2008

Welcome to Great Women of Texas
The list of great women from the state of Texas would certainly fill a bookshelf, if not a library: Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Carrie Marcus Neiman, Molly Ivins and Lady Bird Johnson come to mind, but the list is not just endless, it is never-ending. We know this because of the plethora of qualified candidates for the Great Women of Texas honor we received this year. These nominees covered every aspect of the spectrum – from business to nonprofits, from politics to academia, young to old, circumspect to celebrity. But they all shared one feature: They were all exceptional, not only in their chosen field of endeavor, but in all aspects of their lives. That is one area where the Great Women mirror the 24-7-365 world we have created around us. And they have excelled. Our dilemma in choosing from among these many nominations is a good one. As more women are nominated each year, we lose the ability to catch up. May it ever be so. Robert Francis Editor Fort Worth Business Press

2008
LEGACY AWARD THE WOMEN’S CENTER
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TEXAS WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
GRETCHEN M. BATAILLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 LILLIE BIGGINS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 GYNA BIVENS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 SUSAN E. COLEMAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 EVELYN ENGLERT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 NEVA FRYMIRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 MARILYN GILBERT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 BARBARA HOLSTON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 GINGER JOHNSON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 LISA LANKES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 KATHY MCGINN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 SUSAN NIX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 MARY SEAN O’REILLY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 STEPHANIE PAUL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 SUZY PEACOCK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 MEGAN TOPHAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 KATHRYN WILEMON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 ROBYN YOUNG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Honoree portraits photos taken by Glen E. Ellman.

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November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 3

Legacy Award
Women’s Center nears 30-year service mark

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nspiring the courage to hope while teaching the skills to cope are the goals of the Women’s Center, which is on the cusp of marking 30 years of service helping some 92,000 individuals each year whether it is a single mom who needs help developing job skills or even sitting in an emergency room holding the hand of a woman dealing with a sexual assault exam. “The Women’s Center exists to address the issues of violence and poverty,” says Laura Hilgart, president and CEO of the Women’s Center. “Those are two problems which significantly impact women and families. Domestic violence and sexual violence are more prevalent than most people realize.” While the area had a shelter for domestic violence survivors – the preferred term The Women’s Center uses instead of vic-

tims – there was still more these families needed to escape their situations. That need for more triggered the start of the Women’s Center in 1979. It started as an all-volunteer organization with a telephone helpline to provide information for women in crisis situations to learn where they could get resources or even counseling. “We started with an employment program, which was unusual at the time,” Hilgart says. “Women and families don’t live crisis to crisis and they can’t build a better life or leave a domestic violence situation without earning a living and making money.” About nine months after the center opened, a rape crisis program was added. Since then, the center added a small legal clinic, too, for advice. “Today we are in the business of rape crisis, victim services, counseling and

employment: basically the same businesses that we started in,” Hilgart says. “But now we have a $2.5 million budget, 50 people on staff, and 400 volunteers, which help us do our work every year.” The Women’s Center operates one of the largest and most comprehensive rape crisis centers in the state, Hilgart says. “We offer general counseling that is neither problem-specific or populationspecific,” Hilgart says. “Any woman who needs counseling, crisis intervention or a low-cost attorney may get assistance. Someone may call because they have a child with an abscessed tooth but no dentist or no money. They may not have a car and don’t know what to do. It could be a person with a newborn baby and she’s been evicted with no family or no money and doesn’t know what to do and so much more. All of these people are clients we may serve.”

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Fort Worth Business Press

The center’s 24-hour hotline allows a person in crisis to call for someone to talk to. It is also used by hospital staff from John Peter Smith, Arlington Memorial and Cook Children’s hospitals to request a volunteer to accompany sexual assault survivors during their sexual assault exams. The Play It Safe program is an education/prevention presentation conducted for about 75,000 children annually in small individual classrooms with curriculum designed for each age group from kindergarten up to 12th grade. “We’ll get an outcry about 75 to 150 times per year after these programs, which allows us to intervene and get the child some help, get the investigation procedure under way and stop the abuse,” Hilgart says. An employment program, Jobs Now, is conducted several days a week with an 80

percent job placement rate and 90 percent job retention rate over a year. “So many people come through our doors without jobs and they are hopeless about what they’re going to do to pay the bills and feed their children. We see people from all backgrounds from someone with no education to people who have masters’ degrees,” says Terri Rios, director of employment solutions for the Women’s Center. “Their needs are all the same. They need a way to support their families.” In addition to traditional job search techniques, other services include updating resumes, helping the client build a focused job search and interviewing guidance, among other things, she says. Two years ago, the center started an adult literacy program in which classes are scheduled in the evening with meals and child care provided to eliminate any bar-

