant is an Executive Producer on a feature in development at Netflix along with Disney's upcoming animated series Cookies & Milk with Laurence Fishburnes' Cinema Gypsy Productions. Previous producer credits include Chick Fight starring Alex Baldwin and Hooking Up starring Brittany Snow. Most recently, Bryant is the Executive Producer of the upcoming documentary What the Hell Happened to Blood Sweat & Tears? slated to release 2023.
Laura Bennett, TOWER Fellow Alum
Laura grew up in Houston and earned her BBA in Management Information Systems from UT Austin. She was a programmer and a software trainer for Dell before becoming the director of New Product Development at the technology industry research firm, Intelliquest. For the past 20 years, Laura has been immersed in the non-profit world as a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters and as a fundraiser for Good Shepherd Episcopal School, American Cancer Society, Trinity Episcopal School, the Nature Conservancy, and the Colorado River Alliance. Her most rewarding fundraising endeavor was the seven years she spent with the Jeremiah Program, taking it from a concept to a bustling campus serving under-resourced single mothers who are working toward a college degree. Most recently, she was a member of the Mission Impact Advisory Board at Goodwill Central Texas and is currently working on a capital campaign for Communities in Schools. Laura and her dog, Ella, were a therapy team at Dell Children's Hospital for many years until her dog reached retirement age. She and her husband, Kyndel, have a daughter currently at UT and a son at University of Southern California. She spends her off-time paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake, playing pickleball, riding horses, bee keeping, and wrestling with Mother Nature in her vegetable garden.
Rex Bennett, TOWER Fellow Alum
Rex had a career at a world class energy company for 45 years. This career with multiple roles allowed him to travel all over the world and interact with business professionals of various nationalities and backgrounds –a fascinating learning experience on how to do business in non-US backgrounds. In addition, he had the experience of managing both small groups in a single location and a large group in 25+ locations. His last role was president, Corporate Business Development for Phillips 66, a diversified energy manufacturing and logistics company.

Rex is looking forward to getting back on campus and engaging with its stimulating environment. Rex graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering with honors in 1974 and was elected a member of the Academy of UT Distinguished Chemical Engineers in 2019. He and his wife Kathy have resided in Houston for the past 25+ years. While he is at UT his wife will be working on her Masters in Liberal Studies at Rice. They have 2 daughters, one a senior at UT McCombs and the other an education sophomore at Texas A&M. Rex is an avid golfer, and enjoys travelling and reading non-fiction.
Amon Burton, TOWER Fellow Alum
Amon is an attorney in Austin and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Texas School of Law. He teaches a seminar in the Plan II Honors Program, which is entitled Law and Ethics of Climate Change and Sustainability. He is a co-author of Ethical Dilemmas in the Practice of Law: Case Studies and Problems (Thomson/West) and a member of the American Law Institute, where heserves as an expert witness in lawyer liability cases. Amon is also the Trustee of the Warren Skaaren Charitable Trust, which focuses on children and environmental issues.
Mary Beth Canfield, TOWER Fellow

Mary Beth has been living in Chicago for 30 years, and just moved to Austin with her Longhorn husband, Phil and youngest daughter, Meg. She has worked and volunteered for over two decades in education to support the Chicago community. She worked for the non-profit, Chicago Foundation for Education (CFE) as an employee, volunteer, board member, development chair, and board chair. CFE supports Chicago Public School teachers with grants and professional development opportunities. She also worked with High Jump, another education non-profit, creating a path to selective enrollment high schools for kids from underserved Chicago neighborhoods. Mary Beth worked closely with the Latin School of Chicago, (where her kids attended) to create access through scholarship and fundraising efforts. She was involved in many volunteer roles there, including chair of the annual Scholarship Dinner, and chairing the New Families Committee. In her early career, Mary Beth worked in technology sales for Storage Tek and EDS, before moving to Human Resources and eventually finding her way to the non-profit sector, which is where she stayed.

She is most excited to meet new people and embrace the Austin community through the University! Mary Beth enjoys spending time with her dogs and her horses, she is an avid equestrian. She and Phil and their 3 kids enjoy skiing, hiking and biking, as well as water sports.
Vivek Chowdhary, TOWER Fellow Alum
Having spent close to 25 years in the corporate world, Vivek is looking to reset his life journey. As part of this endeavor, he has temporarily relocated to Austin and joined the TOWER Fellows program at the University of Texas at Austin. Vivek has attended courses around topics that he has been extremely curious about, but didn't have a chance to pursue during his corporate career, from kinesiology to philosophy and artificial intelligence to blockchain.

Prior to his stint in Austin, Vivek was the CEO of a large Asian family office, Sana Family Office, in Dubai, which manages multiple billions of dollars in assets. He had relocated to Dubai from Mumbai in 2009. In Mumbai, Vivek was the Senior Vice President with the Essar Group. During this time, he was closely involved with the creation of a joint venture with Vodafone PLC, which led to the creation of one of India's top three mobile telephony providers with a current subscriber base upwards of 300 million.

Vivek has an MBA from XLRI, amongst the top 5 business schools in India. He lives in Dubai with his wife, Archana and his 10 year old son, Rehaan. His daughter, Anoushka, completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago in June 2019 and is now working in San Francisco.

Outside of work, he is passionate about reading, listening to music, watching sports, doing yoga and playing badminton.

Steve Clark, TOWER Fellow
Since 1995, Mr. Clark has been a driving force as Partner and Chairman at Cypress Real Estate Advisors, Inc. His role involves leading opportunistic real estate investments primarily for institutional investors in the southwest and southeast United States.

Previously, from 1991 to 1995, he served as Managing Director at Harvard Private Capital Group, overseeing real estate investments nationwide for the Harvard University endowment.

Before Cypress and Harvard, Mr. Clark held notable positions, including Partner at Clark-Pilgrim Limited Partnership (1989-1991) and various roles at Trammell Crow Company from 1982 to 1989. Steve holds an MBA from Harvard Business School (1981) and an AB degree in Management Science from Duke University (1976).

He and his wife, Joan, have been in Austin for 23 years after spending time in Houston, Philadelphia and Boston. Their three daughters live in Chicago, New York and Austin (soon to be New York City after completion of law school). He and Joan spend a significant amount of their free time traveling and enjoy snow skiing and pickleball.

Francisco Conti, TOWER Fellow Alum
Francisco Conti was born in a small town called Matamoros, located on the East Coast of Mexico. He started his professional career as a Project Analyst in the Packaging Division of Grupo Visa. Five years later, he started working in the Sales Department at a local Paper Producing Company called Papelera Maldonado. For six years he worked in different areas within the company, specializing in everything from customer service and direct sales, to inventory management and logistics. In 1992, he resigned and partnered with two friends to start his own paper distribution company: Industrias Cosal SA. De CV. By 2015, Cosal had grown to have 130 employees and was selling over 75 million USD per year, nationwide. Francisco founded a second company in 2004, this time focusing on the real estate industry. Today, Fomento Imobiliario Omega is a financially independent company that has built and owns 32 industrial warehouses for lease, equivalent to 500,000 square feet. In 2008, Francisco and his family moved to Austin, Texas and less than a year later he started investing in new ventures in this country. Today, Francisco participates in eleven very different companies in the United States, and for most of them he serves as an advisor and an investor.

Francisco has been married to Myrna Emilia since 1988. Together, they have three children: Mario 29, Daniela 27, and Diego 22. In his free time, Francisco likes to travel, read, stay active, and spend time at the lake.
Cynthia Coulson, TOWER Fellow Alum
Cynthia has been an ardent internationalist most of her life. Born in Ft. Worth, she graduated from the University of Texas, Arlington and studied at the Sorbonne. Majoring in French and Russian studies, she moved to NYC where she obtained her MBA from Columbia University. She worked at JP Morgan, James D. Wolfensohn & Co. and MacAndrews & Forbes, leaving to pursue private investments. In New York, Cynthia served on the Board of Good Shepherd Services, raising money and overseeing the construction of the South Brooklyn High School, the New York City Opera and the Woman's Association of the Brick Presbyterian Church.

