Board of Directors
Laura Bush, Honorary Chair
One of the most beloved and admired American First Ladies, for decades Laura Bush has championed key issues in the fields of education, health care, and human rights. The author of the bestselling memoir, Spoken From The Heart, and co-author of bestselling children’s book Our Great Big Backyard, Mrs. Bush founded both the Texas Book Festival and the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. Today, as the Chair of the Woman’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, Mrs. Bush continues her work on global healthcare innovations, empowering women in emerging democracies, education reform, and supporting the men and women who have served in America’s military. Mrs. Bush was born in Midland, Texas to Jenna and Harold Welch. In 1977, she married George W. Bush. President and Mrs. Bush are the parents of twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, son-in-law, Henry Hager, and proud grandparents of granddaughters Margaret Laura “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager. The Bush family also includes two cats, Bob and Bernadette, and a new rescue puppy named Freddy.
Sarah Queen, Chair
Sarah Queen is Senior Legal Counsel at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a company that offers senior counsel, insightful research and strategic communications planning throughout the world. Sarah joined the Texas Book Festival in 2012, and works with the Reading Rock Stars program. Sarah was the founding Executive Director of Explore Austin where she is now a member and officer of the board. Previously, Sarah served as Secretary of the St. Andrew’s Board of Trustees, a member of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Board, and a member of the Wonders & Worries Board. Sarah earned her BA from the University of Virginia and her JD at the University of Texas School of Law. She practiced corporate law for five years before joining Hill+Knowlton.
Sarah Bird is the author of nine novels and one book of non-fiction. Her latest, Above the East China Sea, made the Dublin International Award long list; was an ALEX Award nominee; winner of the 2016 Texas Philosophical Society Literary Award; a Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice; a Seattle Times Best Book of the Year; a Tucson Book Festival Great Books for Book Club selection; and a Marie Claire Best Summer Reads. This past October, Sarah was selected for the Meryl Streep Screenwriters’ Lab. This spring, the Texas Institute of Letters will present her their Lifetime Achievement Award. She was the 2014 Texas Writer Award winner. Sarah has also been a Moth Radio Hour storyteller; a writer for Oprah’s Magazine, NY Times Sunday Magazine and Op Ed columns, Real Simple, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Salon, Daily Beast, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, MS, Texas Observer; and a columnist for Texas Monthly. Sarah was selected for B&N’s Discover Great Writers series; New York Public Libraries Books to Remember; a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship; an Illumine Award for Excellence in Fiction winner. She is a five time winner of Austin Chronicle’s Best Austin Author and an inductee into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. She has been hired to write for Paramount, CBS, Warner Bros, National Geographic, ABC, TNT, as well as several independent producers. Her original screenplay, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is currently being developed by Pantheon of Women films. In April the University of Texas Press with publish her latest, A Love Letter to Texas Women.
Gigi Edwards Bryant
Gigi Edwards Bryant is a sixth generation Austinite. She started GMSA Management Services, an Austin based business development consulting firm started in 1993 after a 20 year career in information systems. The firm, recognized as one of Texas’ outstanding small businesses, focuses on community outreach/involvement, employee engagement and business development. Gigi serves her community through organizations that address issues surrounding family such as education, youth in the foster system, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Some immediate past public service includes gubernatorial appointments with two Chairmen assignments, Department of Child Protective Services and Texas School Safety Center, Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Council, Saint Edward’s University New College Advisory, Austin Police Department’s Blue Santa and the Austin Community College Foundation. Membership Organizations include: Douglass Club of Austin, American Association of University Women, Executive Women in Golf Association, Texas Exes – Life Member, Austin Chapter of the Links Incorporated and Balcones Women Golf Association. A partial list of community honors include: Distinguished Austinite, Campfire Promise, Outstanding Texan Award, CASA-Inspiring Leader and Fierce Advocate for Children, Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction, Ma Ferguson – Award of Excellence Finalist, Dedicated Volunteer of the Year, Outstanding Citizen for Leadership. Gigi started her education at Austin Community College in 1977 and transferred to St. Edwards University where she earned a degree in business with a minor in computer science. She earned a MBA in Global Leadership from University of Texas at Dallas. She a 1992-1993 Graduate of Leadership Austin.
Josefina Casati is the former Editor of ¡Ahora Sí!, the Spanish weekly of the Austin American-Statesman which began informing, inspiring and celebrating Austin’s Spanish-speaking community in 2004. Since moving to Austin in 1998 from northern California, Josefina has held various positions in the Statesman newsroom, and has been part of many community organizations and events including the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Las Comadres para Las Americas, Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, Hispanic Marketing Symposium, Feria Para Aprender, Día de Los Niños/Día de Los Libros, the International Latino Book Awards, Austin Leadership, Latinitas and Hispanic Austin Leadership. She has served on the KLRU Community Advisory Board and is currently on the University of Texas Elementary School board. She lives in Austin with her husband Kit Casati, their son Enzo and daughter Iliana.