riers that may prevent people from participating. “We also tailor an individual plan for each student with no more than three students per volunteer teacher,” Hilgart says. The volunteers make the difference, she says. “If all the money went away, we could still provide our most basic services with our volunteers. We can do more with less when we use very well-trained volunteers,” she says. In 2009, the center will celebrate its 30th anniversary by moving into a new building after completing an $8.9 million capital campaign last year. “The community saw the importance in what we do,” Hilgart adds. – Tonie Auer

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 5

Congratulations to the 2008 Great Women on Texas from your friends at Coors

Gretchen M. Bataille
President The University of North Texas

retchen M. Bataille made history in 2006 when she became the first woman to preside over the University of North Texas — after 116 years and 13 presidents. President Bataille has continued to make history for UNT, taking the state’s fourth-largest university to unparalleled levels of achievement, accompanied by broadening international recognition. This fall, the university had its eighth consecutive record enrollment, with 34,795 students. Founded as a normal, or teacher-training, school, UNT currently has 11 colleges and schools that offer more than 200 degree programs, including 49 for doctoral studies. UNT is home to one of the top music programs on an international scale, to the only Ph.D. program in environmental philosophy and to Discovery Park, a research facility covering nearly 290 acres. “We’re looking at an opportunity with a capital O,” says Bataille, who hails Texas as “one of a very few states where we’re not seeing such university-budget crises as bad as, say, California and Florida are experiencing.” Bataille seeks to build upon established strengths at UNT while pursuing long-term planning strategies, particularly in the realm of institutional research. She champions “not only technological research as it affects industry, but also technology as it affects the arts.” Bataille has brought to UNT a sustained record of success as an administrator, a professor and a scholar. During 2000–2006, Bataille served as senior vice president for Academic Affairs for the University of North

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Carolina System. She also has been provost and academic vice president at Washington State University, provost of the College of Letters & Science at the University of California at Santa Barbara and an associate dean with Arizona State University. Bataille has cinched UNT as a leader in issues of sustainability — the first major Texas university to sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, and an aggressive user of environmentally responsible campus vehicles, among other ecologically sensible programs. — Michael H. Price

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 7

Lillie Biggins
Vice President of Operations Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

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s a critical care nurse, Lillie Biggins spent years in North Texas hospitals watching over her patients. Now, as vice president of operations at Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, she spends her time watching over those people who watch over patients. “You have to think about the bigger picture, not just about one group of people but about the whole organization,” Biggins says. Biggins joined Harris 11 years ago, when she was recruited to fill the vice president of operations position. While the title hasn’t changed, she says, the job certainly has, and her areas of responsibility are far-reaching. However, everything she does is with one focus: to support those who support patients. “It’s all about just making sure you’re listening to people from your heart, sometimes more than your ears,” she says. She would not be able to support others if she didn’t have a good support system herself, she says, and her husband, family and coworkers within Texas Health Resources and Harris are integral to making sure she can give back inside and outside work. Biggins has a long history of volunteerism, including board member and chair for the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and three years as chair of the Workforce Development Board for Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County. Judy McDonald, of Workforce Solutions, says Biggins is an outstanding leader.

“These were some things expressed by fellow board members: She is the type of leader others aspire to be. One who leads people using positive influence. She has a gift for getting things done without conflict,” McDonald says. Biggins says women are in an ideal place to create positive changes in their workplaces and communities because of their role in families as innovators, team members and coaches. “I want to make sure women know how important they are,” she says. —Elizabeth Bassett

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 9

Gyna Bivens
President and Executive Director North Texas Leaders and Executives Advocating Diversity

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any women describe their jobs as fulfilling, exciting or even perfect, but to Gyna Bivens, her job is her life’s calling. Bivens is the president and executive director of North Texas Leaders and Executives Advocating Diversity, or LEAD, a nonprofit organization whose focus is workplace diversity. Bivens first began at North Texas LEAD as a volunteer on boards. In 2006, she left her job at Oncor Electric Delivery to take the lead position at the organization. “Most of my broadcast friends thought the job to be a perfect fit since a small circle of us always helped aspiring journalists find jobs in the business,” Bivens says. “My role at LEAD expands that base beyond broadcast journalists. I no longer volunteer to help people find employment, it is my profession now. I absolutely love it. I see it as my calling.” Bivens has served in leadership roles on several boards and commissions including the Women’s Policy Forum Board, United Way Board, Community Development Council Board, Women’s Center of Tarrant County, The Links Inc., Leadership Fort Worth and Fort Worth Sister Cities International as well as others. For two terms she was the chairperson of the board of directors of The T when that agency was rapidly expanding. Great Women of Texas nominator Mary Davis says Bivens has been active in all facets of community work in North Texas and beyond. Davis says for North Texas LEAD, Bivens is “taking that organization to even greater levels of success.”

