Living and Giving

September 1, 2007 by  
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While most programs focus on poor-performing students, Reisman focuses on excellence

A person’s history is often so different from anything anyone would ever guess. To see Virginia Doherty Reisman today, it is hard to imagine her a disheveled young child whose teachers had to brush her hair. Reisman’s mother was seriously ill with cancer, and her father was at a loss on how to groom little girls. Fortunately, she pulled through.

Today, Reisman can tell you the names of all her elementary teachers. She was so impressed with their love and care during that very difficult time that teaching became her passion. Today, she holds a doctorate in education.

The Country Girl
San Augustine is a small Texas town about 30 miles east of Nacogdoches. Her father, the late James Doherty, was the county attorney for 35 years. Her mother, Jamie, is still the chief appraiser for the San Augustine appraisal district. Except for the time when her mother was seriously ill, Reisman had a wonderful childhood. Home was three miles outside of town with horses and cows and all the trappings of country living.

“We climbed trees and played chase through sticker burrows,” Reisman says. The garden brimmed with vegetables and her grandmother made hand-churned ice cream with fresh peaches right off the trees.

Lifelong Educator
In 1975, after attending Stephen F. Austin State University and the University of Texas at Austin, Reisman came to Houston with a Bachelor of Science in education and taught second grade in the Huffman school district for three years.

“I stopped teaching when my son, Jacob, was born. When my daughter Kelley was six months old, I missed school so much, I started working on my Master’s Degree in child psychology and education at the University of Houston,” she says.

While teaching in Pasadena ISD, fellow teacher Libby Escalante, told her, “You are bossy! You need to be in administration.” Always open to a good suggestion, Reisman earned her mid-management certificate, and soon became the assistant principal at Sparks Elementary, and later, principal at South Shaver Elementary.

In the classroom and as an administrator, she realized students who excelled were often overlooked.

“There were lots of programs for the academically challenged but very few for the academically gifted. I was always concerned about the gifted minority students,” Reisman says. As principal, she could help even more. With assistance from teachers, she developed a curriculum of problem solving skills, activities and projects for the summer to keep gifted children interested and in school.

“I had more parents cry when I would say, ‘Your child is intelligent, gifted and talented,’ than would cry because their kids were in trouble and being disciplined. Parents want and need to hear positive things about their children,” she says.

Fun in Dysfunctional
In 1995, she married Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Neal Reisman. With her two children (whose father had died) and his two daughters, Tracey and Hillary, all going to different schools, she decided to again leave her job and put family first.

“We put the fun in ‘dysfunctional.’ But, we made it!” Virginia says they made a difficult transition a success through love and communication. “We talked constantly and we loved each other. If you communicate you can work through anything,” she explains.

While being a “taxi mom” Reisman also helped her husband in his office while earning her doctorate in educational leadership. Later on, she founded an educational consulting company, Color Them Gifted, focusing on identifying gifted minority students.

Women’s Legacies … Living and Giving
All the children are have left home, but there is no empty nest for the family. Her husband’s 91-year-old Uncle Albert and three dogs keep the household lively. Her charity and volunteer work keeps the phone, fax, e-mail and door bell buzzing.

Reisman is a 2007 ABC Channel 13 Woman of Distinction, and at the Winter Ball presentation, she was escorted by the late Marvin Zindler. She knew him well because her husband was one of Marvin’s Angels.

Among the boards she serves is Summerbridge Houston, a rigorous academic program to help gifted, underserved students get on the path to college. It is sponsored by Episcopal High School, St. John’s School and the Houston Independent School district.

She has spent the past year as president of the Baylor Partnership, which supports the Baylor College of Medicine through fundraisers and educational seminars.

On Oct. 24, Reisman and Jan Carson will co-chair the 10th annual Women’s Health Summit in conjunction with Baylor’s Huffington Center on Aging. It is a combined educational seminar and fundraising awards luncheon featuring internationally-recognized doctors and scientists sharing the latest discoveries in their fields.

The theme is Women’s Legacies … of Living and Giving. At the luncheon, Aerin Lauder will accept The Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award for Living with Grace and Distinction on behalf of her late grandmother, the legendary Estée Lauder.

Lauder will also serve as the keynote speaker at the luncheon. Additionally, several Houston women will receive awards in recognition of their philanthropic contributions to the community.

For tickets or more information, e-mail Maria at Pesantez@bcm.tmc.edu.

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