Ken Cho is a software entrepreneur. He is currently the cofounder & CEO of People Pattern, an audience insights platform that incorporates artificial intelligence. He is responsible for guiding People Pattern’s strategic direction. Previous to People Pattern, Ken co-founded Spredfast, Inc. Spredfast is an enterprise social media management software platform that allows organizations to manage, monitor, and measure their social media programs. Ken holds a B.A. in economics from Wesleyan University and an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at University of Texas at Austin. Ken lives in Austin with his wife, Laura, and two daughters (Callie & Eliza). He is active in the Austin community and supports a variety of local charities including KLRU and the Red Cross, where he serves on its board of directors.
Michelle Diggs is a Marketing Manager for 3M in Austin, TX. With 20 years of marketing experience, Michelle has developed and implemented programs around the world. Her current responsibilities include driving global digital strategy for the Electronics and Energy Business Group. Michelle has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, an MBA from St. Edward’s University and was a CORO Public Policy Fellow. Community service is one of Michelle’s passions. She has served on a number of boards and commissions over her career. Her service includes Any Baby Can, Mt. Sinai Christian Academy, and Junior Achievement of Central Texas. In 2009, Michelle was appointed to be a Civil Rights Commissioner by Texas Governor Perry. Michelle is married to Anthony Diggs and has two sons Myles and Jared. Her favorite pastimes are traveling, reading and fishing.
Mary Herman is a former Executive Director of the LBJ Foundation and the Texas Book Festival. She also formerly served as the president of the Junior League of Austin, the chair of the St. Andrew’s School Board, a member of the Austin Community Foundation and the Helping Hand Home for Girls, among others. She is currently on the Foundation for the Ann Richards School for Young Leaders as well as the Texas Book Festival. She attended the University of Texas at Austin.
Regina Montoya is the Senior Vice President, External Relations and General Counsel at Children’s Medical Center Dallas where she oversees several major departments, including legal, compliance, governance, government relations and community relations. In 1998, she was nominated by the President to serve as a U.S. Representative to the 53rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Currently, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the North Texas Commission, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), the General Counsel Forum DFW Chapter, the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council Foundation and the Dallas Friday Group. In addition, she serves on the Texas Lyceum Advisory Council. Regina earned her B.A. from Wellesley College, where she is a Trustee Emerita, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She has served as vice president and elected director of the Harvard University Alumni Association. She is married to Paul Coggins, Rhodes Scholar, novelist, partner with the law firm of Locke Lord, and a former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Anna Near, Austin
Anna Near is an attorney at Saunders, Norval, Pargaman & Atkins, LLP. Her practice consists of estate planning and probate work, and she’s involved extensively in philanthropic planning. Her commitment to philanthropy in Austin extends beyond the work place as well. She currently serves on Explore Austin’s Board of Directors. She is also co-chairing the Texas Book Festival’s First Edition Literary Gala this October. Past experience includes a seat on the Board of Directors of Tarrytown United Methodist Church Child’s Day Out, Breakthrough Austin’s Consultants’ Council, as well as development and event chair positions for numerous other charitable organizations. These include participation on the Host Committees for GLOW Foundation’s inaugural fundraiser next month and Any Baby Can’s Rockin’ Roundup benefit concert this past February, the Kindergarten Capital Campaign Committee for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, and as Underwriting Chair for JDRF Austin’s annual One Party and Event Chair for Breakthrough Austin’s annual Champions fundraiser. She’s also a current contributing member of Women of Hope and Impact Austin.
Anna holds a B.A. in English from Rice University and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. In her free time, she likes to take long Saturday afternoon bike rides with her husband Jason and their two boys, Jake and Chase. She also loves to read and write fiction and has enjoyed being a member of the Writers’ League of Texas in recent years.
Amy Paddock is Co-Head of Global Client Service for Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Partnering with account teams, Amy leverages H+K’s unparalleled expertise to establish H+K as a strategic partner and thought leader to achieve clients’ business objectives. She also manages campaign strategies for Fortune 50 clients involved in complex financial transactions and reputational, public image, legislative and regulatory issues. Prior to joining Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Amy was an associate in the equities division of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and was a financial analyst in Credit Suisse First Boston’s Latin American Investment Banking Group. Amy has an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. She participated in the 14th Annual Texas Conference for Women and currently serves on the Board of the Good Shepherd School.