Bivens says she learned the importance of balancing her time with various organizations from her former manager, Carlos DeLaTorre, who taught her to “strategically decide which board invitations to accept or reject,” she says. “Establishing the reason for an invitation to serve on a board is still important to me today. The vision and goal of the organization has to be a fit for me.” Bivens says her No. 1 goal in life is to “look for God in everyone I meet and everything I do,” she says. “I want to be an inspirer and an encourager.” — Aleshia Howe

10 Great Women of Texas 2006

Fort Worth Business Press

Susan E. Coleman
Partner Thompson & Knight LLP

usan E. Coleman, a champion of women’s professional development in the field of commercial real estate, is a partner in the Thompson & Knight Real Estate & Banking Practice Group in the firm’s Fort Worth office. Coleman’s practice concentrates upon multistate office, retail, industrial and flex-leasing transactions, construction and permanent lending transactions secured by real estate, and the purchase and sale of commercial real estate property. Mentoring is a key component of her work with Thompson & Knight. “I work a great deal with our firm’s Women’s Initiative Committee,” Coleman explains, “especially in mentoring and developing women as attorneys. It’s important for young women to get training in the professions — to understand the business world.” Coleman is responsible for negotiating office leases for institutional owners of more than 8 million square feet of office space in Texas. Her nominator for recognition among the Business Press’ Great Women of Texas, Frank D. Ricca of Jones, Lang & LaSalle, hails Coleman for “a distinguished history of giving time, energy, business leadership and [a] significant impact in serving the local community — while also being recognized as one of the region’s top real estate attorneys …, a wife and a mother.” Coleman’s community-service projects include Habitat for Humanity, the Cancer Society and the Fort Worth Zoo. On a professional level, Coleman assists owners, developers, buyers and sellers with conventional land

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assembly and disposition, redevelopment, leasing and management issues for developments such as offices, corporate campuses, retail centers and mixed-use projects. In addition, she has significant expertise in equity and debt transactions. Coleman, a native of San Angelo, holds a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, where she also served as managing editor of the Southwestern Law Journal. She also holds a degree in accounting from the University of Texas. Coleman and her husband, Mike Coleman, have two children. — Michael H. Price

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 11

Evelyn Englert
Volunteer Coordinator Colleyville Area Chamber of Commerce

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velyn Englert has only been in Texas nine years, but in that relatively short period of time she has made her mark on the community. “She is a phenomenal lady,” says Ret Stansberger, president of the Colleyville Area Chamber of Commerce, one of the people who nominated Englert. “You give her something to do and stand back because you don’t have to do any double checking because it gets done.” Englert herself simply says he enjoys working with people. “When my husband and I moved here, I knew I wanted to get involved,” she says. Englert and her husband, Frank, moved to the Northeast Tarrant County area nine years ago from the New York City area to be near two of their daughters after her husband, an attorney, retired. Get involved she did; first working with the chamber as a one day a week volunteer. That, as Englert recalls, did not last long. “They asked if I knew anything about golf and put me on the golf committee for a tournament they were organizing,” she says. Golf may not have been her forte, but organizing people and events is and she did a spectacular job says Stansberger. “We knew then we had found a jewel,” Stansberger says. “She has truly helped move the chamber ahead and is great at helping volunteers accomplish their goals and I can’t say enough about her leadership skills.” Englert says her ability to get things done stems from

her background first as an executive assistant in New York, then as a travel consultant. “As a travel consultant you have to be very involved in the details, so that the travel plans work out as expected. It’s just part of the job and if you’re not successful doing that, you won’t be doing it very long,” she says. Aside from the chamber, her community activities include: Colleyville Women’s Club, HEB Harris Methodist Women’s Health Advisory Board, Arts League, the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the United Texas tour and the Colleyville Rotary. — Robert Francis