Cynthia was born in Fort Worth, but her family's Texas roots are in the Bastrop/Austin area. She recently moved to Austin and has two children in Eanes schools. Her eldest recently received her master's degree in Journalism in Berlin. In Austin, Cynthia works with SAFE in fundraising. She is looking forward to immersing herself in the community and finding ways to serve those who have been left behind.
Blanca Cummins, TOWER Fellow
Blanca, a native of Mexico, is a Communications and Advertising Executive, Montessori Educator, Catholic School Administrator and mother.

She is the founding director of Herrera Publicidad and served as Creative Director and Copywriter for multiple firms and media institutions resulting in award-winning advertising campaigns. She was a Television Producer for XHAK Channel 12, a Televisa affiliate in Hermosillo, and an Account Executive for El Imparcial, the leading daily newspaper in Northwestern Mexico. For the Universidad del Noroeste, Blanca was Coordinator of Community Outreach and Media Relations for the University.

At Corpus Christi Montessori School, a dual-language charter school, she was a founding classroom teacher and conducted research published in the Journal of Texas Council of English Language Arts. As Director for the Montessori School of Incarnate Word Academy she led credentialing by the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department and supported the fundraising efforts for construction of a new $4 million dollar Montessori building.

A graduate of Universidad del Noroeste with a degree in Ciencias de la Comunicación, she also was awarded a Master's in Education from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Her Montessori Education credentials include Elementary Levels I & II from Sierra Madre Montessori in Monterrey, Mexico and Montessori School Administration from the Center for Montessori Education of New York in New Rochelle. She also earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from the University of Dallas.

Her Tower Fellow goals include the organization and exposition of the photo archive of Alberto Herrera Fernandez, her father and a renowned photographer in Mexico, as well as developing communications strategies for the Synod on Synodality. Blanca balances her professional activities while raising two daughters and supporting her husband's efforts in Renewable Energy.
Mannti Cummins, TOWER Fellow
Mannti Cummins is a pioneering leader in Renewable Energy. He is currently Project Director for Hydrogen City Texas, an integrated Green Hydrogen production, storage and transport hub slated to become the world's largest. Before this position, Mannti led development of 1.8 GW of operating wind energy, preventing annual emissions of 4 million tons of CO2, equivalent to that of 630,000 cars.

Signature projects include the 68 MW Eolica Coromuel in Baja California Sur, Mexico, the 606 MW Tres Mesas Wind Projects in Tamaulipas, Mexico and the 606 MW Peñascal Wind Farms in Kenedy County, Texas. Renewable Energy milestones include the first wind farm in Latin America to integrate a Battery Energy Storage System, the first wind farm in Mexico to sell electricity on a merchant basis, the first wind farm located in Baja California Sur and the first wind farm to be constructed in ERCOT South Zone Texas. Combined investment in these projects approaches $3 billion dollars from firms such as Japan's Eurus Energy, North American Development Bank, Spain's Iberdrola, Duke Energy and General Electric.

He received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M Corpus Christi with post graduate studies at New York University Institute of Taxation and is a CPA. An honors graduate of Thunderbird with a Master of International Management, he received a Diploma in Derecho de la Energia from La Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City, Mexico's leading law school. His academic focus as a Tower Fellow are the deployment challenges of Green Hydrogen including pipeline rights of way, hydrology and brackish groundwater treatment, electrical system architecture and interconnection, salt cavern storage and stakeholder engagement plans.

He is thrilled to be sharing the Tower Fellows experience with his wife Blanca and being close to their two daughters who reside in Austin and San Antonio.
Phillip N. Deihl, TOWER Fellow Alum
Philip is a native Texan and currently lives in Austin with his wife Jacquita and their faithful companion Scout. He is president of U.S. Money Reserve, a retailer of precious metals products. One of the highlights of Philip's career was serving as director of the United States Mint, where he grew annual profits from $700 million to $2.6 billion while creating the 50 States Quarter Program, the most popular collectible in the history of collectibles.

Philip has an avid interest in history, currently, the late colonial period through the drafting of the Constitution and H.W. Brands' reassessment of Ulysses Grant. He enjoys spending time with his granddaughters, reading history and biography, and traveling, mostly in Italy.
Len Dorr, TOWER Fellow
Len J. Dorr currently serves as treasurer on the Board of Directors HOA for The Independent, Austin TX. The Independent is the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi and home to over 300 residences. Len is also an investor and the secretary on the Board of Directors for Mushroom-Revival, a startup functional mushroom company located in Austin TX. Mr. Dorr previously owned and operated a 200 acre organic farm in New Hampshire. There he raised beef, chicken, eggs, pork, honey, fruit trees and hay. Additionally, he was a commercial developer in CT where he built and leased medical office buildings. Len also was a tax accountant for Peat Marwick Mitchell earlier in his career. Mr. Dorr received his bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Iowa, and also studied taxation at DePaul University, Masters of Education studies at Indiana University and Masters of Physics studies at Purdue University.

Len currently resides in Austin TX with his wife Marjorie and enjoys golfing, traveling and the arts. They have two adult children, Ben and Alex, and a golden retriever, Katie.
Marjorie Dorr, TOWER Fellow
Marjorie retired from Anthem Inc. having served in various leadership positions such as Chief Strategy Officer Anthem Inc., President/CEO Anthem Northeast, and Chief Executive Officer Anthem Prescription Management. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration, and received an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Marjorie currently serves on the Lake Sunapee Protective Association Board of Directors, and previously served on the boards of numerous for profit and nonprofit organizations.

Since retiring, Marjorie has been able to spend time with her sons, learn to teach yoga and become a vegan chef. She is excited to take classes in startups and marketing to better help her son's new business thrive ( Marjorie and her husband, Len, just moved to Austin from New Hampshire and are excited to sample the best BBQ and tacos while listening to amazing music. In addition to eating and listening to music, Marjorie enjoys world travel (70+ countries) and hiking with her golden retriever Katie.
David Ferdman, TOWER Fellow Alum
First and foremost, Mr. Ferdman is an entrepreneur. After successfully selling Network Long Distance (NASDAQ: NTWK) to IXC Communications in 1998, David co-founded CyrusOne in 2000. He served as President and CEO until August 2011 when he moved to the Board of Directors in preparation of the conversion of the Company to a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). The management team completed an IPO in 2013. In addition to Managing DTB Capital Partners and serving as the CEO of Cybriacs, David served on the public board of Nasdaq: CONE until July 2021 when he stepped back into the CEO position. In March 2022 David and his executive team completed a take private transaction and sold the Company to a consortium of private equity firms led by KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) for $15 billion, the largest data center transaction ever closed. David worked with the consortium to hire a successor and transition back to the Board of Directors beginning 2023.

In addition to serving CyrusOne as a Director, David currently serves as:

  • Managing Partner: DTB Capital Partners, a Texas based private investment firm managing a portfolio of private investments.

  • Director: Filmwerks International, a North Carolina based critical infrastructure firm serving live events for broadcasters and film makers.
  • Director of Circuit of the Americas: Austin, Texas, a premier international motorsports and entertainment venue hosting the Formula 1 US Grand Prix.

  • Director: Skout Organic, LLC, an Austin, TX based organic kids snack food company.

Mr. Ferdman holds a B.S. Business Administration from the University of Kansas. He currently resides in Austin, Texas.
ML Flynn, TOWER Fellow
Mary Laurence Flynn, or "ML" as she is nicknamed, grew up wanting to see history first-hand, and her forty-year-plus career at NBC News let her do just that.

