Defining Beauty H Texas Presents the 25 Most Beautiful Houstonians
Throughout history writers have tried to define beauty through poetry and prose. In the novel “Molly Bawn,” Margaret Wolfe Hunferford wrote, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and many writers and philosophers have expressed different versions of the same sentiment. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion” and in the words of Shakespeare, “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye.” In a more eloquent description of the essence of beauty, John Keats wrote: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness.” We at H Texas define beauty as the ability to spread joy, lift spirits, encourage and inspire, and we measure it through service to mankind. With that definition in mind, we present our fourth annual 25 Most Beautiful Houstonians. The men and women on our list for 2008 make our city a more beautiful place through their courage, talent, creativity and devotion to communities in need.
1. LACY BAIRD: Real estate manager and third generation Houstonian Lacy Baird has received regional and national honors for more than 35 years of devotion to Arabian horses. Her other passion is giving back to the community. At the Houston Polo Club, Baird has chaired events for the Sunshine Kids and Casa de Esperanza and fund-raisers for Friends of Hermann Park, Citizens for Animal Protection, Baylor College of Medicine and other organizations. Her newest endeavor is the fight against cancer. Her paternal aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; her mother with breast cancer. Baird recently tested positive for a rare gene mutation called BRCA, which puts her at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. She plans to devote her life to educating, writing about and raising money for breast and ovarian cancer research. With medical treatment and a positive outlook, she will fight to live a long life for her 2-year-old daughter, Stella.
2. MARIA BUSH: The always-busy wife of Neil Bush and mother of two young children finds time to work as a community volunteer. A bundle of enthusiasm and energy, she loves working with the charity started by her mother-in-law, The Barbara Bush Family Literacy program. She is also active in the March of Dimes, Kick Start, Arrow Project, Points of Light and the Children’s Assessment Center.
3. CONNIE COOKE: Well-known as a writer and equally notable for volunteer work, fund-raising and community service, Cooke has chaired the University of Houston Moores School of Music Gala, the Silver Grace Hope Foundation luncheon, the Lone Star Wildlife Rescue Evening, the Trees of Light for the Hospice at the Texas Medical Center, the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston luncheon, the Houston Symphony Maestro Collection luncheon and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Gala. She co-chaired the Cancer League luncheon and the Symphony Scores Dinner Series and serves on the board of Summerridge Houston and the Houston Humane Society. This is her fourth year on the board of the Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine.
4. ANDY CORDES: “The shining light of Gittings” tries to avoid the spotlight, but has contributed greatly to the success of many charitable organizations. “I am just an ordinary guy from a small Midwest town who is privileged to be associated with an extraordinary company serving a notable clientele,” he says. “I cherish the opportunities to assist our leaders make a difference in our community, and we take every opportunity to do what we can to help.” That help has been showered on the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, Houston Children’s Charities, Baylor College of Medicine and many other organizations.
5. FRANCI CRANE: During her 20-year legal career, the Houston Press named her one of the “women lawyers who men fear.” Today she spends most of her time volunteering in the community. An ardent champion of the arts, Crane sits on the executive committees of the Alley Theatre, Houston Grand Opera, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Imprint, Inc. She is also a board member of Communities in Schools, Bo’s Place and the Episcopal Health Charities. She chaired the Alley Theatre’s Capital Campaign, and with help from her husband, Jim, the opera’s Heavenly Ball.
6. FULTON DAVENPORT: President of PWL Studio and one of Houston’s most respected and requested photographers, Davenport is committed to our charitable community. “Anyone can give money, but to give of one’s actual time and expertise is a much rarer find,” Fulton says. He helps the Boys and Girls Harbor, an organization providing safe harbor to child victims of family violence and abuse. Close to his heart is the Family to Family Network, which provides information, referrals, counseling, training and support to families who have children with disabilities and illnesses. Fulton supports arts organizations and urges everyone to get involved with one of his favorite projects, Elves and More. “The Christmas bicycle-giving soiree is an amazing event, and anyone reading this should plan on helping next year. It is so moving and is a perfect way to share your life’s blessings with those in need during the holiday season,” he says.