12 Great Women of Texas 2006

Fort Worth Business Press

Neva Frymire
Senior Vice President LegacyTexas Bank

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eva Frymire remembers Grapevine when it was a small community somewhat isolated on the outskirts of Tarrant County. “It’s been great to see it develop over the years,” she says. “It’s been a lot of good development as well. I think that’s one of the important things about Grapevine is how it has developed.” And, according to many people in the area, she has had a big role it the growth of the area. “She is recognized as a high-profile individual in the community and is known for the customer service she provides,” says Gayland Lawshe, banking center president for Legacy’s Grapevine location. Lawshe said for one corporate customer that opens several accounts weekly, Frymire hand delivers all the signature cards required. “That’s just not something everyone would do and that’s just one example of the many, many things she does for her customers,” he says. That is one reason when Lawshe and Frymire moved from Compass Bank to Legacy, all of Frymire’s customer came with her, along with her staff, Lawshe says. “She’s known as the banker to go to. She’s very wellrespected obviously,” he says. Frymire has plenty of respect outside the bank as well. A partial list of accomplishments – local and national – include being a former president and board member of the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce, a member of the chamber’s Women’s Division, being part of the Grapevine-Colleyville Education Foundation, a former

board member of the American Small Business Association and the Grapevine Rotary Club. “When she gets on a board or joins a group, she gives it her all, too,” Lawshe says. “She doesn’t do things halfway.” Frymire says one reason she has done well in her career and in the community is that she loves what she does. “I enjoy what I do and that helps a lot,” she says. — Robert Francis

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 13

Marilyn Gilbert
Executive Vice President of Marketing Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce

or the last 18 years, Marilyn Gilbert has helped command the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s marketing and membership efforts. Today, Gilbert is executive vice president of marketing for the chamber. Bill Thornton, the Chamber’s CEO, nominated Gilbert for her hard work and her passion for the city of Fort Worth. Gilbert “always had an interest in journalism,” she says, and began her career at small seed company in Plainview, Texas, just after graduating from Texas Tech University with a degree in advertising and public relations. “I did a little bit of everything and then ended up deciding I would get a teaching certificate as well, I thought I may want to teach some day and I actually taught senior English one year.” Gilbert says. “I went to work for a newspaper, the Wichita Falls Times Record News, then I worked for Dillard’s in Fort Worth in their ad department, then I worked for a number of years in the agency business. I worked about three or four years with each of these jobs and each time I made a career move it was definitely to do something different, not going up the ladder always, but doing something new.” Ultimately, Gilbert’s job moves led her to a career at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. “I’d never worked in nonprofit, and never had a career goal to work in nonprofit, but working here as a mom it allowed me the opportunity to be involved in my daugh-

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ter’s life, there was some flexibility there, and I decided to come to work and get paid to do something for Fort Worth and sell Fort Worth,” Gilbert says. “It’s a great community to work for and with.” Gilbert’s community involvement includes working on The Parenting Center’s board of directors from 2006 through 2008, being active in her church, serving as a mentor to a Paschal High School student as part of TEAM Fort Worth and serving on various boards for Fort Worth organizations. – Leslie Wimmer

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Fort Worth Business Press

Barbara Holston
President and CEO Fort Worth Housing Authority

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hough friends and family think of Barbara Holston as a star, Holston generally prefers the supportive role. And that’s impressive, because Holston currently is the president and CEO of one of the city of Fort Worth’s largest agencies – the Housing Authority. “She is one of those unique individuals who never seeks accolades for herself, yet quickly offers them to others,” says Alice Sykes, who nominated Holston for the award. “Ms. Holston serves on numerous civic and community boards of great importance, which are not listed because she chooses to fly just under the radar. She is extremely intelligent and truly humble. She is a great woman.” Holston has sat at the head of the Fort Worth Housing Authority since 1990 and has been an advocate for public housing residents throughout her career. Under Holston’s direction, the agency established a $1 million Family Investment Center, offering housing authority customers a one-stop facility for education and job-training services. Holston says she immensely enjoys her career and the people she works with everyday. “Whether it’s dealing with a complicated issue for a resident or working with staff to accomplish goals that we have set for the agency, the people that I work for and with are extremely important to me,” she says. Throughout her career, Holston says she has accomplished many goals – both big and small – that she has set for herself, but she continues to strive toward more.