ML spent most of her NBC career as a Senior Producer in various concurrent roles on "NBC Nightly News." As Senior Foreign Producer for nearly twenty years, she managed the broadcast's Foreign news with coverage ranging from wars, to intifadas, to coups to royal weddings and presidential summits. For many of these headline-making events, she was on the scene herself, whether producing funerals for a princess, a saint or a pope; marking a D-Day invasion anniversary, or reporting on an exodus of refugees from massacres in Rwanda.

On her watch, ML also led breaking - news coverage of natural disasters from tsunamis to earthquakes to hurricanes. Because of her interest in climate change, ML was tapped to run Nightly's environmental coverage. In this role, she produced several groundbreaking reports on topics that included the world's emerging freshwater crisis, ocean acidification, and how desertification has led to migrant displacement.

As Nightly News Senior Olympic Producer, ML developed the editorial content and managed the broadcast's on-site coverage for eight Olympics:
Atlanta 96. Sydney 2000, Salt Lake City 2002, Athens 2004, Torino 2006, Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010 and London 2012.

ML has long had an interest in how America elects its presidents and she got to see the process up close as an NBC Field Producer covering the Gary Hart, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush campaigns for the presidency. In 2019, ML produced MSNBC's Democratic Presidential Candidate Town Halls on gun control and education. She also served on the "Questions Team" for NBC News's 2019 Atlanta and 2020 Las Vegas Democratic Candidate Presidential debates.

In 2010, ML was promoted to the role of Senior Producer of Editorial Strategy for NBC News where she developed and managed high-profile projects for all of the News Divisions' broadcasts. These in-depth projects ran the gamut from the opioid crisis gripping the country, to demands for criminal justice reform to an in-depth examination of the mental health crisis affecting so many American children. This new role also took her to unexpected places, including Pyongyang, where she reported on North Korea's 60th-anniversary celebrations of what the country claimed was its victory in the Korean War.

During the height of the Covid pandemic in the Spring of 2020, ML developed a ten-part series looking at the impact of the virus on Queens, New York, which was then the epicenter of the epidemic. She also served as Senior Producer on several NBC Primetime Specials on the Covid pandemic, as well as, supervising MSNBC 's Covid feature coverage.

Over the course of her career, ML has been honored with nearly every major journalism award including a Peabody, three Alfred duPont- Columbia University awards, and 16 Emmys.

ML graduated from Hollins College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She attended Institute d'etudes politiques de Paris (Science Po).

She loves to sail, loves photography, dabbles in watercolors and is on the Board of the Wendell Gilley Museum and the Mount Desert Island Community Sailing Center in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
Stephanie Hamilton, TOWER Fellow
Stephanie is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Texas with a Broadcast Journalism degree. Upon graduation she moved to Houston and worked in public relations and Texas politics as a press and scheduling manager. Later she began working for Advertising firm Taylor Swift managing clients like Texas Children's Hospital and Southwest Airlines before being transferred with her husband, Mark Hamilton to Sydney, Australia. In Sydney, Stephanie worked for InterContact Public Relations in the Food and Beverage Industry for clients Johnny Walker Scotch Whiskey and Penfolds Winery amongst others. After two years, they were transferred again to London England where they spent the next four years. Stephanie assisted in the development department of the Natural History Museum of London and began courses at Cordon Bleu Cooking School. She also earned two levels of the Master of Wine certification at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in London. Stephanie and Mark have raised three boys who are now 21, 24, and 27. She has been active in many volunteer leadership and development roles at the Kinkaid School in Houston, their sports leagues and Boys Scouts of America. Two of her sons have been UT students and one is a graduate of University of Virginia. While raising boys, Stephanie began writing blog posts for various company websites as an independent writer. She started her own blog called Ivy and Sprig to encourage moms to grow themselves while raising children.

Stephanie has served on numerous boards, charities and clubs over the years including the Junior League of Houston, The American Women's Club of London, The Volunteer Center of Houston, The Houston Arboretum, The High Heeled Investment Club, River Oaks Garden Club of Houston, and Kappa Alpha Theta Alumni. She and Mark are members of Second Baptist Church of Houston and they have been married 35 years.

Stephanie loves to travel and explore new cultures and has a passion for cooking, floral design, gardening and learning. Stephanie is looking forward to exploring new interests in the Towers Fellow program and fulfilling her dream of being back in the classroom.
Deborah Harkins, TOWER Fellow Alum
Deborah Duplechin Harkins has been engaged in public affairs her entire career. She specializes in finding creative solutions to complex problems that span the corporate and government sectors. Her clients have included United Healthcare, Hoffman LaRoche, Community Loans, CoPart and Boyd Gaming. She brings these experiences and relationships to the TOWER Fellows program as she looks to create the next chapter for herself and her family.

Deborah was recently appointed by New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell as a Commissioner for the New Orleans Board of Zoning. She is also Governor John Bel Edwards' appointee to the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. She serves on the board of the New Orleans Jazz Festival and Heritage Foundation, where she oversaw the turnaround of the now award-winning public radio station WWOZ 90.5.

Deborah is married to Iley "Corky" Harkins, a retired orthodontist, and has two sons, Gregory and Jason, and a Westie, Chopin Deux. She is passionate about travel, the arts and good food.
Christopher Harte, TOWER Fellow Alum
Chris was a Fellow in the inaugural year of Stanford's Distinguished Careers Institute, one of the models for the TOWER Fellows program. Chris graduated from Stanford, and after working in political roles got his MBA at the University of Texas. He spent much of his career as a newspaper publisher, most recently of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Chris has been active with UT for decades as Chairman of the Development Board, a member of the Centennial Commission, the Commission of 125, the Texas Exes Board and several college Advisory Councils. Chris also worked for 30 years to restore prairie and savannah on his ranch in Spicewood, Texas.
Sheri Henriksen, TOWER Fellow Alum
Sheri is in the process of moving from active motherhood into active retirement and philanthropy. She is currently active on advisory councils for Rice University, UT-Health, Houston and the University of Texas. When her two boys were young, Sheri was active in their schools in Houston. Before being married, she was a print journalist for a small-town paper in north central Texas and an offshore production engineer for Sun E&P in the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Barbara Channel. Sheri holds a BA in Journalism from Texas Tech, a BS in Petroleum Engineering from UT-Austin and a Masters of Liberal Studies from Rice University.

Sheri is in the process of renovating a home in Austin and will be relocating from Houston in the summer. Sheri is an avid traveler in a non-pandemic world and enjoys the mountains, hiking and discovering new cultures. She is always ready for new studies and is thrilled to be a part of the TOWER Fellows Program.
Russ Holdstein, TOWER Fellow Alum
Russ Holdstein was CFO at Rolling Stone magazine in its early days in San Francisco. After backpacking around the world, he became one of the first start up tech entrepreneurs in SF, founding and heading Payday, a software services company, and was named one of the top 10 entrepreneurs in San Francisco by the SF Chamber of Commerce.

After a successful exit, Russ turned to angel investing and has been involved in starting and growing dozens of companies. He has been a Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at Berkeley's Haas School of Business off and on for the past 20 years. Russ has two daughters, two grandchildren and one wife. An avid hiker and traveler, he has visited more than 75 countries.
Susan Holdstein
Susan Holdstein, TOWER Fellow Alum
Susan has a BA in English from Ohio State University and an MA in English Education from Indiana University. The degrees in English did not turn into a teaching career, but led to being a very good book club member. The time spent in the Midwest led to an early move to the Bay Area. Her early career was in publishing and sales and Susan is involved in her local community to which she recently left the Board of Marin Theatre Company.