7. SYLVIA FORSYTHE: Many of Houston’s gala committee chairs and members call her a “fairy godmother.” While her job as public relations and fashion manager for Saks Fifth Avenue automatically involves her in a variety of fund-raisers and functions, she has personal favorites: Key to the Cure, supporting the Cancer Center at St. Luke’s, the Crohns and Colitis Winter Ball, The Bridge, The Trailblazer Committee luncheon, the Houston Ballet and Texas Children’s Hospital. Forsythe’s loving heart and passion for charity have endeared her to all who know her.
8. KENNETH GAYLE: As written in the Chicago Sun Times, “Neither scenery nor intricate lighting is required when a singing actor of his caliber takes the stage.” Hailed as one of the faces to watch, Gayle is accumulating accolades in his rising opera, concert and stage career. As a cast member of the staged concert Three Mo’ Tenors, he appeared on the TV broadcast of the NAACP Image Awards. Even with a packed 2008 performance schedule including stops in Baltimore, Bethesda, Seattle and Houston, Gayle makes time to volunteer. He served as artistic director/performer for Cabaret for a Cure benefiting AIDS Foundation Houston, performing artist for the Mukuru Arts for AIDS series, guest performer/student mentor for the Over the Rainbow fund-raiser supporting Yellowstone Academy, guest performer with KUHF Ensemble in fund-raising concerts at the Menil and the Evin Thayer Studios, and adjudicator for the NAACP Academic, Cultural and Technical (ACT) Scholastic Olympics.
9. KIRSTEN GUERRA: After graduating with honors from TCU, Guerra worked in New York and Dallas before returning to Houston to work in real estate. Inspired by her mother’s acts of community service, she began volunteering with Kappa Kappa Gamma for many charitable events and organizations. She volunteers for Special Olympics, Cystic Fibrosis, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Children’s Assessment Center.
10. JANET GURWITCH: Prior to founding Gurwitch Products, the company that produces, manages and markets Laura Mercier Cosmetics and Skincare, Janet Gurwitch was the executive vice president of merchandising for Neiman Marcus, overseeing ready-to-wear, accessories, shoes and cosmetics departments. She is on the boards of the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Girl Scouts of America. She chaired the Child Advocates luncheon fund-raiser and is active in the Alexis de Tocqueville Society. She co-chairs the March of Dimes Best Dressed luncheon next year.
11. LISA HOLTHOUSE: A native Houstonian, Holthouse devotes much of her time to the Holthouse Foundation for Kids, which serves at-risk youth through character education and life skills programs. The foundation has worked with the Children’s Museum of Houston, Houston Achievement Place, KIPP Academy, YES Academy, Provision, Boys & Girls Club and Family Service Center. Holthouse served as a national board member for After-School All-Stars, as well as chair of the local board. She has served on the board of AIDS Foundation Houston and serves as vice chair and co-founder of Prepared 4 Life. She has chaired fund-raisers for both After-School All-Stars, Children’s Museum, AFH Houston and Prepared 4 Life.
12. VICTORIA NAU JOHNSON: A love of animals and the outdoors drives her to lend her talents, energy and resources to Citizens for Animal Protection, Ducks Unlimited and the Coastal Conservation Association. Johnson also serves on the Victory Committee of the American Cancer Society and the RNC Roundtable. She is a board member of Jr. VolunTIRR and The Good Samaritan Center and a member of the Junior League of Houston. Heavily involved with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Johnson serves as a committeeman on the Breeders Greeters and Parade committees and team captain on the Corporate Development Committee. She and her husband, Parker, chaired the Ben Johnson Memorial Cowboy Classic Cutting, raising record-setting funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
13. Jennifer Jumonville: Deciding at an early age to devote her life to children, Jumonville began her career as a third grade teacher at St. Francis Episcopal Day School. As director of development at the Westview School, she worked with children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PCD), such as autism, and other communication disorders. She volunteers for Camp John Marc, the Children’s Museum Family Night, Texas Children’s Hospital, YMCA Camp Rainbow, Diabetes Day Camp, Junior League of Houston and the Grace Bible Church. She also volunteers on mission trips to South Africa.