“My ultimate goal is to have a positive impact wherever I am,” Holston says. “Gratification comes from seeing the evidence of that impact realized in the lives of those I have influenced. I believe there is no greater reward than to see the success achieved by those you have encountered personally and professionally.” Holston also is involved on the home front, playing surrogate in the lives of her nieces, nephews and children of her extended family. — Aleshia Howe

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 15

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Ginger Johnson
Vice President of Business Development Southwest Securities FSB

inger Johnson loves to bring people together. “I thrive on it,” Johnson says. “I am so grateful for having found a profession that matches my passion. I’m a believer, a fan, a promoter of relationship-based business success. I’m driven by the passion to be a matchmaker, especially in the commercial real estate development field. Not only does it bring me a feeling of accomplishment to see powerful people working together to grow our communities in positive ways, but I’ve also been blessed by finding so many wonderful, caring friends along the way.” Johnson is the vice president of business development for Southwest Securities FSB, and was nominated as a Great Woman of Texas by Rick Jenkins, the president of Southwest Securities’ Fort Worth banking center. “She’s nonstop, and it’s all because she cares so much,” Jenkins says. Jenkins reiterated Johnson’s passion for her clients and emphasized her involvement in her community as qualities a Great Woman of Texas embodies. Johnson is involved in several area organizations, including the Greater Fort Worth Commercial Real Estate Women as a board member and past president, the Executive Women’s Golf Association as a board member and past president, The Women’s Center of Tarrant County as a board member, the Women’s Policy Forum where she served as sponsorship chair, Real Estate Council, Society of Commercial Realtors and United Community Centers.

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“What I want other women professionals to know is that we can be passionate, caring and emotionally connected to our professions,” Johnson says. “I believe it is because of our passionate uniqueness that we as women can be especially successful in making a positive lasting contribution to our communities. It’s a great honor to be a recipient of this award, and I consider it a privilege to be among the powerful women and community leaders that help shape the future of our communities.” — Leslie Wimmer

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 17

Lisa Lankes
Director of Corporate Communications and Licensing Justin Brands Inc.

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o Lisa Lankes, telling the Justin Brands story to the world never gets old. As director of corporate communications and licensing for Justin Brands Inc., Lankes is responsible for getting the company name and brand to the public through movies, TV and national publications. “I was recently given the opportunity to also handle our licensing program and am now working hard to extend our brands into various product categories through the licensing of these great labels,” Lankes says. “And, we’ve also been able to leverage our celebrity relationships to create promotions that benefit our retailers and make our brands more relevant to today’s consumer.” Lankes, who has been with the company for 14 years, is the primary communications contact for Justin Brands, Tony Lama, Nocona, Justin Boots, Justin Original Workboots and the Chippewa boots lines. She is responsible for all inbound and outbound licensing matters. She also manages the company’s portfolio and potential partnerships that are in alignment with the brand and sales strategies. “Lisa has thrived in what is sometimes seen as a masculine industry and this is a testament to her professionalism and excellence,” says Margaret Ritsch, director of public relations for the Balcom Agency. “She is also tenacious.” Lankes says because she loves her job it’s not difficult to devote the time but also says she doesn’t want that to be the only thing that defines her. “It’s essential that I have other interests and

involvements. And relationships – family and friends – are the utmost priority,” she says. “I’m thankful to have a boss and a work environment that encourages this. At the end of the day, the time I give to those closest to me will be what matters most.” In her free time from work, Lankes volunteers at Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity and is a leader in the Praise Team Ministry at Alta Mesa Church of Christ. “Rather than aiming for prestigious posts on highprofile boards around town, she quietly volunteers in her free time and shares her heart to help ‘the least of these,’ such as the homeless at the Union Gospel Mission and in the children’s ministry at her church,” Ritsch says. “Being a Great Woman of Texas sometimes means not making such a big deal of being great, but putting others first and getting the job done.” — Crystal Forester

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 19

Kathy McGinn
Assistant Vice President, Labor Relations BNSF Railway Co.

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fter working for BNSF Railway Co. for about three decades, Kathy McGinn feels privileged to have a great career with a great company. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work for this company for 29 years and to have the career that BNSF has provided,” McGinn says. McGinn began working for the company on the midnight shift as a crew caller, a position responsible for calling the engineers, in November 1978 in Nebraska. “The concept of working on the railroad was great – never the same two days in a row, benefits are good and I started out at $12 an hour, which was pretty high pay back then,” McGinn says. She has transferred positions and locations within BNSF several times. She has been to Denver; Topeka, Kan.; and Fort Worth several times. During McGinn’s first stint in Fort Worth from 1992 to 1998 she worked in the Labor Relations department. From there she was promoted to assistant vice president, crew support and transferred to Topeka, Kan. In 2003, she was transferred to the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth as the assistant vice president, labor relations. McGinn supports the United Way through BNSF – the company has raised more than $2 million for the nonprofit. She also volunteers with the Special Olympics and Northside Inter-Church.