Susan loves art, travel, literature, movies and theatre, gardening and hiking and small children. She is long married to TOWER Fellow Russ Holdstein and together they have two daughters, a son-in-law and two grandchildren.
Brenda Jewett, TOWER Fellow Alum
A proud Canadian, Brenda graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from The University of Texas. She is recognized as the first woman on both sides of her family to graduate from college. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Brenda immigrated from Canada to Houston when she was eight years old and established her new heritage as a Texan graduating from Memorial High School in 1986. At The University of Texas, Brenda pledged Pi Beta Phi and became very involved in the UT student body and politics by volunteering in the Darien Gap of Panama with Amigos International, working in Washington D.C. for The United States Congress and interning several semesters for Texas Monthly Magazine. Soon after graduation, Brenda married an American and fellow Longhorn, Bradley Jewett. Brenda worked in banking until deciding to become a stay-at-home parent and focusing on rebuilding her family. This difficult decision to leave her career driven by the fact that both her parents had passed away by the time she was 23 years old. As a means to working through her grief and giving to others, she has dedicated herself to helping individuals overcome tragic loss and using one's faith to persevere. Drawing from her family, faith, and life experiences, Brenda has been a teacher and speaker in numerous churches and women's retreats for over twenty years. From 2014-2021, Brenda created and managed a website that helped parents connect after one of her sons had serious health consequences leading to disability after sports concussions. Brenda is also a devoted advocate to raising awareness about West Nile Virus after her older brother tragically died in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Brenda and her husband have four children and now reside in Austin.
Greg Jordan, TOWER Fellow Alum
Greg will tell you that his greatest accomplishment has been to help raise three daughters (Emily, Ellen and Erin) with his wife Amy, and that they are overjoyed to now have a granddaughter on the way. Greg values family and faith above all.

For the past three decades, Greg has led a busy commercial litigation firm in Austin that bears his name. He has had the privilege of representing not only multinational Fortune Global 500 companies, but also small local businesses and individuals. In his practice, Greg has handled a wide range of business disputes, including ones involving oil and gas production, real estate developments, environmental contamination, pharmaceutical manufacturing, patent suits, employment discrimination claims, and a multitude of other matters. Greg taught informally for years in the trial advocacy program at the University of Texas, even coaching UT's National Moot Court Team to the national finals. Greg has been actively volunteering in local schools and with numerous non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters. He has made a point of providing pro bono legal services for the indigent throughout his career.

Greg has a BS in Engineering from Tulane University and worked as an engineer for Arco Oil and Gas Company in Lafayette, Louisiana prior to moving to Austin and obtaining his law degree from the University of Texas. He worked with a large international law firm before founding his own firm. Greg has a keen interest in the TOWER Fellows Program as it is affording him an opportunity to work with one of the world's leading authorities researching the use of light energy to restore and heal the human brain.
Robert Kendrick, TOWER Fellow Alum
Bob is a lifelong Texan. He graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He then went on to spend six years on reserve duty, work for Congressman Wright Patman on the House Banking Committee and receive his LLB from the University of Texas Law School. Later, he completed an LLM in Taxation from NYU and started his own law firm in Corpus Christi, where he practiced for 25 years.

Bob moved back to Austin in the 1990s, where he currently owns and operates commercial property. He is involved in non-profit work including a position as Chair of The Texas Freedom Network. Bob enjoys travel, especially with his children and grandchildren.
Debbie King, TOWER Fellow Alum
Debbie Travis King is a second-generation aviator. Having been raised by a pilot, a career in aviation came naturally. The Dallas native grew up around airplanes and was always working on them with her father who built them in the garage.

Debbie began earning her flight certificates in high school and finished earning her instructor's licenses directly after graduation from Texas A&M. She went on to fly a multitude of corporate jets and instructed at CAE Simuflite in the Advanced Airmanship Program as well as instructing in the Falcon 900 B and EX.

In addition to flying the Falcon series aircraft, Debbie had the distinct privilege of flying the B29 and B24 bombers for the Commemorative Air Force. She is rated in the Falcon 20, 50, 50EX, 900B, 900C and 900EX.
Ada Kinscherff, TOWER Fellow Alum
Ada grew up in Michigan, and earned a BS in Mathematics/Statistics from The University of Michigan and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. She spent her career working in marketing research and brand management roles, primarily in the packaged food industry. While living in Los Angeles in 1988, Ada fell in love with and married the boy next door, Paul Kinscherff. Together they raised three children and completed numerous international moves. Ada ran the scholarship program for the American Women's Association of Dubai, and is a founding member of 100 Women Who Care. Ada and her husband Paul recently relocated to Austin, and are new empty-nesters. Ada is eager to solidify her Austin residency by finding a favorite taco restaurant.
Paul Kinscherff, TOWER Fellow Alum
"Participating in the TOWER Fellows Program is a real gift. For me, being a Fellow is a unique opportunity to go back to school in a great environment with a rich perspective and appreciation gained from prior life experience. I've really enjoyed the opportunity to take classes in Astronomy and Media Studies -- and hear lectures on many other topics -- that I always wanted to delve into but didn't have the time. It's also been fun to reconnect with young people while making new friends with an accomplished, diverse and super-friendly cohort of peer Fellows. Having my spouse Ada in the program has also been terrific. We're going to school together and finding new friends while sharing new experiences and new opportunities! Finally, the TOWER Fellows Program has been a great place to reflect and think about what's important -- and what's next – after raising kids and a 30-year corporate career."

Paul Kinscherff retired from Boeing in August, 2017 after a 32-year career in industry. Prior to his retirement Kinscherff was Boeing's Vice President, Corporate Development and led the company's global merger and acquisition activity. Other senior positions at Boeing included CFO for Boeing International, President of Boeing Middle East, Vice President of Finance and Corporate Treasurer, and Vice President of Investor Relations. In these positions Kinscherff served on Boeing's Finance and International Leadership teams for over 15 years.

From 1989-1999, Kinscherff worked at Lockheed Martin in progressively responsible finance and operating roles. He started his career with Atlantic Richfield International after receiving Master's degrees in Public Affairs and Business from the University of Texas in 1985.

Kinscherff has served as Executive in Residence at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the McCombs School of Business since September 1, 2017. He was admitted as a Tower Fellow at UT Austin in September, 2018.

Kinscherff serves on the advisory boards of the McCombs School of Business, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, and the USC Marshall School of Business. Previous civic board service includes the American Business Council of the United Arab Emirates, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and the President's Committee on Business Productivity at the University of Texas. He received his bachelor's degree from the USC Sol Price School and now lives in Austin with his wife Ada. They have three wonderful grown children.
Ellen LeBlanc, TOWER Fellow
Ellen Arthur LeBlanc, a sixth generation Texan, was raised in Lubbock and Dallas, Texas. She divides her time between Austin, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ellen is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, and has studied scientific illustration, and oil painting with many different instructors. An active tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and Chickasaw, she recently spent four years studying the Choctaw language. Ellen attended the University of Texas at Austin, and graduated with a B.S. in Advertising. She then attended Texas State University, and studied Public Administration and Law, and received a Paralegal Certificate. She worked for several large law firms in Austin doing legal research and closing large industrial revenue bond deals. During this time she became involved with the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and was one of its founders.

For the next nineteen years she moved all over the country with her husband and children, but was able to study art and gardening in each location, including Parsons School of Design in NYC, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Instituto Allende, and Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. While living in North Carolina she became involved with Penland School of Craft, the premier craft school in America. There she studied wood working, and over the course of years built a 10 foot wooden dory, and two acoustic guitars with Wayne Henderson, a famous luthier. She was a board member of the school.