14. ROB LANDES: Pianist, organist, arranger, conductor and published composer, Landes is one of the best-known musicians in Houston. He was the keyboardist for the rock group Fever Tree, whose four albums are still heard worldwide. The Rob Landes Trio has performed in venues all over the country. Landes has been collaborating with Dr. Sidney Berger for eight years, writing musicals for the Children’s Theatre Festival at the University of Houston. He has been the organist/artist-in-residence at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston since 1996. Landes performs about 75 concerts each year, either as a solo performer or with his Trio, to raise funds for various organizations. His musical gifts, wit and generous heart contribute greatly to the hometown he loves.
15. CARMEN MARIA LECHIN: She is a former Miss Venezuela, Miss South America and was second runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant. An award-winning broadcast journalist, Lechin is on the advisory board of the Latin Women’s Initiative and chaired their Fashion Show luncheon. She chaired the fashion committee for the Mexican Women’s Initiative (MWI), is the president and founder of The Maecenas, MFAH, a support group for the Latin American Art Department, chairman of the concert committee of Virtuosi of Houston, board committee member of Success Scholarships Center, which raises scholarship funds for low-income Hispanic students, board member of Virtuosi of Houston, an organization raising funds for the education of young musicians, member of the Smithsonian Institute, chaired an event for The Rainforest Foundation, and created and developed Fundación las Misses, a fundraising organization helping pediatric hospitals buy equipment. She chairs the Institute of Hispanic Culture’s Gala de las Americas in October.
16. MICHAEL MCCLURE: Director of Tiffany & Company, Galleria, McClure grew up in Beaumont in a single-parent home. He attended nine schools in 12 years, and though going to college seamed like the impossible dream, he was determined to get a degree. After honorably serving his country in the US Navy, he moved to Houston, attended The University of Houston, and received his certification from the Gemological Institute of America in diamond and colored stone grading. In 1993 McClure joined Tiffany & Co. where he worked as a security officer for more than five years before becoming the operations manager. People often ask how he went from security guard to director of the whole store. His philosophy, which he teaches to kids in many community outreach efforts (which include the Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund and the United Negro College Fund, among others) is to “be determined, have a strong desire and jump-start yourself!”
17. MICA MOSBACHER: An advocate for abused children and former victim herself, Mosbacher gives a voice to those who have been hurt. She chaired the inaugural event for Texans Against Sexual Abuse in Houston. Her impact on our community is large; she serves on the boards or committees of an array of organizations and institutions. For more than 10 years she has been a member of the National Council of Best Friends, a character education program, and spearheaded the group that brought the program to seven schools in Houston. For many years she has chaired the Best Friends Gala in Washington, D. C. She has chaired many record-breaking charitable fund-raisers here and has hosted countless events in her home for the Houston Ballet, Museum of Fine Arts, Strake Jesuit Capital Campaign and the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
18. DARRYL MURCHISON: Fourteen years ago Murchison started creating holiday floral arrangements in his parents’ garage. He sold them to apartment complexes and hotels. Today his company, Darryl Murchison Design, produces events all across the country. He gives much credit for his success to his “incredible” staff. Always wanting to give back to the community, Murchison donates his time, creativity and resources to the International Special Events Society and the National Association for Catering Executives. In addition, he donates and designs for Child Advocates, American Heart Association, Houston Children’s Charity, Citizens for Animal Protection, the Memorial Hermann Foundation, American Red Cross and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
19. JOEL OSTEEN: He has been called “America’s voice of hope” and recognized as one of The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006 by Barbara Walters. Osteen and his wife, Victoria, are the pastors of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church in Houston. Through weekly televised sermons, his New York Times best sellers, sold-out international speaking tours and weekly podcasts, he inspires tens of millions of people in more than a hundred nations. While Joel and Victoria support many charities, they’re focused on building a shelter for troubled teens with Mercy Ministries, founded by Nancy Alcorn.