“They all have their own priorities, you have to decide how to balance them,” McGinn says of her family, work and community support. “My family is a point of relaxation, work is the challenge and charity represents an opportunity to help and meet some great people.” McGinn lives in Fort Worth with her husband. She has a daughter, Nicole Livingston, and three stepsons: Tim, Jeff and Steven. She has four grandchildren: Connor, Colton, Colin and Reid. – Crystal Forester

20 Great Women of Texas 2006

Fort Worth Business Press

Susan Nix
Senior Vice President of Business Development Rassai Interactive

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usan Nix is no stranger to good business sense. The longtime entrepreneur has made a career out of innovative moves in the Fort Worth business environment and has served as a well-regarded civic leader, having worked with the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and the American Red Cross. Born in Germany, raised in New Jersey before making the move to Fort Worth to attend Texas Christian University, Nix found her latest calling – Internet marketing – during the Web’s genesis in the mid-1990s. “It’s a great playground for entrepreneurs because they can create something – a business model,” Nix says of the Internet. “Many of the younger generation can make millions of dollars because they take their passions and their dreams and create that on the Internet.” Nix is senior vice president of business development at Rassai Interactive, a full-service company that integrates multimedia with a Web presence. The Fort Worth-based company works with more than 350 clients, including American Airlines and Texas Christian University, and recently won the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award in the 11-50 Employees category. “Susan embodies all of the positive traits associated with the greatest women in Texas,” says Michael Flynn of Southland Property Tax Consultants, who nominated Nix for Great Women of Texas. “She leverages her skill set, relationships and positive approach to problem solving to the benefit of others on a daily basis. She is a pio-

neer who utilizes her attributes to the benefit of all in the community, regardless of their status in life.” A veteran entrepreneur, Nix says her desire to create will transcend thoughts of retirement. “I really actually think that age does not matter,” she says. “I think when you’re like that, you do what you’re passionate about – I think I’ll do it until they take me over to Greenwood.” – John-Laurent Tronche

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 21

Mary Sean O’Reilly
Owner The Conciliation Institute

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ary Sean O’Reilly sees similarities between religion and the legal system – in ethics and values, and views on justice. “Certainly the Catholic Church’s position on social justice was part of my thought process and wanting to be an advocate for women and children who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the system,” says O’Reilly, a former nun of 16 years, and current mediator in many family law cases. O’Reilly also served as a trial attorney in the early 1980s and as a state district judge for 15 years. O’Reilly currently works with The Conciliation Institute, her mediation and arbitration firm with offices serving Houston and North Texas. “I think it developed within me a deep sense of advocacy and fairness,” she says of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, “and something for the sake of the common good.” Friend and fellow law practitioner Judge Jean Boyd, of the 323rd Family District Court, says she recognized O’Reilly’s strengths the first time they crossed paths in the early 1980s, when the two went head-to-head in the courts. Boyd represented Child Protective Services while O’Reilly represented the mother of a child alleging abuse. “She’s had a lot of compassion for children, for clients and for everyone in the system,” Boyd says. “She was always helping people just out of the goodness of her

heart, especially her family.” O’Reilly’s humility and sense of community also help her stand above the rest, Boyd says. “I think the reason I think she should be a Great Woman of Texas is she has always used her knowledge, skills and ability to help other people, many times without any expectation of anything in return,” Boyd says. — John-Laurent Tronche

22 Great Women of Texas 2006

Fort Worth Business Press

Stephanie Paul
General Manager Cooper Supply Inc.