In 2005, she returned to Austin, and having a love of film, she became Executive Producer of two award winning Independent Films. Her first, The Story of Luke, a drama/comedy with Seth Green and Cary Elwes, won 16 different film festival awards. Her next film, DEALT, a documentary about the life of card magician/mechanic, Richard Turner, won best documentary at SXSW and four other film festival awards.

She is a former deacon of University Presbyterian Church. She is currently a docent at the Texas Governor's Mansion, which feeds her love of Texas history and old things. In her free time she plays the piano, guitar, banjo, and always has a vegetable and flower garden going so she has subjects to paint. She also loves adventure, travel and has been to many countries (at last count 34). Ellen's husband is Steve LeBlanc, a former adjunct professor at the McCombs School of Business at UT. They have two grown children, a grandson, and a dog.
Steve LeBlanc, TOWER Fellow
Steve LeBlanc currently runs his family office, White Stone Associates.

From 2012 to 2019 Mr. LeBlanc was the Founding Partner of CapRidge Partners, a fully
integrated real estate and private equity real estate company.

From 2008 to 2012 Mr. LeBlanc was the senior managing director of private markets,
overseeing the real assets, private equity, and principal investments portfolios at the $200
Billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas ("TRS"). LeBlanc's team was responsible for
managing the more than $45 Billion real estate and private equity portfolio exposure for the

1998 to 2005 Mr. LeBlanc was chief executive officer, president and board member of NYSE-listed REIT, Summit Properties in Charlotte, N.C. Summit had 500 employees, 18,000 apartment homes and $150-300 Million of annual development and acquisitions.

1996 to 1998 Mr. LeBlanc served as president of Urban Growth Property Trust in Chicago, Ill., where he developed the company's strategic business plan, orchestrated the transition to REIT status and recruited, hired, and trained the team, which initiated more than $250 Million in acquisitions and developments.

1992 to 1996 Mr. LeBlanc served as the executive vice president for Archstone Communities Trust in Santa Fe, N.M. He was responsible for the development, acquisition, and management of 11,000 apartment homes, and the purchase of land for an additional 10,000 apartment homes.

1984-1992 Mr. LeBlanc was a senior partner at Lincoln Property Company where he was initially the partner for Austin/San Antonio. He was then promoted to senior partner for all of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. He was then promoted to open the office in the northeast.

LeBlanc is a Board member of Michaels Stores, Monday Properties, Barvin Properties, Temerity Capital Partners, the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is the Chairman of the Board of 35 South Capital and Affordable Central Texas. He serves on the Advisory Board of Capital Creek Partners, SineCera and Blue Sage Capital. He is a partner of East Avenue Ventures. LeBlanc was a member of the Private Capital Research Institute, and the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies. He has been on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smarts" and "Money Moves," as well as a guest host on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

LeBlanc has a Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin where he is the Associate Director of the Real Estate and Finance Council and was an adjunct professor at the McCombs School of Business where he led the creation of the Real Estate Certificate Program for Undergraduate Students at The University of Texas at Austin.
Austin Ligon, TOWER Fellow Alum
Austin is an early stage Venture Investor based in Austin, Texas. His investments and director roles include Redfin,, (India) and Startup Angels. He is co-founder and retired CEO of CarMax, Inc., a company he led from its inception in 1991 through his retirement in 2006. Since his days as a Plan II student at UT, Austin has been a beneficiary of, and believer in, the transformational potential of higher education. He serves on the boards at St. Johns College (Annapolis/Santa Fe), Yale School of Management and UT's Plan II Honors program.

Austin has three children. His wife, Parida Saennam, is a UK citizen, native of Thailand and an artist whose practice is focused on textile/haute couture portraiture. Having grown up in West Texas, he's a semi-fanatical traveler - from Marfa to Zanzibar, Thimpu to Cuzco and all points in between.
Roger Louis, TOWER Fellow Alum
Roger Louis is the Kerr Professor of English History and Culture and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at UT-Austin. An Honorary Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, he is a past President of the American Historical Association. He is the founder of the British Studies seminar, which meets regularly at the Harry Ransom Center at three o'clock on Friday afternoons. In 2009, Roger was chosen as Professor Of The Year by the undergraduates at UT. In 2014 he received a Certificate in Arabic after intensive study in Oman; and in 2016 he delivered the Chaim Weizmann Memorial Lecture in Israel. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford History of the British Empire, for which Queen Elizabeth appointed him Commander of the British Empire. In 2019 he received the Civitatis Award, UT's highest award for teaching, research and service. In Who's Who he lists his pastime as "a German wife."
Glenn Lowenstein, TOWER Fellow Alum
"This program is incredibly well-designed, and gives the Fellows a great overall experience. In these classes, I've had the pleasure of really thinking, really learning. After being a real estate investor my entire career, it has taken me back to being 25 years old and the excitement of figuring out the world. To be able to do that at 59 years old is an incredible gift."

Glenn has been an institutional real estate investor for 35 years. In 2001 he co-founded Lionstone Investments, which was sold to Ameriprise in 2017. Prior to that, from 1990 to 2000, Glenn helped build the investment management business at Hines, ultimately became Chief Investment Officer. Overall his career has been built on merging an understanding of how cities evolve with basic principles of value investing. A husband to Nicole and father to four, Glenn's family life is his anchor. Nicole and Glenn live in Houston where they are active in several charities. Glenn received a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Georgetown University and an MBA in Finance from NYU.
Marti Mattia, TOWER Fellow Alum
Raised on four continents, Marti Mattia is a proud native Texan and Longhorn (Bachelor of Journalism, 1976). She received her MFA in fiction from Pacific University in 2015 and just completed her first novel. Her writing background also includes reporting, manuscript consulting/editing and oral history. She serves on the boards of Meds for Africa and the Kapadia Education Foundation, as well as a program to increase student diversity at Pacific University.

With her husband, Tom, Marti embraces frequent worldwide travel as well as the smorgasbord of dining, theater, art and music choices in their dual homes of Austin and New York. Marti's inspiration arises from her three extraordinary children and daily swims in Barton Springs.
Tom Mattia, TOWER Fellow Alum
Tom and his wife, Marti, have lived a global life and today, when not traveling, divide their time between homes in Austin and New York City. Their three adult daughters are launched in their own lives — two finishing MFAs and one having just given birth to their first grandchild. In a global career, Tom led communications for two Fortune 50 companies and two major universities and led two communications/marketing agencies. He has directly served four CEOs and two university presidents, directed Public Affairs networks in Asia and China, taught graduate and undergraduate studies, and overseen sustainability and water conservation programs around the world. He is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, IABC Gold Quill and PRSA Bronze Anvil.
Stephanie McCollom, TOWER Fellow Alum
Stephanie has lived, worked, and volunteered in the Austin area for 29 years. Upon moving to Austin, she worked in commercial property management and leasing for both office and industrial properties. Her last job, prior to leaving to raise her children, was with the Trammell Crow Company, where she was involved in leasing industrial properties. She enjoyed working with companies as they expanded their businesses in Austin and found it exciting to be a part of what was the beginning of Austin's exponential growth in population and business development. As a volunteer, Stephanie's focus has been centered around helping children and those living in poverty. The organizations that she has been most closely involved with are CASA of Travis County as a volunteer advocate, Impact Austin as member and committee chair, The Good Faith Fund at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church as co-chair, First Tee of Greater Austin as a volunteer, Libraries of Love as a volunteer and board member. This list does not include countless hours of work with the PTA organizations where she worked to raise money and to assist any program that encouraged literacy within the school system. Stephanie has completed a 4-year course from the University of the South in Education for Ministry (EFM). This isa certificate program in theological education that consists of small-group study and practice. The completion of this program and further exploration of theology continues to enrich her life and inform her decisions. Stephanie grew up in Lubbock, Texas and while she hasn't lived there in almost 40 years, she holds firm to the belief that the skies in West Texas are the most beautiful in all the world. Stephanie graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in Merchandising and Marketing and after a brief time in Massachusetts, she returned to Texas, moving to Dallas and then Austin. Stephanie and her husband, Michael have two boys, Clark,25, who lives in Austin and Grant, 24, who lives in Nashville. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys hiking and traveling, especially to Colorado or Big Bend.
Morton Meyerson, TOWER Fellow Alum
Morton Meyerson
As a third generation Texan whose family immigrated from Eastern Europe to Fort Worth in the 1890s, Morton credits his success to the work ethic, principles, and love of music instilled by his parents. He attended Fort Worth public schools, including Paschal High School, where he played football and wore #72 like his father. At The University of Texas at Austin, Morton was active in the a cappella choir, fraternity life, student government, intramural football, and the Texas Cowboys. He was the first college graduate in his family and earned a BA in Economics and Philosophy.