Ana Ruelas has been the director of strategic initiatives and human resources at KLD Energy Technologies, and has also served in senior management roles in the U.S. and abroad at PepsiCo, Towers Perrin, Lenovo, Ace USA and Image Logistics Corporation. In Austin, Ana has been active in the community by leading all corporate social responsibility initiative for KLD, and collaborating closely with Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Backpacks for Kids and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She currently serves on the board of Wonders & Worries, which she learned about through her husband, Alejandro Ruelas, principal of the LatinWorks advertising agency.
Dave Shaw is President of Arrow, a full-service advertising and PR firm based in Austin. Dave’s experience ranges from advertising, branding, and public relations to public affairs work with major brands and Fortune 500 companies. His work has been featured in PRWeek and recognized with industry awards from PRSA, the American Advertising Federation, Texas Public Relations Association and International Association of Business Communicators. He is a past chair of Greenlights for Nonprofit Success, an executive committee member of the Texas Lyceum, serves on the UT College of Communication Advisory Council and the Communication Committee for the Texas Exes. Dave has previously served as board president of the Austin Public Library Foundation, as a board member of Leadership Austin and YouthLaunch. Dave earned an M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.S. in Communication Studies from UT Austin.
Maya Payne Smart
Maya Payne Smart is an Austin-based book lover and reviewer. An active community volunteer, she works to increase access to books and inspire a community-wide love of reading by serving on the board of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation and the UT Libraries Advisory Council. She muses about literacy, literature and more at MayaSmart.com, KirkusReviews.com and BookRiot.com. She also volunteers with the St. David’s Foundation Community Fund, serving on its Toast of the Town Fundraiser Committee and reviewing applications for its scholarship program. Smart holds a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree with honors from Harvard University. Her honors include Style Weekly’s 40 under 40 Award, an Excellence in Journalism Award from The Press Club of Cleveland, and a Citizen of the Year Award from the Mid-Atlantic Region of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Heidi Marquez Smith
Heidi Marquez Smith is principal of Marquez Smith Consulting where she provides development, program, event and strategic planning assistance for non-profit organizations. A native of El Paso and graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, Heidi currently serves as a director and executive committee member of the Texas Lyceum, on the St. David’s Foundation Toast of the Town Committee, and Friends of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. She recently wrapped up fundraising as Eanes Elementary PTO underwriting chair and also served as co-chair of the 2014 Legacy of Giving Blue Sky Luncheon. Heidi has served as a board member and volunteer for numerous organizations including the Literacy Coalition of Texas, the Futuro Fund Austin, the University of Texas 1883 Council, St. David’s Day School Board of Directors, and the University of Texas Libraries Advisory Council. She served as the Texas Book Festival’s Executive Director from 2008 – early 2012 and also as the TBF’s Interim Executive Director and development consultant in 2013. Prior to her roles at the TBF, Heidi worked in Washington DC, where she served in several roles including Special Assistant to the President for Cabinet Liaison in the White House, Special Assistant to the President and Director for Presidential Correspondence, and Deputy Associate Director in the office of Presidential Personnel. She lives in Austin with her husband, David Smith, and their three boys.
Brian D. Sweany
Brian D. Sweany served as the editor in chief at Texas Monthly. He began his career in journalism as an intern at the magazine in 1996, and before being promoted, he was a senior executive editor in charge of Texas Monthly’s political coverage. Born in Richardson and raised in Plano, Sweany earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of North Texas, in Denton, and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Sweany has also worked as an assistant professor in the journalism department at Ithaca College, in New York, and as a senior editor at D Magazine, in Dallas. He is active in a number of civic and volunteer organizations, including serving on the board of the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT and being named a Next Generation Fellow by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT-Austin. He lives in Austin with his wife, two children, and an ever-growing manuscript for The Kingdom of the Saddle, a biography of Charles Goodnight to be published by Penguin in the spring of 2016.
Darryl Tocker, Treasurer
Darryl Tocker is the third Executive Director of the Tocker Foundation since its inception in 1964. The Tocker Foundation supports rural public libraries in Texas. During his term with the Tocker Foundation, Mr. Tocker has advanced the organization’s commitment to public library advocacy. Due to the many initiatives and projects the Tocker Foundation was one of the initial organizations on the American Library Association’s National Honor Roll and a recipient of the Texas Library Association’s Centennial Champion medallion. In addition to his role with the Foundation, Darryl Tocker serves on the board of the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas, the support organization to the Texas State Library. He is a member of the Board of the Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation and the Executive Board of Raising Austin, Inc. Mr. Tocker also serves on the Advisory Board of the University of Texas, School of Information. Mr. Tocker’s affiliations include his long time memberships to the American Library Association, Texas Library Association and Conference of Southwest Foundations.