20. FRAN FAWCETT PETERSON: During her 18 years in Houston media, Peterson fought to get desperately needed coverage for charities and the arts. She grew up with a passion for fund-raising, collecting money for the March of Dimes at age four and selling turkey raffle tickets for her school when she was eight. She has helped the Houston Grand Opera, Opera in the Heights, Wellsprings, Stages, Susan G. Komen, CCFA, Northwest Assistance Ministries, M. D. Anderson Cancer Research Center and DARE. She serves on the executive board of the Symphony Society and is a member of the Houston Symphony League, the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, the Ballet Guild and the fund-raising committee of Victory, a branch of the American Cancer Society. She and her husband, Phillip, are avid supporters of Rice University’s Baker Institute, The University of Houston Law School and the Moores School of Music. They chaired the 2004 Houston Symphony Ball.
21. RACHEL REGAN: “I get so much satisfaction from community, family and charity, because you get back so much more than you give,” Regan says. Motivated by a deep love of animals, she chaired the Citizens for Animal Protection Gala last year, served on the Capital Campaign Committee to raise funds for the new CAP shelter, co-chaired the first Derek Dog fund-raiser luncheon for CAP and served as honoree ambassador for the organization this year. She serves as the provisional chairman of the Junior League of Houston, member of the board of directors of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital Friends of Nursing, and is a founding board member of Women of Wardrobe, which supports Dress for Success Houston. She is a guild member of the Houston Ballet, the Zoo Friends Guild, the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society and the Baylor Women’s Association of Houston.
22. DANIELLE SHBEEB: Owner and president of The Perfect Face makeup and hair studio, Shbeeb travels often as the official makeup artist for Miss Texas USA, Miss Texas Teen USA, Miss USA, Miss Universe and many other beauty contests worldwide. She is a charter member of the Deaf Blind Children’s Fund and supports and volunteers for the Justice Foundation, DePelchin Children’s Center, Get Tough Project (campaign against childhood obesity) and the Sunshine Kids. She says giving back is her lifelong endeavor.
23. CAROL SAWYER: She started volunteering as a child, walking door to door with her mother collecting for various charitable causes. Sawyer has held every position on a fund-raising committee and believes they are all equally important, whether addressing envelopes, acquiring auction items, serving on boards or chairing events. Past president and current board member of The Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine, she serves on the advisory council of the Maxine Mesinger Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and is a member of the Cancer League Advisory Board. For three years she was vice chairman of the Wine Competition and Auction Committee for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and has worked in many capacities for Houston Children’s Charity.
24. SUZANA BRENER DE STERN: From her parents who were involved community service in Mexico, Suzana Brener De Stern learned early to give to others. When she was only 8 years old she gave her bicycle to a poor child on the street. She has always known the vital importance of preserving the earth’s rain forests, which she has called “the lungs of the earth,” and it was when she chaired The Rainforest Foundation Gala in 2000 that her charity work and fund-raising blossomed. With a strong desire to make a difference, she has chaired the Institute of Hispanic Culture Gala and The Latin Women’s Initiative luncheon. A native Mexican, Suzana’s passion is helping Houston’s Hispanic community, but she is active in many diverse organizations, including Theatre Under the Stars, Hadassah, Victory, La Tremenda Radio, Keshel Elion School of Music, Challenge Aspen and her children’s schools. She and her husband, Juan, have opened their home to multiple organizations.
25. DELISE WARD: A native Houstonian, Ward discovered her love of photography while attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. When modeling in Paris, France, her interest in photography (behind the camera) was revived. She returned to Houston and built a strong reputation for fashion photography at both the Paige Parkes and Neal Hamil agencies. Known for her mastery of photography in natural light settings, she excels in fashion, editorial, commercial and family photography. In recent years, she has been an instructor and guest critic at the Houston Center for Photography. Known in the photographic community as generous and open-hearted, Ward commits her time and talent to worthy causes. Her favorite way to give back is by donating portraits to families at the Star of Hope Mission.