Morton trained in the emerging field of computer software as an officer in the U.S. Army, which served as the foundation for his successful career as a national leader in information technology and computer integration. During his tenure with H. Ross Perot's startup EDS, Morton rose from a systems engineer trainee to president and vice chair of the company. He played a significant role in its sale to General Motors and then served as GM's chief technology officer. After GM, his focus broadened to private investment. From 1992 to 1998, Morton served as chair, president, and CEO of Perot Systems. He acted as chair of the family office and 2M Companies until 2023 when his daughter Marti Meyerson succeeded him.

As the chair of The Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation, he continues his pursuit of tzedakah – the Hebrew word for the just and righteous giving required of Jews. He spent ten years chairing the building committee of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Recently, he was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame as a Legend and elected to The Philosophical Society of Texas. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and over his career has served on many governing boards, including as chair of the Texas Superconducting Super Collider Project.

Morton enjoys traveling, including road trips as part of the family foundation's work. He delights in mentoring entrepreneurs and spending time with his two daughters, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Jeff Mihm, TOWER Fellow Alum
Prior to becoming a Tower Fellow, Jeff served as the Chief Executive Officer of Noven Pharmaceuticals, a leading developer of prescription transdermal patches. During his tenure as CEO, Noven recognized record profits, transformed its quality systems and gained FDA approval of the first transdermal patch to treat schizophrenia. He is especially proud of the employee engagement and culture initiatives undertaken while leading Noven. A lawyer by training, Jeff began his career in the early 1990s specializing in corporate law, first as an associate in a boutique law firm and then as a partner in a large international one. Wanting to get closer to business issues, Jeff transitioned to in-house legal roles at public companies. He served as the legal lead for mergers and acquisitions at Panamerican Beverages Inc., the then-largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America. After the sale of Panamerican, Jeff moved to Noven Pharmaceuticals where he progressed rom Assistant General Counsel to CEO over the course of a 15-year career there. Jeffcurrently serves as advisor andmentor to entrepreneurial companies for the Miami Endeavor organization.

Jeff and his wife, Karla have lived in Miami, Florida for nearly three decades where they raised their two college-aged boys. He speaks Spanish, having lived and studied in Spain and Chile. Jeff is an avid road cyclist and downhill skier with hopes one day to ski nearly as well as he imagines.
Barbara Miller, TOWER Fellow CA Alum
Barbara grew up in Houston and went to Trinity University, majoring in Drama. Rather than acting, Barbara spent her career as a communication improvement consultant serving mainly large US law firms. Barbara also produced and co-hosted The Noon Show on KTBC, with Cactus Pryor. She initiated community conversations around the issue of Battered Women, which led to opening the first Battered Women's shelter in Texas, now Austin Safe Place.

Barbara has two children and four grandchildren. Her daughter is Chief Global Legal Counsel for Hill & Knowlton, and her son is a commercial real estate broker for Starbucks, nationally. Barbara retired with 4.5 million miles on American Airlines alone, and is spending them as fast as she can, traveling to Egypt, South Africa, India, Morocco, Italy, France, Fiji and especially Mexico.
Sam Perry, TOWER Fellow Alum
Sam is a named partner of Austin's oldest law firm,Sneed, Vine & Perry. He has both an undergraduate degree in business and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Sam declares his greatest accomplishment was getting Shirley Bird to agree to marry him. Both Shirley and Sam came from very small Texas towns, and both cherish the transformation attending the University of Texas had on their lives. Shirley worked at UT for nearly five decades, and the Perrys became active UT supporters with an eternal soft spot for students coming to the University from small towns. Sam has set up several scholarships at UT in honor of his wife and in support of new students.
Amy Porter, TOWER Fellow Alum
Amy is the founder and Executive Chairman of AffiniPay, an Austin-based financial technology company uniquely focused on payment solutions for association, legal and accounting professionals. Amy served as the company's CEO from 2005 to 2019, building the company from $0 to over $60 million in revenue and processing over $7 billion in transactions annually. Amy is most proud of the culture and team created at AffiniPay., which has been named one of the fastest-growing companies in Central Texas for the past eight years. In 2016, Amy was named Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Central Texas.

Amy attended the University of Texas and received a merchandising degree from CNS. She was a Texas Cheerleader from 1990-1994, and continues to bleed orange. Amy lives in Austin and is married to John Porter. Amy has two children, Morgan and Penny, and two stepsons. Outside of work and family, Amy is involved with the board of ETA (Electronic Transaction Association), the Westlake Incubator Program and the Austin 20, a group dedicated to building awareness around human trafficking in the area.
Paul Richards, TOWER Fellow Alum
Paul spent over thirty years trading with the Chicago Board of Trade, and serves as a Director at, a fundraising platform for non-profit organizations. Paul holds a Masters in Management from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Paul and his family recently moved to Austin from Chicago, which was their first move outside of Illinois. Paul and his wife are avid golfers.
Sandra Rogge, TOWER Fellow
Sandy Rogge is a dedicated and engaged member of the Austin community. She served on the Board of Directors for The Austin Project for over 9 years where she chaired several major events supporting early childhood education and helped secure significant federal grants for literacy in Austin. She was an active volunteer and committee leader in various capacities for St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin from 2006 to 2018 and for the National Charity League Hills of Austin Chapter for 10 years. She has raised substantial funds for Mobile Loaves & Fishes Community First. She is passionate about education and serving disadvantaged youth and served on several other Boards in Houston and Austin over the years.

After earning a B.A. in Economics with Honors and a J.D. in law from the University of Texas in 1988 and 1991, respectively, she became a member of the State Bar of Texas in 1991. She started her legal career at the Houston office of the New York-based law firm Haight, Gardner, Poor & Havens, which later merged with Gardere, Wynne Sewell (now Foley & Lardner). Her legal practice involved serving the general corporate, finance, real estate, and other business needs of predominantly foreign and international companies, including those in maritime, aviation, space, and offshore oil and gas sectors, as well as domestic firms in various areas. Despite her love for the practice of law and her clients, she chose to leave after approximately 8 years to focus on raising her family.

Rebecca Rooney, TOWER Fellow
Rebecca Rooney, TOWER Fellow Alum
Rebecca is a long-time child advocate having served on both the Board of the Travis County Center for Child Protection and as the Guild President since moving to Austin in 1999. In addition to her interest in protecting children, Rebecca is passionate about African wildlife conservation in general and the protection of Mountain gorillas and African elephants in particular. Since 2008, she has served on the Board of Trustees for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, a science-based NGO that protects gorillas in Rwanda and the Congo by conducting long-term field studies of gorillas and their habitats.