Carol Wagner has lived in Austin 18 years. Her professional experience includes VP of consumer marketing for Citibank in New York, account management for BBDO Advertising in Los Angeles, and founder of a marketing consulting practice in Austin, Texas. She has produced documentary films as well.
Carol is currently a member of the Fusebox Festival Board of Directors, KLRU Strategic Planning Committee, and co-chair of the Texas Book Festival Board of Advisors. Other community organization engagements include Austin Museum of Art Trustee, Art Ball Chair, KIPP Austin Schools Luncheon Chair and St. Stephens Episcopal School Gala Chair. Carol earned a BA in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and her MBA from the University of Southern California.
Leslie Ward, Vice President of External Affairs, AT&T Texas, was appointed in 2008 after having served in numerous legislative and regulatory positions within AT&T. She is responsible for developing and executing strategies impacting the company’s participation in the Texas political process, as well as in state legislative policy and initiatives, development of legislative and political strategy, and management of the AT&T Texas PAC. She also serves on the Texas Supreme Court Emergency Preparedness Task Force, the Board of the Texas Taxpayers Association, the Texas Conservation Coalition Research Institute Board, the Texas Center for Public Policy Research, the National Foundation for Women Legislators, and on the Board of the Texas Cultural Trust. Leslie attended Texas Tech University and St. Edward’s University and holds a B.A. in Political Science.
Spencer Wells is a geneticist, anthropologist, author and entrepreneur. For over a decade he was an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and Director of the Genographic Project, which collected and analyzed DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people around the world in order to decipher how our ancestors populated the planet, in the process launching the consumer genomics industry. Wells graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas at Austin, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at Stanford and Oxford. He has appeared in numerous documentary films and is the author of three books, The Journey of Man, Deep Ancestry, and Pandora’s Seed. His work has taken him to more than 100 countries, where he has collaborated with everyone from heads of government and Fortune 500 corporations, to tribal chieftains eking out a precarious living in places as remote as Chad, Tajikistan and Papua New Guinea. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is founder and CEO of consumer genomics startup Insitome, an adjunct Professor at the University of Texas and owner of the iconic blues club Antone’s.
Darren Woody is President and Chief Executive Officer of Jordan Foster Construction, LLC, a construction firm with offices in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio, Texas and field operations throughout the United States. The firm specializes in military, commercial, multi-family, and highway construction. He has served in this capacity since August of 2000. Previously Mr. Woody was a partner in the law firm of Krafsur, Gordon, Mott, Davis and Woody P.C., where he specialized in commercial real estate. Mr. Woody is board certified in Commercial Real Estate Law. He has a BBA in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from Texas Tech University where he served as Editor-in Chief of the Law Review.
Mr. Woody is involved in a variety of other business ventures including serving as managing partner of Equity Realty Investments L.P. a real estate investment firm. Mr. Woody has served since 2004 as a director of Helen of Troy, Limited, a designer, developer and worldwide marketer of consumer brand-name housewares, health and home and beauty products. He currently is chairman of the Corporate Governance Committee and a member of the Compensation, Nominating and Audit Committees. He has a long history of civic commitment including serving as a board member and past president of the El Paso Library Association; Vestry of St. Clement’s Church and is a past chairman of the El Paso/Juarez chapter of the Young Presidents’ Association. Mr. Woody currently is a member of the Executive Council of the McCombs School of Business Real Estate and Investment Center, the YPO Real Estate Roundtable and the Austin chapter of YPO-Gold. He is married to Maria Woody and they have two children and two grandchildren.
Zeynep Young has more than 15 years of entrepreneurship and consulting experience in the technology sector. Zeynep was the founder and CEO of Double Line Partners (DLP), an education technology company developing information systems and tools to help teachers improve student performance. Zeynep founded DLP in 2009, and led the company from bootstrapped concept to $18M in revenues, with adoption in more than 24 states across the country. Zeynep guided DLP through two successful acquisitions – initially in 2011 to the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and subsequently in 2015 to a private equity firm. Prior to founding Double Line Partners, Zeynep was a grant portfolio manager with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF), where she managed a $150 million grant portfolio to improve education and health outcomes for children. Before MSDF, she was an Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company, where she served as a leader in the worldwide high tech practice. Zeynep has a master’s degree in management from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a bachelor’s from Rice University. In 2014, she was a regional finalist for the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year award and was named to the Forbes list of The Women Who Built Outstanding Companies. Double Line Partners is among Forbes’ 2014 list of America’s Most Promising Companies and was recognized in 2013 by Inc. magazine as one of America’s top private companies on the forefront of job creation and by the Austin Business Journal as one of Central Texas’ fastest growing companies. Zeynep serves on the boards of Austin Speech Labs, St. Stephens Episcopal School and Enspire Advisory Board and is a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO). She resides in Austin with her husband and two children.