dmirably independent and genuinely Texan, Stephanie Paul aims to lead by example, never asking others to do something she hasn’t already done herself. The general manager of Cooper Supply Inc. is always on the move, managing three locations of her family’s longtime business, ranching cattle, volunteering and motivating others to stay focused and committed, just as she always strives to be. “I have a fortune cookie that says, ‘You’ll accomplish more if you start now,’” Paul says. “That’s kind of my mantra. I’m pretty much in a perpetual state of motion all the time.” In addition to serving as the community service director of the Tarrant Area Food Bank and being involved in several nonprofits including The Women’s Center, Happy Hill Farm Children’s Home and Thirst No More, Paul has helped triple Cooper Supply’s business since 2004. The company, a wholesale distributor for polyethylene used for natural gas and in the Barnett Shale, was started by her parents in 1983 in Coleman, Texas. With locations now in Fort Worth and Corpus Christi, Paul says revenues have gone from $4 million to more than $25 million in four years. “We just try to do business the correct way,” Paul says. “We’re blessed every day. It’s exciting to be part of a team that’s motivated and willing to work hard.” Those who know Paul will say her team’s motivation comes directly from her. Paul, who says she is not one to “just sit around,” is proud to have worked her way from the bottom up. Learning from her mother and father,

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Paul says staying behind a closed office door is not the way to run a business successfully. “You’ve got to be out there and have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your organization,” Paul says. A single woman with a lot of heart, Paul’s leadership is illustrated in both her career and her personal life. She is humbled by her recent recognition, claiming she probably doesn’t deserve it. “I’ve still got lots to accomplish,” she says. — Celestina Phillips

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 23

Suzy Peacock
Executive Director Rainwater Charitable Foundation
n 1994, local investor Richard Rainwater recruited his longtime friend Suzy Peacock to serve as the first executive director for his foundation because she was “extremely smart, trustworthy and dedicated. She cared about the mission a lot, could do the mission, and she wanted to do the mission.” Rainwater – who has been friends with Peacock since attending R.L. Paschal High School together – says Peacock deserves to be honored as a Great Woman of Texas because, “she is one. She is one of the great woman of Texas.” Kelly Garrett, Rainwater Foundation’s associate director, says Peacock deserves to be honored because his boss is “somebody who unashamedly leads with her heart...a behind-the-scenes, below-the-radar kind of leader” who shies away from publicity. The Rainwater Foundation supports programs benefiting at-risk children, particularly in urban preschools and elementary schools, and provides funding for some of the nation’s most innovative school leadership programs. Some of Peacock’s most notable and visionary projects include the establishment of the Rainwater Leadership Alliance, a group of national thought leaders in school leadership; collaboration with Crescent Real Estate Equities to connect office complex tenants with local elementary schools; the founding and development of REAL People, a community of educators, partners and parents who support REAL School Gardens; and the co-founding of REAL School Gardens, a grassroots gardening program that helps children by supporting elementary school communities as they design, install and sustain outdoor classrooms. Since its creation in 2003, REAL School Gardens, in North Texas alone, serves 36 schools, ensuring that more than 26,000 children and 1,300 educators have daily access to nature through school gardens. Through its partners, an additional 39 school gardens are supported, reaching an additional 10,000 children. Peacock, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology

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from Colorado College and a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from Texas Christian University, also serves on the board of trustees at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. BRIT’s new education wing and program, expected to open in 2011, is being established in her honor. The Suzy Rall Peacock Institute for Outdoor Inquiry will train teachers in outdoor, experiential learning and eventually offer conservation-related programs to the public. Patricia Harrison, BRIT’s assistant director, understands why Peacock cites the following quote, from Pericles, as her favorite: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” “This quote reflects the value Suzy places on relationships,” Harrison says. “Her hope is that the care and respect we show to others will carry over into our care and stewardship of the environment.” — Betty Dillard
Great Women of Texas 2006 25

November 6, 2008

Megan Topham
Director of Operations University of Texas at Arlington Fort Worth Center
xemplifying balance in her life, Megan Topham is dedicated to enhancing the lives of others, whether through her work as director of operations at UTArlington’s Fort Worth Center or through the myriad of community service organizations in which she serves. A native of Austin, Topham is a longtime resident of Fort Worth. She graduated from Arlington High School, Tarrant County Community College and the University of Texas at Arlington with a BBA in management. While working full time at the center, Topham started a Master of Science in information systems program this summer. She joined the university’s Fort Worth Center as a student worker in 1992. “I quickly realized the importance of the center to students living in the community and was committed to its advancement,” she says. Mike West, executive director of the Fort Worth Center, says Topham “has proven to those that work with her that age and seniority are not the only measures of expertise and depth of knowledge. Megan has developed a reputation within the university and the Fort Worth community as the consummate coordinator of resources.” Topham’s community service endeavors include Leadership Fort Worth, Leader Kids, Rotary Fort Worth, STARS program with Riverside Middle School, International Aikido Association, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and Health Careers Institute. Additionally, she has served as a mentor in the TEAM Fort Worth program with the Fort Worth Independent School District. Topham says one of her most fulfilling experiences has been her journey through the martial art Aikido in which