Rebecca grew up in Oklahoma and attended Boston College, majoring in English Literature and Psychology. After college, Rebecca worked in the Editorial department at National Geographic magazine where she researched articles and wrote nominations for the Goldman Environmental Prize on behalf of the National Geographic Society. Since then, she has served as a consultant in marketing strategy, advancement and media relations for various US- based and international wildlife non-profits. She travels to East Africa often and is an adoring aunt to her many nieces and nephews.
Monica Samuels, TOWER Fellow Alum
Monica is an entrepreneur with a diverse background, including law (immigration and environmental), politics (worked on the staff of a presidential campaign) and publishing (authored, published and promoted with Random House). She is a 1987 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, where she served as Administrative Editor of the Texas Law Review. Her husband, Marc, is President of ADVI, a healthcare consulting firm.

Monica and Marc have two sons, Chase and Jared. Chase is a student at St. Andrews Episcopal School and Jared is a student at the UT McCombs School of Business. Jared suffered a brain trauma when he was thrown from a mule, and now runs HOPE 4 Minds, a student organization that raises awareness on how to recognize and respond to head injuries.
Catherine Sansbury
Catherine Sansbury, TOWER Fellow Alum
Catherine is dedicated to volunteering and fundraising for charities that benefit children in need. She is currently a Guardian Ad Litem for neglected and abused children in foster care with CASA of Travis County. She also is an educational surrogate for children at the Helping Hand Home in Austin and a member of the Austin 20 which helps bring justice for survivors of sex trafficking. Catherine previously served on the Board of Directors at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central Texas.

Catherine graduated from Georgetown University with a BS in Mandarin and business. Following her graduation, she was awarded a Fellowship to conduct graduate studies at the National Cheng Chi University in Taiwan. She presently is a member of the Georgetown University Board of Regents and the College Board of Advisors. Catherine was the General Counsel of Jones Villalta Asset Management in Austin, Texas. Prior to that, she served as the Head Human Resources and the Associate General Counsel at Tejas Securities Group also in Texas. While living in New York City, she was a Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at The Chase Manhattan Bank. She earned a JD from The University of Connecticut School of Law. Presently, she is a member of the State Bars in New York, New Jersey and Texas.

Catherine lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Charles and two sons. She enjoys spending time with her family, friends and golden retriever Belle.

Erich Schwartz, TOWER Fellow Alum
Erich practiced securities law for thirty-five years. Early in his career he represented the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on enforcement matters, first as a line attorney investigating and prosecuting cases of securities fraud, and later in a senior position managing a portion of the agency's national enforcement program. More recently, he was a partner at the global law firm of Skadden Arps, where he developed an internationally-recognized practice representing clients in the defense of government regulatory investigations.

Erich has written and spoken frequently on a range of securities enforcement topics and has served as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School, where he taught securities regulation. He served on the advisory committee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation which awards grants to encourage new law graduates to pursue careers in public interest law.

Erich received his BA with honors in history from the University of Maryland and his JD with honors from the George Washington University Law School. He and his wife Faith have three children all in their 20s, the youngest of whom is an undergraduate at the University of Southern California. Erich enjoys challenges of all kinds: physical (he is a distance runner and triathlete), intellectual (since leaving Skadden he has been trying to teach himself Spanish) and spiritual (he is, among other things, trying to make sense of the national political scene).
Sandy Seaman, TOWER Fellow Alum
"The TOWER Fellows Program has far exceeded my expectations. The Fellows have been given access to the best of everything UT has to offer. The speakers are all highly acclaimed in their fields. The classroom experience has been remarkable. The students are welcoming and very sophisticated. With the new knowledge and experiences I have gained I am looking forward to the next adventure. If anyone is on the fence, it's totally worth the investment."

Sandy got her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Texas at Austin and her JD from Baylor Law School. She began her legal career in private practice specializing in estate planning, probate, and charitable gifts. She was the Director of the Office of Estates and Trusts at the University of Texas System for the administration of all endowments and estates. Sandy's love of horses led her to become a breeder of Andalusian horses. She has many volunteer interests including Impact Austin and the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association.
Robin Shepherd, TOWER Fellow Alum
Robin grew up in Dallas and attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received her BA and JD. She moved to Houston where she went to work at a major law firm practicing environmental and insurance indemnity law. Later she worked at Pennzoil Exploration and Production Company as in-house council over onshore domestic operations. Robin stopped practicing law with the birth of her first son in 1997. In 2002, Robin moved to Austin with her husband and three sons. In Austin, Robin started volunteering in the non-profit space focusing on Austin's at-risk community. Robin has served as the chair of the board for KIPP Austin Public Schools and Trinity Center. She is currently serving on the boards of JDRF Austin, the Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, and Hillside Early Education Center. Robin also manages the Shepherd 5 Points Family Foundation. This Foundation was established by Robin and her husband a few years ago and is mainly focused on supporting the at-risk population in Austin, with special emphasis in the education arena. The Foundation has supported a variety of efforts including the expansion of public charter schools in Austin, providing housing for the homeless in Austin, and working with the University of Texas at Austin to provide scholarships.

Robin is married to Gene Shepherd. Gene has spent most of his career in the oil and gas sector and is currently the CEO of ATX Energy Partners. Robin and Gene have three college-aged sons, Trey, Sam and Ben. Trey is a senior at Louisiana State University studying communications and Spanish. Sam is a junior at Southern Methodist University studying economics, political science, and finance. Ben is a freshman at The University of Texas at Austin studying economics and entrepreneurship. In her free time Robin likes to spend time with her family, run, travel, ski, fish, hike, enjoy music and play with her four dogs Daisy, Cash, Scout and Dixie.
Mike Simmons, TOWER Fellow Alum
Mike is a graduate of Wake Forest University, where he was a member of the 2006 ACC Championship football team that competed in the 2007 Orange Bowl. He moved to Los Angeles after Wake Forest, earning his MBA in Finance from Loyola Marymount University and starting his path into the mortgage industry. Over his ten years in the mortgage industry, he has accounted for over 200MM in closed loans in addition to facilitating over 500MM in fundings through two different teams. He helped build City National Bank's Private Mortgage Banking team, working closely with high-net-worth individuals to secure more business for the bank. Currently he is with Wintrust Mortgage, helping to expand its footprint here in Austin. He is successful at mortgages by setting expectations with the client at the onset of the process and analyzing their full profile in order to guide them into the right product. Mike and his wife Allison have two kids, Scarlett (7) and Luke (4). They love to spend their summers traveling and exploring the outdoors.New to Austin in the last two years, Mike and his family look forward to joining the UT community.
Glenn Sutton, TOWER Fellow
Glenn Sutton, TOWER Fellow Alum
Born and raised in south Texas, Glenn has enjoyed working in the smallest of start-ups to large global corporations, and at factories across the globe. Glenn's first stint in Austin in 1984 earned him a University of Texas Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering with Honors. After a year working at NASA Johnson Space Center, he returned to UT Austin to earn a Master of Business Administration degree, and then began his career in Dallas at the Arthur Andersen Consulting Division. In 1995, Glenn was able to return to Austin to help form and then lead the Accenture Austin office High-Tech & Electronics practice. Eventually, he left the consulting world to fill executive roles at three early stage venture-backed companies in the enterprise planning and supply chain management software space. It was during this period that he enthusiastically spent time on the UT campus, working with the McCombs faculty and industry partners in helping create the McCombs School of Business Supply Chain Management Center of Excellence. After the third start-up company, SigmaTrak, was sold to E2open, Glenn returned to life as a consultant at IBM Global Business Services, working on business merger and divestiture projects in the U.S., China, and Germany. Eventually, he weaned himself out of the full-time consulting life by again returning to UT to earn a Master of Science in Technology Commercialization degree in 2016.

He has recently devoted his time to charitable endeavors, family projects, and some Nebraska and Kansas farm management. Glenn and his wife, Amy, live in Austin and have 3 children: Emma (works in Austin), Graydon (attends law school in Chicago), and Chase (attends the University of Arkansas). Glenn has worked with the Austin Social Venture Partners on the board of local non-profits. In addition, he is proud to have assisted in opening the Austin location of the nonPareil Institute ("Building Better Futures for Adults with Autism"), and continues to serve on their advisory board. In his spare time, he enjoys golfing, trodding the Ladybird Lake trails, and spending time in Colorado.
Kevin Sweeney, TOWER Fellow
Kevin Sweeney is a fine art documentary photographer and a graphic designer. He is a visual problem solver, curious observer of the world, and loves creating things. He is both an artist and an art collector.

Kevin grew up in Houston and lives in Austin with his wife and two daughters. He graduated from Tulane University (BA Sociology) where he also studied architecture and developed a love for the unique culture of New Orleans. After working in advertising he moved to New York City and attended the School of Visual Arts (MFA Computer Art). The transience of the internet, and a desire to experience the world lead him to documentary photography and an art practice. Kevin is a self-taught photographer initially inspired by the work of W. Eugene Smith, Charles "Teenie" Harris, and his mentor Ernesto Bazan. He started his own business and darkroom in Pittsburgh to provide graphic design services and manage personal photography projects. His work has been exhibited in the US and internationally and several times at the Silver Eye Center of Photography in Pittsburgh, primarily for his documentary project Sixteen Sundays: Worshipping the Pittsburgh Steelers.

His current multidisciplinary practice Rare Specimen Design is located in East Austin and serves as a design office, photography studio, and gallery. He works with photographers on the design and production of photobooks, and provides graphic design services to small businesses and non-profits. A regular participant in the annual Austin Studio Tours, Kevin opens his studio to show photography, and occasionally exhibits other artists. He is currently working on a long-term project on New Orleans Mardi Gras culture. Previous bodies of work include: Steelers fan culture, Cuba, Latin America, the humanitarian side of surgical missions, family, and still lifes.
Ellen Temple, TOWER Fellow Alum
"I have loved everything about my Tower Fellow Experience and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for a great learning opportunity. The luncheon speakers are the best that the University has to offer; my fellow Fellows have become good friends; my graduate class in Anthropology—with an excellent professor and 11 brilliant graduate student classmates –has been one of my best ever learning experiences. Just to be back on the campus of The University that I love so much has been great fun; it's the most beautiful I've ever seen it. I can go on and on in singing the praises of TOWER Fellows for folks who want to keep on learning, but I'll close with a quote from turn of the century novelist Edith Wharton in her memoir 'A Backward Glance':

'In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorry, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.'"

Ellen was the owner of a small press, and a pioneer in publishing Texas Women's history. Her 2 books, Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas and Jane Y. McCallum: Diaries and Writings of a Texas Suffragist were the first titles published on the woman suffrage movement in Texas. They have been reprinted as the first publications in Ellen C. Temple Classics in the Women of Texas History Series by Texas A&M Press and the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation. She was a 25 year member of the board of the Texas Foundation for Women's Resources which founded the Texas Women's History Project. A current member of the TSHA Executive Advisory Board for the Handbook of Texas Women, Ellen established the first Chair in Women's History at the University of Texas.

Ellen supports public education at all levels. Among many roles, she served as a past vice chair of The University of Texas System Board of Regents; past chair of the UT Austin Development Board; a current member of the College of Liberal Arts Dean's Executive Council; and a current trustee and past president of the board of Angelina College. The University has honored her with the Texas Exes Distinguished Alumna Award and the College of Liberal Arts Pro Bene Meritus Award. A garden at the new College of Liberal Arts building bears her name. She earned her undergraduate degree in English and history from UT Austin and a Master of Arts in English from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Ellen is an award winning conservationist for her work in both South and East Texas. Her current project is the East Texas Native Seed program. Among her awards are the first Terry Hershey Audubon Women in Conservation Award, the Leopold Award, and the Texas Conservation Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award. As past president of the board of the Lady Bird Johnson Center, Ellen helped guide its merger with The University of Texas. Ellen lives in Lufkin, Texas, and is the proud mother of four adult children and grandmother of six amazing grandchildren.
Kathy Terry, TOWER Fellow Alum
Kathy is a native Texan and made Austin her home after finishing her undergrad at the University of Texas. Kathy is a serial entrepreneur. She started her first business in the 90s working on her own managing patent infringement litigation for many high-profile law firms. In 2005, she joined forces with her husband and started P. Terry's Burger Stand. As the first restaurant in Austin to offer all-natural beef and chicken along with fresh cut French fries, P. Terry's quickly established its presence as a socially and health-conscious fast-food alternative. Today there are twenty-three P. Terry's locations all inthe Central Texas area.

Kathy and her husband didn't stop there and in 2018 launched another fast casual Tex-Mex offering called Taco Ranch. There is no denying that Kathy has helped change the way Austinites do "fast casual."

Kathy also has a heart for philanthropy and giving back has always been a core principle of the Terry's business model. Through their stewardship, the restaurant chain has donated over $1MM to date, all benefiting local nonprofits. Kathy also serves as a direct care volunteer to numerous local non-profits as well as serving on the Board for The SAFE Alliance and Leadership Austin. She also serves on the Advisory Council for Friends of the Children –Austin.

In 2018 Kathy also launched an all-new mobile app called in Lieu: the first social giving app where users can make donations and share a personal message with a friend, anytime, anywhere. Kathy's mission to change the way we think about giving reflects a lifetime of charitable giving and service.

Kathy lives in Austin Texas with her husband and their two children, Kate, and Caroline. She is an avid runner and world traveler.
Amy Vail Baer, TOWER Fellow Alum
Amy is Co-Director of the Baer Family Foundation, which she founded with her husband, Joshua Baer, to support the Austin community with a focus on disadvantaged children and inclusive entrepreneurship. Amy began her career in the high-tech startup world and moved to Austin to join Dell. At Dell, Amy's roles included Manager of Enterprise Strategy and Communications for Asia-Pacific/Japan located in Singapore, and as an advocate for the expansive partnership between Dell and Microsoft. She and her husband Josh have three children – all in elementary school. Amy loves managing the Foundation and running at Town Lake when not with her children.
Meg Watel, TOWER Fellow
Meg began her career in the airline industry during a period of change in the aftermath of deregulation and for 14 years held various financial positions of increasing responsibility for domestic and international airlines most recently as Controller. She was Director of Financial Planning at Continental Airlines and played an important role as the industry experienced consolidation, specifically, CAL acquired and integrated multiple carriers including People Express, Eastern Airlines and New York Air.

Prior to her transition into private equity, Meg was CFO of Severn Trent Environmental Services, Inc. (STES) and Severn Trent Water Purification (STWP), both part of the non-regulated, for-profit business portfolio of Severn Trent Plc, a British Company traded on the FTSE. STES managed 400+ water and wastewater facilities in 28 states, and during her time as CFO, STES completed and integrated over 14 acquisitions increasing market share in the space before being sold. STWP's water treatment technology businesses included disinfection, filtration, desalination, and ballast water disinfection products and custom engineered systems and EPC projects sold globally. She was on the creation and oversight team of a joint venture with Industrie De Nora (traded on MIL), an Italian technology giant that ultimately bought the STWP products business in 2015.

Most recently, Meg was Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for a waste-to-energy technology start-up that created value by diverting waste from landfills and providing a clean, renewable fuel option to coal (generating carbon credits, reducing carbon emissions). The Company also provided waste management services for the largest mass burn Energy-from-Waste facility in the United States.

Meg earned a BBA in Accounting from Texas A&M University and an MBA from the University of Texas. She has served on various business and social boards (including the University of Texas Plan II MBA Board) and is a member of Houston's St. Luke United Methodist Church. Meg enjoys traveling, cooking, college football and volleyball, supporting community non-profit organizations, and is a pickleball fanatic.
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