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she earned a black belt. “This process nurtures your physical, spiritual and mental growth,” says Topham. “It is because of my training that I have learned how to balance my personal life, work life and school life. As an Aikido Sensei, my goal is to share my experiences with other women through organizations like the Women’s Center.” Topham says she was honored by this nomination “because the women that have been chosen before exemplify independence, dedication and strength while committing themselves to improving the community in which they live.” — Betty Dillard

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 27

Kathryn Wilemon
City Council Member District 4 City of Arlington

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hen it comes to community involvement, Arlington Council member Kathryn Wilemon keeps her philosophy simple: “Just do it,” she says. Some people, of course, make such an involvement a way of life. That is certainly true for the three-term councilwoman who has emerged as a regional powerhouse in two critical areas – health care and transportation. A long-term member of the John Peter Smith Board of directors before being elected to the Arlington Council, Wilemon is now the chairman of the John Peter Smith Health Network Partners Together for Health, the hospital district’s private sector fund raising arm and foundation. Wilemon is also Arlington’s representative on the North Texas Council of Governments’ Regional Transportation System, as well as a member of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition. She has been a tireless advocate of a “seamless” regional rail transit system. “We’ve made enormous strides in this area and I am very confident that we’ll come out of the next Texas legislative system with enabling legislation that will help up move forward in this area, including an ability to vote on such matters regionally,” Wilemon says. “This is a mobility issue that is extremely critical in terms of economics, the realities of escalating fuel costs and in regards to air quality for everyone who lives and breathes air in North Texas.” Partners Together for Health board member Kimberly Britton – one of those who nominated Wilemon – praised the councilwoman for her civic-minded qualities. “She deeply cares about the communities she serves and about the future of our region and beyond,” Britton says, noting Wilemon has been a volunteer with JPS for more than 20 years. “She is passionate about the causes she undertakes and gives her all to see them all advance.” Another nominator, Adonna Lowe of the JPS Health

Network, says as a volunteer Wilemon was among those who paved the way for creation of the JPS foundation. “She chaired Partners Together for Health for the last 12 years,” Lowe says, and she “raised approximately $34 million during that time.” Wilemon attended the University of Texas at Arlington and the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at SMU. In addition to her service on the Arlington Council and as chairman of Partners Together for Health, she serves on the board of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Committee, the Arlington Civic League, Arlington Arts League, Republican Women of Arlington, Reagan Legacy Republican Women, Arlington League of Women Voters, Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition, Arlington Crisis Pregnancy, WeCan (West Citizen Action Network), the Tarrant County Commission on Aging, the Arlington Advisory Board for JPS, Theatre Arlington and Arlington Symphony. — O.K. Carter

November 6, 2008

Great Women of Texas 2006 29

Robyn Young
Director of the Breast Cancer Center The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders

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r. Robyn Young tends to run late. Her coworkers know it, and her patients know it. But everyone is OK with it. Young runs late because of the way she runs her appointments with patients at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Young is the director of the breast cancer center there, and she specializes in treating the women — and men — who are dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. While patient appointments should only take a set amount of time, Young refuses to end an appointment until she’s answered all the questions posed by patients and families. “When she walks into that examination room with a patient and their family, she becomes a captive audience until they’re ready to move on,” says Dr. Bill Jordan, president of the Center. “Her clock definitely stops when she goes into the rooms with a patient.” That complete dedication to her patients and her specialization in breast cancer care is what prompted Jordan to nominate Young for Great Women of Texas. Young doesn’t lose sight of her patients as individuals with families and dreams, he says, and her focus on a specific type of cancer is an emerging trend in cancer care. Young says her husband, who has a Ph.D. in medical physics, was able to stay at home with her son and daughter and the entire family was supportive of her career and choice to help people with cancer. “Everyone is aware what mom does, it’s not necessarily office hours during the day,” she says. Young keeps focused and calm by spending time with her

family and exercising regularly, and keeping healthy means she’s better able to take care of the women and men she treats. Keeping her patient population healthy impacts more than just the patients as individuals, she says. “It’s a wide-reaching impact because women are not only wives and mothers and church members and choir members, they’re also employees and employers,” she says. — Elizabeth Bassett

30 Great Women of Texas 2006

Fort Worth Business Press

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